Remember Not To Forget, Again.

 Having misplaced my keys one again – please note that I refuse to use the word lost – I started to wonder about senior moments, but gave up as soon as my keys showed up back in the pocket of the jacket that I wore yesterday instead of the hook by the door, which they should know by now is their proper place. Remembering not to forget takes effort and, perhaps, a notepad.

However, the problem of memory decline with age is a problem that is bandied about rather a lot. We should remember that we have several sorts of memory. We learn skills, for example, and this procedural memory doesn’t decline very much.

Our working memory, which is associated with our reasoning and comprehension skills, does usually decline from 60 or so. One has just to eavesdrop on the bus to hear “I just don’t understand the youth of today”. The other type of memory that we see decline is our episodic memory, that is our memory of what we did, when, to whom and why, fades with age, although, it’s the old feuds that we recall as opposed to the row last week.

Is there anything that we can do to change all this (apart from having a sharp word with my errant keys)? Nyberg et al have written extensively on the topic in the current issue of Trends in Cognitive Sciences (1). They point out that there are broad differences across the population. Firstly, we have plenty of brain in reserve, but some of us have more banked than others, Secondly, we can indulge in brain maintenance with nutrition and lifestyle choices.

Our reward pathways, dopamine levels and pathway connectivity, decrease with age so that means we don’t get so much fun any more. They conclude that if we want to minimize our memory decline, we should work keep a youthful brain structure. Sounds easy, all we have to do is get out there and have a very active, stimulating leisure life.

Not sure why it should just be leisure, though, but just remember to keep your hippocampus plumped up.

  1. Nyberg et al, (2012). DOI: 10.1016/tics.2012.04.005

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