This is Why You Become More Distracted as You Age, According to Science

This is Why You Become More Distracted as You Age, According to Science

Ever feel like you need to wash the car, get those birthday presents, finish your presentation on the computer, and phone the relatives all at once?

I know. Unfortunately, I felt like that at 25. Apparently it’s only going to get worse.

It has to do with how your brain changes as you age. Researchers at the University of Southern California have made a discovery that can help explain why it’s so easy to become distracted in your advancing years. (I was hoping it was due to all those amazing experiences you need to process over and over, which takes time, but no).

Scientists have pinpointed the area in your brain that controls attention, memory and alertness. It’s called your locus coeruleus.  It’s a nucleus that helps control brain activity during periods of stress or excitement.

Related: This is How Puzzles Stimulate the Brain

And the bad news is…it weakens as you grow older.

Which explains some things. Like why, when in a stressful situation, older adults may find themselves more easily distracted by irrelevant information than younger individuals. Strong emotions can make it harder for seniors to focus.

“Trying hard to complete a task increases emotional arousal,” said the study’s senior author Mara Mather from the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. “… for older adults, trying hard (to focus) may make both what they are trying to focus on and other information stand out more.”

Interestingly, this area of the brain is also involved in the development of Alzheimer’s. For more information on the details of the study,  click here.

Photo credits: Dan Kosmayer/

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