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Memory and Basic Cognition

A.                 Information Processing

1.        The study of memory is among the oldest fields in psychology.

2.        The information processing model offers a framework for following information as it moves from the environment to our permanent storage, to be retrieved when needed.

3.         In the information processing model, the working memory serves as the central location for all cognitive processing.

B.                 Parallel Distributed Processing

1.         The parallel distributed processing (PDP) model, part of the connectionist approach, provides a way to envision the simultaneous processing needed to fully comprehend a situation and respond to it.

2.         The PDP model proposes a structure in which energy travels along many pathways of connected units of information at once, allowing for the retrieval and manipulation of procedural, semantic, and episodic memories simultaneously.

II.               Memory and the Aging Brain

A.       Brain Imaging

1.         Researchers have found, using numerous imaging techniques, that healthy brains do change with age, particularly in the frontal areas and in the hippocampus, and that these neurological changes are associated with changes in cognitive processing.

2.        Structural scan technology, such as CT and MRI, distinguish between types of tissue, fluid, and bone.

3.         Brain imaging produced by structural scans, such as CT and MRI scans, have demonstrated brain atrophy, beginning for most people after age 60.

4.         Structural scans assist researchers in charting the shrinking or reduction in size, of various parts of the brain, that occur with age.

B.  Individual Differences in Brain Activity

1.         Functional scanning techniques have highlighted the changes in the hippocampal areas and the frontal and temporal lobes, which correspond to changes in cognitive processing and memory skills.

2.         Although some attention processes decline in speed and accuracy with age, most older adults perform better when they are familiar with the task, have time to practice, and can simplify their responses.

3.         Although the data collected from brain images are remarkable, and have contributed greatly to our understanding of brain functioning and aging, it is important to note that high occurrence of individual and intraindividual differences are often hidden when general summary statements are made.

III.            Memory Performance Across Adulthood

A.                 Attention

1.          It is somewhat misleading to make the broad assertion that memory worsens with age.

2.         Research shows that some memory skills and performance actually improve with age, others remain stable, and some do decline in accuracy and efficiency (Craik, 2003).

3.         Older adults have reduced attentional energy and are less accurate with some attention related tasks.

B.  Working Memory and Processing Speed

1.           Among the more robust findings in memory research are the decreases in processing speed and executive control functions in working memory.

2.         Whereas the short-term or primary memory does not show decline with age, processing speed and the efficiency of the executive control functions in working memory do show deterioration with age.

C.    Episodic Memory

1.           Episodic memories, those for personal experiences, are much more vulnerable to deterioration and loss than procedural or semantic memories.

2.         The autobiographical memory bump refers to the consistent finding that older adults recall more important events from their adolescent and young adulthood years than any other time in life.

3.        Among the interesting age-related patterns noted in research on episodic memories are inability to recall the source of information, the tendency to recall memories from adolescence and young adulthood (autobiographical memory bump), and the ability to form flashbulb memories for personally shocking events.

D.  Nonepisodic Memory

1.            Procedural and semantic memories tend to remain strong throughout adulthood, with many areas remaining strong for individuals into their 90s.

2.        An area of decline in semantic memory are detailed facts if presented as newer information.

IV. Memory Errors, Improvement Strategies, and Training

A.                 Common Memory Errors

1.         Adults of all ages complain of memory errors and failures.

2.         Memories are delicate and sometimes inaccurate, so much so that false memories can be easily induced in a laboratory setting. This next site I am listing is a very interesting article on why people confess to crimes they didn’t commit: “Why Do Innocent People Confess?”

3.          Memories can be delicate and distorted, sometimes displaying errors prompted by absentmindedness, bias, or the introduction of false information.

B. Individual Memory Improvement Strategies

1.          One way to improve memory skills is to learn internal strategies, such as using mnemonics to create meaning among items to be remembered.

2.         External strategies, such as writing notes and keeping items in only one location, can also improve the likelihood of memory retrieval.

3.         Researchers have found almost all mnemonics and memory improvement strategies work as long as the individual invests time, energy, and commitment into the process.

C.  Memory Training

1.           Numerous studies have shown that memory skills improve with training, even among older adults.


Post Discussion. Memory shifts and changes with age but losing one’s memory is definitely not a casualty of aging (unless there is a disease).  Click on the link labeled, False Memories  and the article, Why Innocent People Confess (both links in blue, under the heading of Memory Errors), and discuss the concept of false memories and include how the role of information processing, episodic memory, nonepisodic memory and memory errors play a role.

Memory recall is an incredible topic; I look forward to some excellent discussions in this thread.

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