Lapses in memory occur more frequently with age, yet the reasons for this increasing forgetfulness have not always been clear. According to new research from Concordia University, older individuals have reduced learning and memory because their minds tend to be cluttered with irrelevant information when performing tasks.
Published in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, these findings offer new insights into why ageing is associated with a decline in memory and may lead to practical solutions.
"The first step of our study was to test the working memory of a younger and older population and compare the results," says Mervin Blair, first author and a PhD student in Concordia's Department of Psychology and a member at the Centre for Research in Human Development. "In our study, working memory refers to the ability of both retaining and processing information."
Some 60 participants took part in the study: half were an average of 23 years old, while the other half was about 67 years old. Each participant was asked to perform a working memory task, which included recalling and processing different pieces of information.
"Overall, we showed that our older participants had reduced working memory compared to our younger participants," says Blair. "Younger adults were better than the older adults at recalling and processing information."
"Our study was novel because we looked at how the ability to recall and process information at the same time changes as people get older," adds Karen Li, senior author and a professor in Concordia's Department of Psychology and a member of the Centre for Research in Human Development.
Older people don't purge irrelevant info
The next step was to determine if there was a timeframe when the ability to delete irrelevant information, known as inhibition deletion, changed. This was measured using a sequential memory task . Images were displayed in a random order and participants were required to respond to each image in a pre-learned manner. Once again, the youngsters outperformed their older counterparts. "The older adults had poor inhibition, repeatedly responding to previously relevant images," says Blair.
Analyses were conducted to determine the relationship between the ability to clear irrelevant information and working memory ability. "Poor inhibition predicted a decline in the recall component of working memory and it also predicted decline in the processing component of working memory," says Blair. "Basically, older adults are less able to keep irrelevant information out of their consciousness, which then impacts on other mental abilities."
For those who are having trouble remembering, Blair suggests that focusing and reducing mental clutter may help. "Reduce clutter, if you don't, you may not get anything done."
Keeping a mind clutter-free can be more difficult as people age, especially during periods of stress when people focus on stressors, yet Blair says relaxation exercises can help de-clutter the brain. What's more, the brain continues to function optimally into old age when it is mentally stimulated by learning a new language, playing an instrument, completing crossword puzzles, keeping an active social life and exercising.
About the study:
The study, "The role of age and inhibitory efficiency in working memory processing and storage components," was authored by Mervin Blair, Kiran Vadaga, Joni Shuchat and Karen Li of Concordia University.
Partners in research:
This work was supported by funds from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
Cited study: http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/pp/02724995.html
Concordia Department of Psychology: www-psychology.concordia.ca
Centre for Research in Human Development: http://crdh.concordia.ca
Sylvain-Jacques Desjardins | EurekAlert!
The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change
17.11.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Win-win strategies for climate and food security
02.10.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...
Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.
That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...
Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....
The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.
Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...
Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...
15.11.2017 | Event News
15.11.2017 | Event News
30.10.2017 | Event News
17.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
17.11.2017 | Health and Medicine
17.11.2017 | Studies and Analyses