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/ February 6, 2017

Focusing on middle-age memory loss

Change your focus to improve your memory

We all experience momentary memory lapses, especially in this multitasking and high-paced world that we live in. In fact, studies indicate that memory loss can start in your 40s and 50s (and sometimes even earlier).

This seemed alarming, so we dug a little deeper and also found research that associates age-related forgetfulness more with the brain’s change of focus than with actual memory loss. But before we turn our focus to focus (or lack thereof), let’s first understand how our memory works.

Memory formation is broken into three phases — encoding, consolidation, and retrieval — where the encoding and consolidation phases are responsible for the learning of new information. When you get older, your brain undergoes structural and chemical changes that slow down your ability to learn and retain new information. So when it comes time to retrieve it, there is often no memory to recall because you didn’t fully absorb it in the first place.

In a study on the subject conducted by Dr. Natasha Raja, Director of the Brain Imaging Centre at McGill University, younger people appear to be better at recalling visual information than middle-aged people. According to Dr. Raja this was shown to be more of a matter of focus than a deficiency as the younger participants focused on external factors, while the middle-aged participants activated retrospective parts of the brain instead. Based on the study, she recommends shifting focus from internal to external perspectives when learning new information to boost memory abilities.

Other factors that significantly affect the ability to focus and therefore result in increased forgetfulness are media device distractions and multitasking. The constant interruption of mobile phone notifications and frequent focus shifts to manage multiple responsibilities take a toll on short-term memory. It’s less likely for something to stick if you’re trying to absorb it in these conditions.

Based on these findings, it can be concluded that improved focus also leads to improved memory. So by shifting focus, cutting down on distractions and reducing multitasking, and also making a few behavioral adjustments, you can actually significantly enhance your memory.

References:

  1. http://www.webmd.com/brain/news/20120105/memory-loss-may-occur-40s#2
  2. http://www.patienteducationcenter.org/articles/improving-memory-understanding-age-related-memory-loss/
  3. http://publications.mcgill.ca/reporter/2016/07/middle-age-memory-decline-a-matter-of-changing-focus/
  4. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/05/opinion/sunday/a-focus-on-distraction.html
  5. https://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/11/multitasking-takes-toll-on-memory-study-finds/?_r=1

Looking for some tips on improving focus (and memory)?

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