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Neuroscience and Elder Abuse

Samuels Yoelin Kantor LLP

(December 5) Two recent scientific studies may help explain why the elderly tend to fall victim to financial fraud in disproportionate numbers.

In 2009 the National Institute of Justice found that almost 12 percent of Americans 60 and older had been financially exploited; for 2010 MetLife estimated the total size of elder financial fraud losses at $2.9 billion in the U.S.

A UCLA study published online in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences suggests that older people, when shown photographs of untrustworthy people, show less fMRI activity in the anterior insula area of their brains than younger people. A similar University of Iowa study, published in the August issue of Frontiers in Neuroscience, finds that deterioration of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, whether due to age or localized brain damage, may explain the same kind of decreased judgment and vulnerability to fraud.

(The Atlantic at www.theatlantic.com)

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