Try to remember what you ate for breakfast yesterday. Now try to remember the color of the bowl or plate.
Having trouble? Odds are, you may have grown past your “high-definition” stage of memory and neural activity.
In a study from Vanderbilt University, researchers examined the age-related differences in memory storage and retrieval. Rather than being able to remember more pieces of information, younger participants in the study were able to retrieve the details in high definition.
The research team focused on visual working memory, a person’s ability to briefly retain a limited amount of visual information in the absence of visual stimuli, reports Science Daily:
They ran 11 older adults of around 67 years of age and 13 younger adults of approximately 23 years of age through a task called ‘visual change detection.’ This task consisted of viewing two, three or four colored dots and memorizing their appearance. These dots disappeared, and then after a few seconds the participants were presented with a single dot appearing in one of the memorized colors or a new color.
The researchers then asked the participants to reply with a simple answer “same” or “different,” and their accuracy with those responses reflected how well they memorized the colors – indicating the level of detail the participants stored then recalled.
The researchers found both the old timers and the whippersnappers were able to remember the same number of items, however, the older adults store the items at a lower resolution than younger adults, resulting in impaired recollection.
The team of seven researchers, led by Phillip Ko, released their findings – formally titled “Understanding age-related reductions in visual working memory capacity: Examining the stages of change detection,” – in the journal of Attention, Perception & Psychophysics, published by Springer.
Ko indicated more studies were needed to find definitive answers to why an older brain retrieves information differently than a younger one.
“There is emerging evidence from other labs suggesting that the quality of older adults’ memories is poorer than younger adults. In other words, while older adults might store the same number of items, their memory of each item is ‘fuzzier’ than that of younger adults,” Ko said.
(H/T: Science Daily)
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