Good sleep quality and mood were found to lead to good working memory with age, said UC Riverside-led research team. The team also reports that each of these factors is associated with different aspects of working memory.
Working memory is the part of short-term memory that temporarily stores and manages information required for cognitive tasks such as learning, reasoning, and comprehension. Working memory is critically involved in many higher cognitive functions, including intelligence, creative problem-solving, language, and action-planning. It plays a major role in how we process, use, and remember information.
The researchers, led by Weiwei Zhang, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, found that age is negatively related to the "qualitative" aspect of working memory--that is, how strong or how accurate the memory is. In other words, the older the person, the weaker and less precise the person's memory. In contrast, poor sleep quality and depressed mood are linked to a reduced likelihood of remembering a previously experienced event -- the "quantitative" aspect of working memory.
The researchers are the first to statistically isolate the effects of the three factors on working memory quantity and quality. Although all three factors contribute to a common complaint about foggy memory, they seem to behave in different ways and may result from potentially independent mechanisms in the brain. These findings could lead to future interventions and treatments to counteract the negative impacts of these factors on working memory.
Research results appear in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society.
The researchers performed two studies. In the first study, they sampled 110 college students for self-reported measures of sleep quality and depressed mood and their independent relationship to experimental measures of working memory. In the second study, the researchers sampled 31 members of a community ranging in age from 21 to 77 years. In this study, the researchers investigated age and its relationship to working memory.
"We are more confident now about how each one of these factors impacts working memory," Zhang said. "This could give us a better understanding of the underlying mechanism in age-related dementia. For the mind to work at its best, it is important that senior citizens ensure they have good sleep quality and be in a good mood."