Distraction: Friend or Foe? For older adults distraction has its benefits!

Everyone is affected by distraction, but did you know that older brains make good use of “useless” information? Found out how your brain learns new things and what it’s up to when you are at rest or doing more than one task at a time.


Cheryl Grady

Senior Scientist, Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest
Canada Research Chair in Neurocognitive Aging
Professor, Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry, University of Toronto

speakerseries-52The main focus of Dr. Grady’s work is the study of cognitive aging, specifically age differences in brain activity during cognitive tasks and how these differences are related to differences in behaviour. This area of research interest includes: face processing during aging; social cognition; the influence of lifelong experiences, such as bilingualism, on the brain; the dynamic mapping of brain networks in older adults and how these networks evolve from simple sensorimotor tasks to more complex attention and memory tasks. This latter area of work is part of a program of research that is examining the nature of brain networks across multiple cognitive domains, and at rest, and how age affects these networks. One focus is on the default network, which is involved in internally-driven cognitive processes that involve self-reference, and which undergoes a number of changes with age. Another recent interest in the lab is the variability of brain activity, which is reduced in older adults, and is related to poorer task performance and less stable performance. This research will aid in rehabilitation efforts by identifying the brain mechanisms underlying behavioural difficulties in older adults, as well as those alterations that may compensate for age-related changes in the brain.

Lynn Hasher

Senior Scientist, Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest
Professor of Psychology and Marketing, University of Toronto

speakerseries-53Dr. Hasher’s work is focussed on the relationship between attention and memory, specifically the role of attention regulation in determining the contents of working memory. This relationship influences performance on a variety of tasks, over the course of one day as well as over the lifespan, and can account for many observed age differences in cognition, including in working memory, prose comprehension and speed. As part of this work, Dr. Hasher has demonstrated that while the ability to regulate attention may decline with age, in some situations, reduced attention regulation actually confers unique advantages for older adults. This may be one source of sparing of cognition (and even of wisdom) for older adults, and she plans to pursue this line of work using both behavioural and neuroimaging methods.

Avis Favaro

Medical/Health Correspondent, CTV News with Lloyd Robertson

speakerseries-51From a ground-breaking series on Trans-fats in our foods, to experimental surgery for Asthma, CTV’s Medical/Health Correspondent Avis Favaro is always looking for health information that can make a difference in the lives of Canadians. In fact, she jokes that she has become the “network hypochondriac”.

Avis joined the CTV news team in 1992 and since then has been nominated for an impressive 13 Gemini’s, with one win for her unique story on an experimental cancer treatment developed in Winnipeg in the 1940’s. Most recently, she and producer Elizabeth St. Philip received an honourable mention at the RTNDA award for a W5 episode called “the LIBERATION TREATMENT” on a novel theory of how blocked veins may play a role in Multiple Sclerosis that has set off a firestorm of debate across Canada.

Her stories have also received recognition form the Canadian Medical association and Canadian Nurses Association – most recently for items documenting new treatments for depression, and how the chemical BPA is found in Canadian food cans.

She is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario, where she majored in History and obtained a Masters Degree in Arts – Journalism.

She lives in Toronto with her husband and teenage son.