Memory: Training Can Increase Brain Activity

If someone has trouble remembering where the car keys or the cheese grater are, new research shows that a memory training strategy can help. Memory training can even re-engage the hippocampus, part of the brain critical for memory formation, the results suggest.

Researchers at Emory University School of Medicine and Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Centre have been investigating memory-building strategies for people with MCI (mild cognitive impairment). The techniques used in the study were known to be effective for healthy people, but it has been uncertain how they could affect brain function in people with MCI.

“Our results suggest that these strategies can help patients remember specific information, such as the locations of objects,” says lead author Benjamin Hampstead. “This is the first randomized controlled trial to show that these techniques are not only effective in MCI patients, but that they can also re-engage the hippocampus, which is a brain region that is critical for forming new memories.”

MCI is a diagnosis meant to identify those at increased risk of eventually converting to Alzheimer's disease. People with MCI have difficulty forming new memories but are still able to handle tasks of daily living. The difficulty learning and remembering new information is because of impaired function in parts of the brain including the hippocampus.

The study focused on how well participants could remember the locations of common household objects. The memory-building strategy involves three steps. First, participants focused on a feature of the room that stood out and was close to the object, then they learned a short explanation for why the object was in that location. Finally, they created a mental picture to tie the information together.; Source: Emory University

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