Mayo Clinic researchers found that memory power in older people can be given a thrust by improving their brain-processing speed.
The team found that healthy, older adults who participated in a computer-based training program to improve the speed and accuracy of brain processing showed twice the improvement in certain aspects of memory, compared to a control group.
"What's unique in this study is that brain-processing activities seemed to help aspects of memory that were not directly exercised by the program-a new finding in memory research," said Glenn Smith, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic neuropsychologist and lead researcher on the study.
For the study, the participants age 65 or older worked on computer-based activities in their homes for an hour a day, five days a week for eight weeks.
None had been diagnosed with cognitive impairment, such as early Alzheimer's disease.
With the help of Repeatable Battery for the Assessment of Neuropsychological Status the researchers studied the memory changes.
The tasks included repeating words or numbers after hearing them once.
"We found that the improvement in these skills was significantly greater in the experimental group-about double," said Smith.
The participants in the experimental group self-reported memory improvement, too, indicating the change was noticeable in day-to-day tasks.
The results indicate that aging adults may be able to make better-informed decisions about ways to improve memory.
"Brain processing speed slows as we age," said Dr. Smith.
"The study indicates that choosing a memory-enhancing approach that focuses on improving brain processing speed and accuracy, rather than memory retention, may be helpful," he added.
The study appears in Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.