Memory that strengthens with age

Forgetting things seems to be a part of getting older which everyone accepts. But could the confidence of the young be covering up their own memory slips?images

The BBC reports that older people were more consistent in memory tests, research from Germany shows – although younger people did achieve overall higher test scores.

“The assessments were carried out in Berlin on 100 older people – aged between 65 and 80 – and 100 people in their 20s. They had to show up at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin for 100 days of tests.

“We were very nice to them and had a good atmosphere at the labs,” says Prof Florian Schmiedek.

“People got to know each other, it was kind of a social activity for them. And we also paid them for those 100 days.”

“The brain remembers things by forming connections between its 100 billion neurons or brain cells.

“Memories are formed when these connections – or synapases – are strengthened.

“Information from the senses is sent to the brain’s cortex, and then on to parts surrounding an area called the hippocampus.

“Younger people assume they have fast reaction times, especially younger men. But they have an over-confidence issue.” Dr Carol HollandResearch Centre for Healthy Ageing These ‘bind’ the memory together, before it is sent to the hippocampus itself, where information about context or location is added.

“Working” memory – crucial for solving problems and making plans – is like a blackboard of the mind, located in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. It is used to remember phone numbers long enough to make a call – but then it is usually forgotten unless it is passed on to the long-term memory for storage. The tasks were designed to test different types of memory. In one, the participants had to remember a list of words. Another had a list of numbers to memorise while simultaneously carrying out simple arithmetic on those numbers – to challenge their “working” memory.


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