London, March 25 (IANS) Scientists in Britain have shown that a popular Parkinson’s disease drug can better older people’s decision making abilities that are affected with age, says a study.
A drug widely used to treat Parkinson’s disease can help to reverse age-related impairments in decision making in some older people, a study from researchers at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging has shown.
The study, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, also describes changes in the patterns of brain activity of adults in their seventies that help to explain why they are worse at making decisions than younger people.
Poorer decision-making is a natural part of the aging process that stems from a decline in our brains’ ability to learn from our experiences.
Part of the decision-making process involves learning to predict the likelihood of getting a reward from the choices that we make, reports Science Daily.
Dr. Rumana Chowdhury, who led the study at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London (UCL), said: “We know that dopamine decline is part of the normal aging process so we wanted to see whether it had any effect on reward-based decision making.”
“We found that when we treated older people who were particularly bad at making decisions with a drug that increases dopamine in the brain, their ability to learn from rewards improved to a level comparable to somebody in their twenties and enabled them to make better decisions.”
“The older volunteers who were less able to predict the likelihood of a reward from their decisions, and so performed worst in the task, showed a significant improvement following drug treatment,” Chowdhury explains.
The findings reveal that the older adults who performed best in the gambling game before drug treatment had greater integrity of their dopamine pathways.
Older adults who performed poorly before drug treatment were not able to adequately signal reward expectation in the brain — this was corrected by L-DOPA and their performance improved on the drug.