That age-related fuzziness when it comes to recalling information in midlife and beyond might not mean you’re not as sharp as you once were, a new study says. McGill University researchers believe there’s a totally valid explanation for why you sometimes can’t remember things in midlife as well as you used to.
“This may not be a ‘deficit’ in brain function per se, but [a reflection in] changes in what adults deem ‘important information’ as they age,” lead author Natasha Rajah said in a statement.
The study, published recently in the journal NeuroImage, points to a change in the way the brain chooses to remember things. Researchers enlisted 112 healthy adults, between ages 19 and 76. Each person was shown a series of faces and then later asked to recall if a face was shown on the left or right side and if it fell earlier or later in the sequence. Using MRIs to see which part of the brain was activated in remembering, researchers made an interesting finding. And this finding may actually help middle-aged and older adults learn how to improve their memories.
While younger people performed better on the task by relying on the visual part of their brain, the middle-aged and older participants used the part of their brain that stores information on their own life and experiences.
“This change in memory strategy with age may have detrimental effects on day-to-day functions that place emphasis on memory for details such as where you parked your car or when you took your prescriptions,” Rajah said.
A study from 2014 which also tested participants’ ability to recall patterns found that younger people generally performed better than healthy aging adults, but also that the healthy adults did better than those with a mild case of Alzheimer’s.
McGill University researchers are hopeful that their new finding could help older adults learn to use external cues rather than internal information for memory recall.
For more information on the study, go here.