The study suggests that older shoppers use an additional brain area to recollect details about competing consumer products and choose the better one.

"For older adults, even though their memory might not be as good, they can naturally recruit other brain regions that are not typically involved in the task. It seems that it allows them to perform at a higher level," said Nichole Lighthall, lead study author and postdoctoral researcher at Duke University's Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience in US.

The team scanned the brains of 20 younger adults and 22 older adults while the participants viewed pictures of consumer products, with star ratings indicating their value in online shopping sites like

Participants were asked to 'keep shopping' by navigating from one screen to the next while trying to remember the value for each consumer product they encountered.

They then had to select the better of two competing products, such as two different sweaters, based on which had a greater value for money.

Young and old adults made decisions with similar speed and accuracy.

In addition to the normal patterns of brain activity, however, older adults used a part of their brain called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) as memory demand increased.

The vmPFC is known to be involved in processing risk calculations and it has been shown to help people assign values to rewards and emotions.

In this study, the more active the vmPFC was, the better participants performed at the task.

"The vmPFC, it turns out, is also involved in autobiographical memory and self-referential thinking," Lighthall added.

The study appeared in the Journal of Neuroscience.

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