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Elderly 'lose their inhibitions'

Elderly 'lose their inhibitions'
24th September 2007

The elderly are more prone to unintended racism, depression and problem gambling because of brain shrinkage over time, a new study has shown.

University of Queensland psychologist Bill von Hippel has found that atrophy within the frontal lobes reduces our inhibitions as we grow older.

The frontal lobes are responsible for executive functions, including planning, controlling, and inhibiting thoughts and behaviours.

Von Hippel and colleagues discovered that older adults were more likely than their younger counterparts to inquire about private issues such as weight gain or family problems in public settings.

In the report, Von Hippel writes that "older adults attempt to inhibit their racist feelings, but fail".

Moreover, the loss of executive control leads to increased rumination, which makes the elderly more susceptible to depression.

Some problems were time-sensitive, with older adults more likely to get into an unnecessary argument and to gamble all their money away later rather than earlier in the day.

The study appears in the October issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science.