by Anna C. McCarrey, Julie D. Henry, William von Hippel, Gabrielle Weidemann, Perminder S. Sachdev, Michael J. A. Wohl, Mark Williams
This study aimed to assess the potential association between age-related prefrontal brain changes and slot machine gambling, an activity that has become increasingly popular among older adults. Functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to assess healthy older and younger adults whilst playing a slot machine. Results revealed that the older group over-recruited several bilateral and contralateral brain structures relative to the younger group. Specifically, older adults exhibited increased neural activation in the superior prefrontal cortex and left orbitofrontal cortex, indicating greater reliance on these structures. These results suggest a compensatory mechanism, by which older adults recruit a greater number of neural networks from both hemispheres to complete the same gambling task as their younger peers. The broader implications of these findings are discussed in relation to theories of neurocognitive and degenerative change that occurs in late adulthood.