Lifestyle choices can affect how we store information in the brain

January 10, 2018, CORDIS

A team of researchers has carried out the first study that establishes a link between a person's working memory and their physical health and lifestyle choices.

Working is the ability to store, update and manipulate information that's relevant to a particular goal. It's a central concept in the study of cognitive neuroscience as it deals with mechanisms of active information maintenance and cognitive control that underpin a large amount of complex behaviour.

It supports other higher-order cognitive abilities such as fluid intelligence – the capacity to reason and solve new problems, independent of any previous knowledge – learning, problem-solving and decision-making, as well as lower-order mental operations.

To reach their conclusions, the consortium of researchers, drawn from around the EU and partner countries, monitored the brain activity of more than 800 people as they performed a specific task, in order to come up with a brain map of working memory. They then used a statistical method known as 'sparse canonical correlation' to explore the relationships between this map and 116 measures of cognitive ability, physical and mental , personality and .

The results of their study were published in the journal 'Molecular Psychology'. In the journal, they note that 'fluid intelligence had the strongest positive correlation with neuroimaging phenotypes of working memory function'. This finding enhances understanding of the way fluid intelligence and working memory interact. Their results show that even when multiple other variables are taken into account, fluid intelligence remains strongly correlated with the functional integrity of the working memory network, suggesting that these two cognitive constructs are supported by common neural mechanisms.

Researchers found positive associations between the working memory and higher physical endurance and better cognitive function. Conversely, they noted the opposite association between less desirable factors such as a high body mass index and lifestyle choices including regular smoking and .

These findings also underline the importance of behavioural health factors in neuroimaging studies of , and provide a framework for personalised and in relation to mental health that's informed by neuroscience.

The study received EU funding under the project IMAGEMEND (IMAging GEnetics for MENtal Disorders), a wide-ranging project focusing on schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder. Mental disorders are the leading cause of disability, absence from work and early retirement in Europe. The project has collated Europe's largest dataset combining neuroimaging, genetic, environmental, cognitive and clinical information about 13 000 participants, to identify the patient characteristics most relevant for treatment. It also aims to derive biomarkers and decision rules that will lead to automated imaging-based diagnostic and predictive tests tailored for distribution throughout Europe within standard clinical settings.

Explore further: Working memory positively associated with higher physical endurance and better cognitive function

More information: Project website: www.imagemend.eu/

Related Stories

Working memory positively associated with higher physical endurance and better cognitive function

December 5, 2017
Mount Sinai researchers have found a positive relationship between the brain network associated with working memory—the ability to store and process information relevant to the task at hand—and healthy traits such as ...

For older adults, volunteering could improve brain function

October 17, 2017
Older adults worried about losing their cognitive functions could consider volunteering as a potential boost, according to a University of Missouri researcher. While volunteering and its associations with physical health ...

Genetic discovery provides new insight into cognitive disorders

January 17, 2017
An international team of scientists, led by Todd Lencz, PhD, professor at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research at Northwell Health and Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine, have unlocked some of the genes responsible ...

For adults 60 and older, just 4,000 steps a day improve attention and mental skills

December 20, 2017
Walking more than 4,000 steps a day can improve attention and mental skills in adults 60 and older, according to UCLA research published December 12 in a preprint edition of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

Researchers unravel new insights into how the brain beats distractions to retain memories

October 31, 2017
Researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have recently discovered a mechanism that could explain how the brain retains working memory when faced with distractions. These findings could endow cognitive flexibility ...

Can training your working memory make you smarter?

March 10, 2017
We would all like to boost our cognitive ability beyond the limits set by Mother Nature. So it's no wonder that brain-training programmes – which typically focus on training our working memory – are a multibillion-dollar ...

Recommended for you

Self-perception and reality seem to line-up when it comes to judging our own personality

December 14, 2018
When it comes to self-assessment, new U of T research suggests that maybe we do have a pretty good handle on our own personalities after all.

Levels of gene-expression-regulating enzyme altered in brains of people with schizophrenia

December 14, 2018
A study using a PET scan tracer developed at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) has identified, for the first time, epigenetic differences between the brains of individuals ...

Researchers discover abundant source for neuronal cells

December 13, 2018
USC researchers seeking a way to study genetic activity associated with psychiatric disorders have discovered an abundant source of human cells—the nose.

Video game players frequently exposed to graphic content may see world differently

December 13, 2018
People who frequently play violent video games are more immune to disturbing images than non-players, a UNSW-led study into the phenomenon of emotion-induced blindness has shown.

New genetic clues to early-onset form of dementia

December 13, 2018
Unlike the more common Alzheimer's disease, frontotemporal dementia tends to afflict young people. It accounts for an estimated 20 percent of all cases of early-onset dementia. Patients with the illness typically begin to ...

How teens deal with stress may affect their blood pressure, immune system

December 13, 2018
Most teens get stressed out by their families from time to time, but whether they bottle those emotions up or put a positive spin on things may affect certain processes in the body, including blood pressure and how immune ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.