Forage longer for berries, study on age-related memory decline suggests

April 16, 2013

Like birds which stop foraging too early on a berry-laden bush, a new study suggests older people struggle to recall items because they flit too often between 'patches' in their memories.

The study by the University of Warwick published in the journal Developmental Psychology seeks to model the mechanisms behind decline in old age.

Its findings indicate that specific changes in the way access their memories, rather than a general 'slowing down' in mental processing speed, may be to blame for some aspects of . Using what is known as an 'animal fluency test', a group of 185 participants aged between 29 and 99 were asked to name as many animals as they could in three minutes.

It has long been known that performance declines in line with age on these kinds of tests.

Typically, people will begin by naming animals in a semantically distinct 'patch' such as pets - for example dog, cat and hamster.

When this patch becomes depleted and they can no longer recall any similar animals they jump to another patch, for example predatory animals such as tiger, lion and panther.

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People who perform best at these tests seem to be able to identify the optimal frequency to switch patches, ie once a patch has been depleted to the point where their energies are better focused on another, more fruitful patch.

The model developed by the University of Warwick researchers suggests that as people age, they tend to change patches too frequently, meaning they abandon patches before they have exhausted their full potential.

It is this mechanism, known as cue maintenance, which the researchers believe is behind age-related decline in memory search.

Dr Thomas Hills, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Warwick, said: "Memory can be compared to a physical landscape where people move between patches in order to recall items.

"Older people don't just move more slowly around that memory landscape, the way they move differs to the way younger people move.

"You could say that their memory tends to be more flighty – like a bird which is foraging on a bush full of berries but only picks a few of them before moving to another bush.

"Moving between bushes takes energy and the next bush along might not be as full as the previous bush so this is not always a good strategy.

"Likewise, with memory there is an optimal time to leave each patch - and it seems older people simply leave too soon."

Although further research is required to understand more deeply the mechanisms involved in memory search, Dr Hills had this suggestion to use these findings on a practical level.

"For example, if you forget your shopping list at the supermarket, try to focus on recalling items category by category, rather than flitting between different types of groceries. At the same time, try to use what you've already recalled to help you recall what you've forgotten," he said.

The study "Mechanisms of Age-Related Decline in Memory Search across the Adult Life Span" is available here.

Explore further: People forage for memories in the same way birds forage for berries

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1 / 5 (1) Apr 18, 2013

There is no decline. Time of access is linear with age.

Dr. Hills' "jumping" are actually planes of location:

In fact all perception delivered by any sensory mechanism in the form of electrical signals destine for the brain are represented as locations - or sense of locations in the brain.

Once you know this there is no stopping you from remembering anything. You are 'zooming' the landscape or map.
The greatest signal association with any experience from your existence comes from actually being at a location subsequently storage with all three types of memory - asserted by conventional neuroscience.

Dr. Hill can retire if he wanted to retire. Or fill in the details.
1 / 5 (1) Apr 18, 2013
All experience from anyone's existence is coded as location in the higher orders of the brain. In fact the brain itself uses this organization for lower orders of activity you are not aware of - otherwise signals received or send are hopelessly lost.
The jargon used for this?: Labeled "lateralization".

Than is the scheme. All biochemical molecular pathways lead up to this scheme when you want a working viable definition for what is labeled consciousness or the thoughts you are aware of.

This is the TOE or GUT of neuroscience.
Now go forage.
1 / 5 (1) Apr 18, 2013
Typo. Above.
Typo. Second above.
1 / 5 (1) Apr 18, 2013
Paradoxically the biophysics and biochemistry of memory is literally destruction:
The subsequent repair and reconstruction occurs subsequently under the auspices of continued biochemical, biophysical electrical mutual acitivty - usually signaling - whether the source of the origin of signaling continues or not.

Once DSB repair or reconstruction is finished you are permitted to label this either dysfunctional (repair/reconstructed does not dovetail to the surrounding structures - the process is disturbed physically from, for example, pathogen activity or irreparable physical damaged) or you are permitted to label this intact 'memory'.
1 / 5 (1) Apr 18, 2013
All this is what not only what developmental psychology seeks as a model, this is what all of the life sciences seek as a model.

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