For years, conventional wisdom held that growing older tends to be bad news for brains. Past behavioral data largely pointed to loss in cognitive – that is, thinking – abilities with age, including poorer memory and greater distractibility. Physical measures of brain structure also showed atrophy, or loss of volume, in many regions with age.
Watching older brains at work. Enter cognitive neuroscience, a subfield of psychology that incorporates methods from neuroscience. It uses measures of brain activity to understand human thought. The emphasis is on how the brain shapes behavior, asking questions like which brain regions help us form accurate memories or what area controls face perception.