Younger generation has greater fear of loss

Younger generation has greater fear of loss
Zoe Smeaton / The New Scientist (UK)
(source for international syndication)

Losing at the races or bingo may not be such a problem for older people, since those over 65 are less upset by loss than twenty-somethings. But they are just as glad of a win, new brain scans suggest.

Gregory Samanez Larkin at Stanford University in California, US, and colleagues compared the way the over 65s respond to losing and winning, compared with people aged between 19 and 27.

Participants were shown cues telling them they could either win or lose money. They had to rate their own excitement at the prospects while their brain activity was monitored using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

The researchers found in both the self-reported tests and the fMRI scans, that younger adults showed more activity their insula and caudate – areas of the brain involved in processing emotion – when anticipating losses than the elderly. However, when winning money activity in the "emotion" area was the same regardless of age.

Benedetto de Martino at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, University College London, UK, who was not involved in the study, says that experiencing reduced negative emotions could enhance well-being.

However, it could affect decision-making in older people, he says. “If older people experience less negative emotion, this means they will process losses differently.

Journal reference: Nature Neuroscience (DOI: 10.1038/nn1894)

Response to gains or losses depends on age
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Response to gains or losses depends on age
Negative emotions such as the fear of losing money affects young and old people differently, suggests a new study based on brain scans.

While scans showed more activity in the insula and caudate areas of the brain, which are involved in processing emotions, in young adults there was less activity seen among older people.

Gregory Larkin and colleagues at Stanford University in California compared the way people over 65 years responded to losing and winning to the reactions of those aged between 19 and 27.

Participants were shown cues telling them that they could either win or lose money. They had to rate their own excitement at the prospects while their brain activity was monitored using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the online edition of New Scientist reported.

However, when winning money, activity in the 'emotion' area was the same regardless of age, says the studypublished in the latest issue of the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Losing was not found to be such a problem for the elderly since those over 65 were less upset than the younger lot. But they were just as glad of winning, the scans suggest.