London, June 3 (IANS) The elderly are less willing to indulge in risk-taking behaviour for potential rewards when compared to youngsters because of the declining levels of dopamine in the brain, finds a study.
Dopamine is a chemical in the brain involved in predicting which actions will lead to rewards and has been known to fall by up to 10 per cent every decade throughout adult life.
The findings showed that older people were not overall more risk-averse as well as they didn’t make much mistakes as compared to young adults.
Rather, the elderly were found simply less attracted to big rewards and this made them less willing to take risks to try to get them, the researchers said.
“The findings offer a potential neuroscientific explanation, suggesting that a natural decline in dopamine with age might make people less receptive to the positive approach than they would have been when they were younger,” said lead author Robb Rutledge from University College London.
The steady decline in risky choices with age matched up with the declining dopamine level.
However, they were no different to younger participants when it came to choosing risky gambles to avoid losing points.
“As one ages, the dopamine levels naturally decline explaining the reason why one is less likely to seek rewards,” added Rutledge.
The study, published in Current Biology, involving 25,189 smartphone users aged 18-69, found that older people were less likely to choose risky gambles to win more points in a smartphone app called The Great Brain Experiment.
In the game, players start with 500 points and aim to win as many points as possible in 30 different trials where they must choose between a safe option and a risky 50/50 gamble.
“This study is an excellent example of the use of digital technology to produce new and robust insights into the workings of the brain,” explained Raliza Stoyanova from the neuroscience and mental health team at Wellcome Trust in Britain.