Failing memory in early age points to Alzheimer’s later

May 4th, 2009 - 3:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, May 4 (IANS) Failing memory in early age could be symptomatic of Alzheimer’s disease later in life, suggests a new study.
Accordingly, clinicians may be able to train such people to remember valuable information better. This research suggests the potential for improved memory training.

For example, if you went to the grocery store but left your shopping list at home, you would at least want to remember the milk and bread, if not the jam. Or, when packing for a trip, you would want to remember your wallet and tickets more than your slippers or belt.

Participants were recruited from the Washington University in St. Louis’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centre.

They included 109 healthy older adults (average age 75), 41 people with very mild (very early) Alzheimer’s disease (average age of almost 76), 13 people with mild (early) Alzheimer’s (average age of almost 77), and 35 younger adults (all 25 or under, average age of almost 20).

The researchers asked participants to study and learn neutral words that were randomly assigned different point values. When asked to recall the items, participants were asked to maximise the total value.

All participants, even those with Alzheimer’s, recalled more high-value than low-value items. However, the Alzheimer’s groups were significantly less efficient than their healthy age peers at remembering items according to their value.

The authors speculated that Alzheimer’s disease makes it harder for people to encode what they learn in a strategic way. Because encoding is the first step in long-term memory, this affects their ability to remember things according to their value.

The findings also demonstrate that value-directed learning stays intact in healthy ageing. Older adults might not remember as much as younger adults, but when healthy, they remain able to distinguish what’s important, said a Washington release.

The study was published in Neuropsychology, a journal of the American Psychological Association.

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