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This is a monthly e-newsletter from the Lifebrain Horizon2020 project.
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Lifebrain Monthly E-newsletter, March 2018

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The Lifebrain e-newsletter is aimed at patient organisations, policy-makers, the general public and researchers interested in brain and cognition.

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Boost your memory performance

At the Centre for Lifespan Changes in Brain and Cognition, University of Oslo, we have studied how memory-strategy training affects memory performance and brain white matter microstructure in young and older adults. White matter microstructure plays an important role in coordinating the communication between widespread regions of the brain.
Our results show that memory-strategy training can markedly improve memory performance. The training also influenced white matter microstructure in the older adults, confirming that neuroplasticity is preserved into older age.

Source: Colourbox


What is neuroplasticity?

Our cognitive functions, or capacity to perceive, remember, learn, and reason, are constantly changing throughout the lifespan. While you read this article, your brain is changing too, as a result of the complex interplay between your experience and biological/genetic tenets. This ability for the brain to change in response to the environment is called neuroplasticity, which is derived from two words: neuron (nerve cell) and plastic (moldable).

Memory-strategy training

In our study, the participants completed 10 weeks of memory-strategy training practicing the Method of Loci. This technique uses visualization to recall pieces of information (such as the items on a shopping list), which are placed along a mental travel route. This travel route can be an imaginary walk through an environment that is well known to you, for example your house or your workplace.
Visualizing apples on a location of your mental travel route (Source: LCBC)
The participants attended weekly in-class course sessions and completed online home assignments. Before and after the training period, we tested their memory performance by asking them to recall 100 random words in the correct order. They also completed Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) sessions before and after the training, which enabled us to investigate changes in their brain structure.
 

Improving brain connections

In addition to improving their memory performance, the participants in their 70s showed less decline in white matter microstructure relative to a control group. Our results indicate that mental training can help to slow down the process of microstructural brain aging in older adults.
 
Abstract picture of brain connections (Source: Colourbox)


What next?

The mechanisms of neuroplasticity are not yet fully understood, and the potential and limitations of cognitive training are frequently discussed: Can the effects of cognitive training be transferred to other tasks? How long do training effects last? Does cognitive training result in noticeable changes in everyday function? Can such training delay the onset of dementia or other neurological disorders?

We are currently looking into recently collected data 3 years after the training participation, in order to better understand the long-term effects of memory-strategy training. We are also investigating which factors that influence individual differences in training gains, including genetic components, physical activity, sleep quality, and nutrition.

Ultimately, a better understanding of the mechanisms behind neuroplasticity may provide clues not only for successful aging, but also for treatments of stroke, mental disorders, and dementia
.

Source of newsletter

This newsletter was edited by Ann-Marie Glasø de Lange, PhD, Cand. Psychol.

The referred study

de Lange, A-M., Bråthen, AC., Rohani, D., Grydeland, H., Fjell, AM. & Walhovd, KB.: The effects of memory training on behavioral and microstructural plasticity in young and older adults, Human Brain Mapping; Volume 38, Issue 11, November 2017
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/hbm.23756/full

 

CONTACT US

Center for Lifespan Changes in Brain and Cognition at the University of Oslo
Kristine B. Walhovd project coordinator
Barbara B. Friedman administrative coordinator
e-mail: info@lifebrain.uio.no
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This project has received funding from the European Union ’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 732592.
Copyright © 2018 Lifebrain Horizon2020 project, All rights reserved.


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