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RSNA: Rote Learning Improves Older Adults' Cognition

Researchers find that memorization exercises boost seniors' memory and brain function

MONDAY, Nov. 27 (HealthDay News) -- In older adults, simple rote-learning exercises may significantly improve memory and verbal recall, according to research presented this week at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago.

Richard Roche, Ph.D., of the National University of Ireland in Maynooth, and colleagues studied 24 healthy older adults aged 55 to 70 who were required to memorize one 500-word newspaper article or poem per week for six weeks followed by six weeks of rest. Before and after the learning period, the subjects underwent an extensive battery of learning and memory tests and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to measure changes in N-acetylaspartate, creatine and choline.

After the six-week learning period, the researchers observed no changes in brain metabolism or memory performance. But after the six-week rest period, they found that all of the subjects experienced improvements in verbal and episodic memory, which were associated with metabolic changes identified by MRS in the left pre-frontal cortex and left hippocampus.

"Unlike other studies on memory involving specific training regimens, memorizing is an everyday activity that anyone can undertake," Roche said in a statement. "The brain is like a muscle that should be exercised through the retirement years as a defense against dementia, cognitive lapses and memory failure."

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