Age-related quantitative and qualitative changes in decision making ability

Valeria Isella, Cristina Mapelli, Nadia Morielli, Oriana Pelati, Massimo Franceschi, Ildebrando Marco Appollonio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The "frontal aging hypothesis" predicts that brain senescence affects predominantly the prefrontal regions. Preliminary evidence has recently been gathered in favour of an age-related change in a typically frontal process, i.e. decision making, using the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT), but overall findings have been conflicting. Following the traditional scoring method, coupled with a qualitative analysis, in the present study we compared IGT performance of 40 young (mean age: 27.9 ± 4.7) and 40 old (mean age: 65.4 ± 8.6) healthy adults and of 18 patients affected by frontal lobe dementia of mild severity (mean age: 65.1 ± 7.4, mean MMSE score: 24.1 ± 3.9). Quantitative findings support the notion that decision making ability declines with age; moreover, it approximates the impairment observed in executive dysfunction due to neurodegeneration. Results of the qualitative analysis did not reach statistical significance for the motivational and learning decision making components considered, but approached significance for the attentional component for elderly versus young normals, suggesting a possible decrease in the ability to maintain sustained attention during complex and prolonged tasks as the putative deficit underlying impaired decision making in normal aging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-63
Number of pages5
JournalBehavioural Neurology
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • Aging
  • Decision making
  • Frontotemporal dementia
  • Gambling task

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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