Sharpening the Minds of Seniors

Older adults benefit from new memory training method

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FRIDAY, Oct. 10, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- A new memory training technique may help older adults better remember recent events and information, says a Wake Forest University and Washington University study.

This memory training approach involves gradually increasing the delay intervals during memory training. This can help older adults successfully recall information across increasingly longer delays. The study appears in the September issue of Neuropsychological Rehabilitation.

The new technique was tested on a group of older adults (average age 73). After seven days of training for about 45 minutes a day, the adults, on average, performed 14 times better on a memory task.

During the training sessions, the people in the study were shown lists of words one at a time. Some of the words were repeated in the list at gradually increasing intervals. The participants had to try to remember the words that had already appeared on the list.

This form of memory training is meant to improve overall memory function rather than teaching recall tricks specific to a single memory task.

"Many efforts to improve memory function in adults have focused on teaching strategies rather than improving cognitive processes," Wake Forest psychologist Janine Jennings says in a news release.

"In the current study, we tested the efficacy of a memory training technique with older adults that is based on the theory that memory consists of two processes -- an automatic process, known as familiarity, and a consciously controlled process referred to as recollection," Jennings says.

For example, the automatic process informs you that someone you see is familiar. The recollection process then provides information about why the person is familiar or when you last saw them.

The goal of this new memory training technique is to strengthen the recollection process. While it delivered impressive results in the laboratory setting, the next step is to determine whether it works outside the lab and can help older adults' daily memory function.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about age-related memory loss.

SOURCE: Wake Forest University, news release, September 2003

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