Human older age ushers in functional decline across the majority of cognitive domains. A notable exception seems to be affective processing, with older people reporting higher levels of emotional well-being. Here we evaluated age-related changes in emotional reactivity and regulation in a representative subsample (N = 104; age range: 23-88 years) of the population-derived Cambridge Centre for Ageing and Neuroscience cohort. Performance on a film-based emotion reactivity and regulation task in the magnetic resonance imaging scanner showed an age-related decline in positive reactivity, alongside a similar decline in the capacity to down-regulate negative affect. Decreased positivity with age was associated with reduced activation in the middle frontal gyrus. These findings, from the largest neuroimaging investigation to-date, provide no support for age-related increases in positive emotional reactivity.
Keywords: ageing; emotion regulation; middle frontal gyrus; positivity; socioemotional selectivity theory.
© The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press.