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Old Brains Roundup

March 16, 2007

Senior citizens are less reliable witnesses, and a finding that could help stave of memory loss.


Misremembering crimes. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Eyewitnesses to crimes are far less reliable than was once assumed, and psychologist Chad Dodson reports that older people may be especially so. He showed a video of a crime to young students and to senior citizens, and then asked them questions that included information that was wrong—like, "Where did the tall man hide the gun?" when there was no gun. The older people were not only more likely to supply answers to such questions, but were alarmingly sure about them.

In optimistic news, University of Florida researchers report that memory loss in older people may not be inevitable. Along with memory, we also have a "forgettery" that helps us forget unnecessary details, and in older rats, at least, memory loss results from a chemical imbalance that makes this forgettery work overtime. The finding may lead to new ways to correct such imbalances.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.