Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Forgetting is Key to a Healthy Mind

From the Scientific American Preview

Solomon Shereshevsky could recite entire speeches, word for word, after hearing them once. In minutes, he memorized complex math formulas, passages in foreign languages and tables consisting of 50 numbers or nonsense syllables. The traces of these sequences were so durably etched in his brain that he could reproduce them years later, according to Russian psychologist Alexander R. Luria, who wrote about the man he called, simply, “S” in The Mind of a Mnemonist.

 

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December 30, 2011 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , | Leave a comment

Study Shows That A Cluttered Brain Doesn’t Remember

A person making crossword puzzles.

Image via Wikipedia

From the 20 April 2011 Medical News Today item

Lapses in memory occur more frequently with age, yet the reasons for this increasing forgetfulness have not always been clear. According to new research from Concordia University, older individuals have reduced learning and memory because their minds tend to be cluttered with irrelevant information when performing tasks. Published in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, these findings offer new insights into why aging is associated with a decline in memory and may lead to practical solutions. …

[An abstract of the article may be found here,

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…For those who are having trouble remembering, Blair suggests that focusing and reducing mental clutter may help. “Reduce clutter, if you don’t, you may not get anything done.”

Keeping a mind clutter-free can be more difficult as people age, especially during periods of stress when people focus on stressors, yet Blair says relaxation exercises can help de-clutter the brain. What’s more, the brain continues to function optimally into old age when it is mentally stimulated by learning a new language, playing an instrument, completing crossword puzzles, keeping an active social life and exercising. …

 

 

 

April 28, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Psychologists find skill in recognizing faces peaks after age 30

Psychologists find skill in recognizing faces peaks after age 30
Finding rebuts pervasive belief that all mental faculties top out in early adulthood

From the December 23, 2010 Eureka news alert

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Dec. 21, 2010 — Scientists have made the surprising discovery that our ability to recognize and remember faces peaks at age 30 to 34, about a decade later than most of our other mental abilities.

Researchers Laura T. Germine and Ken Nakayama of Harvard University and Bradley Duchaine of Dartmouth College will present their work in a forthcoming issue of the journal Cognition.***

While prior evidence had suggested that face recognition might be slow to mature, Germine says few scientists had suspected that it might continue building for so many years into adulthood. She says the late-blooming nature of face recognition may simply be a case of practice making perfect.

“We all look at faces, and practice face-watching, all the time,” says Germine, a Ph.D. student in psychology at Harvard. “It may be that the parts of the brain we use to recognize faces require this extended period of tuning in early adulthood to help us learn and remember a wide variety of different faces.”

Germine, Duchaine, and Nakayama used the web-based Cambridge Face Memory Test — available at http://www.testmybrain.org — to test recognition of computer-generated faces among some 44,000 volunteers ages 10 to 70. They found that skill at other mental tasks, such as remembering names, maxes out at age 23 to 24, consistent with previous research.

But on a face-recognition task, skill rose sharply from age 10 to 20, then continued increasing more slowly throughout the 20s, reaching a peak of 83 percent correct responses in the cohort ages 30 to 34.

A follow-up experiment involving computer-generated children’s faces found a similar result, with the best face recognition seen among individuals in their early 30s. After this, skill in recognizing faces declined slowly, with the ability of 65-year-olds roughly matching that of 16-year-olds.

“Research on cognition has tended to focus on development, to age 20, and aging, after age 55,” Germine says. “Our work shows that the 35 years in between, previously thought to be fairly static, may in fact be more dynamic than many scientists had expected.”

 

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January 3, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

   

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