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Lifebrain Monthly E-newsletter January 2019 

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Can we modify ageing by memory training?


Both young and older people can benefit from memory training 

Both young and older people can improve their memory performance after memory training - found in a previous study at the Center for Lifespan Changes in Brain and Cognition at the University of Oslo in Norway.  However, young adults are usually observed to improve more than the elderly. Such training-induced changes in memory performance are called memory plasticity.
Participants in their 20s and in their 70s completed a 40-week memory-training, including two training periods separated by periods with no training. The training included tasks of memorizing word lists, using the “method of loci” (MoL) technique (see our previous newsletter for a description of this technique).  
In a similar manner as memory training can change memory performance, training can also induce changes in the brain. This ability for the brain to change in response to the environment is called neuroplasticity.

Source: Colourbox

Memory training can slow down brain deterioration

White matter microstructure is important for communication between different regions of the brain, and is reduced as we age. Such normal age-related decline in the brain`s white matter microstructure was observed among the older participants, but this decline got reduced by memory training. Our results suggested that memory training may slow down the deterioration of the microstructural changes in older adults.
Source: Colourbox

Size and activation of the hippocampus predicts memory improvement 

The hippocampus is an important brain structure for memory. Our results showed that the size and activation of the hippocampus predicted how much the older participants improved their memory with training. Interestingly, our brain is active when we rest. We can measure this activity during rest and how much the different brain parts communicate with each other. We showed that the activity of hippocampus when older participants rested in the MRI scanner may predict how much they improved their memory due to memory training. The participants who had lower activity during rest in the hippocampus before the training, were the ones with better memory improvement.

Do the memory improvements last?

The improvements in memory performance were mostly maintained after the first training period, suggesting that the memory plasticity was to a certain degree retained even during the period of no training. The positive effect on white matter microstructure was observed when the participants trained, but the effects wore off when the participants did not train. This could mean that continous tranining is required for lasting effects on the white matter microstructure.

Can we examine if lifestyle effects brain and memory?

Several lifestyle factors may affect cognitive function and brain health. We now study the effects of vitamin D, certain essential fatty acids, body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, educational level, IQ, and physical activity on memory performance. One of the known risk factors for sporadic Alzheimer´s disease is having a specific variant of the gene apolipoprotein E (APOE). We will evaluate whether this risk factor may influence the effects of memory training.

Source of newsletter

This newsletter was edited by Anne Cecilie Sjøli Bråthen, postdoctoral research fellow at the Center for Changes in Brain and Cognition, University of Oslo, Norway.

The referred studies

Brathen, ACS et al. (2018): Multimodal cortical and hippocampal prediction of episodic-memory plasticity in young and older adults. Human Brain Mapping 39(11):4480-4492.
de Lange, Ann-Marie Glasø et al. (2018): The Temporal Dynamics of Brain Plasticity in Aging. Cerebral Cortex 28(5):1857-1865. Can be downloaded from


Your comments are always valuable to us, so do not hesitate to 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
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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 © 2019 Lifebrain Horizon2020 project, All rights reserved.

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