London - Age-related changes to the brain could make pensioners more susceptible to fraud, scientists say.

They have found that an area of the brain that helps us work out who can be trusted is less active in older men and women.

Researchers examined a group of people with an average age of 23, and another with an average age of 68. They were both shown a range of photographs and asked to judge how approachable and trustworthy the people in them seemed.

There was no difference in how the groups rated the faces that were deemed to be trustworthy – but the older group was less suspicious of those that the younger participants rated as dishonest.

Brain scans then revealed that a region called the anterior insula – which picks up on gut feelings, including concerns about someone’s integrity – were less active in the older volunteers.

Professor Shelley Taylor of the University of California in Los Angeles said the older group “missed facial cues that are pretty easily distinguished”, adding: “The older adults do not have as strong an anterior insula early-warning signal; their brains are not saying ‘be wary’, as the brains of the younger adults are.

“It’s not that younger adults are better at finance or judging whether an investment is good – they’re better at discerning whether a person is trustworthy when cues are communicated visually.”

She added that it is likely that the problem begins from a person’s early to mid-fifties, the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports. - Daily Mail