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WHY does our brain slow down as we age? Older people store so many memories that when looking for certain memories, they often retrieve others that are no longer useful, the study says.
- Researchers suggest lifelong learning may clutter older people’s memories
- It is difficult for older people to hide information that is no longer relevant.
- When searching for a particular memory, they fetch irrelevant ones along with it.
- But the study claims that these life experiences can help with creativity and decision making.
It is a sad fact of life that as we age, many of us have difficulty retrieving memories.
But now researchers think they know why — it’s because older people’s brains allocate more space for knowledge accumulated over the years, meaning there’s more material to navigate when trying to access memories.
Research has shown that the older we get, the harder it is for us to hide information that is no longer relevant.
This means that when looking for a specific memory, older people often find other irrelevant memories along with it.
It is a sad fact of life that as we age, many of us have difficulty retrieving memories. The new study suggests this is because older people’s brains allocate more space to knowledge accumulated over the years, meaning there is more material to navigate when trying to access memories.
HOW A FAMOUS AMNESIC Taught Us How We Form Long-Term Memories
Beginning in the 1950s, research on the famous amnesic patient Henry Molison showed that the hippocampus is essential for the formation of new long-term memories.
Molison, whose hippocampus was damaged during an operation designed to help control his epileptic seizures, was no longer able to store new memories after the operation.
However, he was still able to access some of the memories that were formed before the operation.
This suggests that long-term memories of specific events are stored outside the hippocampus.
Scientists believe that these memories are stored in the neocortex, a part of the brain that is also responsible for brain functions such as attention and planning.
This conclusion was reached by experts from Harvard, Columbia and the University of Toronto, who studied several behavioral and neuroimaging studies.
“Older people know the world better, but generally show lower episodic memory performance on many laboratory tasks compared to younger people,” the authors write in their paper.
“We propose that this paradox can be explained, at least in part, by the uniquely cluttered/enriched memory representations of older people.”
They added: “Through these cluttered or saturated representations, older adults are more likely to activate overinformation.
“This, in turn, can create difficulty in retrieving target information (and negatively impact episodic and working memory tasks).
However, while this rich life experience can make memory recovery difficult, the researchers say it also has its benefits, as it can stimulate creativity and decision making.
“Available evidence suggests that older adults show preserved and sometimes enhanced creativity in a manner dependent on memory enrichment,” the researchers say.
They also suggest that prior knowledge can help older people when it comes to making decisions where they can use their accumulated wisdom.
The study found that older people rely more heavily on previous knowledge when performing a cognitive task than younger people.
This graph shows how, compared to younger people, older people’s memories are cluttered with irrelevant details that were never hidden, prior knowledge, and irrelevant or distracting information.
The experts said they hope that with more research and a better understanding of how memory works in older adults, they will be able to find new ways to help people with overwhelmed memories.
They added: “It is possible that the increased binding and richer coding of older people could even be used to improve learning and memory in older people.”
“Future research could explore how the negative and positive outcomes of cluttered/enriched memory representations converge to influence functional behavior in everyday life.”
The study was published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences.
HOW HAS THE SHAPE OF OUR BRAIN CHANGED OVER TIME?
A new study suggests that key evolutionary changes in the shape of our brain occurred 100,000 to 35,000 years ago. stock images
Researchers at the German Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology found that key evolutionary changes in the shape of our brains occurred between about 100,000 and 35,000 years ago.
The brain of Homo sapiens acquired a spherical shape, which became “more round and less overhanging.”
In contrast, the brains of our Neanderthal ancestors were more elongated.
The evolution of our brain shape coincided with major changes in behavior as Homo sapiens began:
- Build Tools
- Develop working and long-term memory
- Be self-aware
- Use language
- Action Plan
- Understanding Numbers
- Pay attention to their surroundings
- Develop emotions
The brain became more like a ball as a result of protrusion in the parietal region and cerebellum