Study: Parkinson's drug could improve decision-making in older adults

(CBS News) Lapses in judgment are a natural part of getting older, but according to a new study just published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, a drug commonly used to treat Parkinson Disease is not only helping doctors understand how our brain ages, but may also help improve judgment and decision-making in older adults. The report also attempts to explain why our judgment gets worse with age.

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"What the study looked at is older adults who have a problem and older adults who did not. We did an MRI, brain image, to see what differences there were in their brains," said Dr. James Galvin, professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at NYU. "What they found is they appeared to have a loss of the connections that carried a neurotransmitter called dopamine. What they did was treat those with dopamine to see if that improved their ability to make decisions."

As people get older, they have more difficulty making decisions, and when taken this drug has a similar impact on those having a hard time making decisions as those needing it for Parkinson's.

"The drug replaces dopamine and one of the functions with dopamine is to help us move. With people with Parkinson's, there's a loss of dopamine so people move slower and shake," said Galvin. "Dopamine does the opposite. What the investigators did was they treated individuals who had trouble making decisions with dopamine and shows that it benefited them."

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However, while this seems like a miracle cure for any older adult worried about their memory, and ability to make decisions, it's not for everyone and has many side effects. This drug can cause nausea or vomiting, confusion, anxiety, dizziness and numbness. Some natural ways to make your brain stronger are to do puzzles and games, eat a heart-healthy diet, exercise at least three times a week, and stay socially engaged

For more from Dr. Gavin about the implications of the study, watch the video above.