Science-- there's something for everyone

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A cluttered mind can’t remember

As we age, it becomes more difficult to remember things. According to Concordia University researchers, that’s largely due to our increasing inability to forget inconsequential things. Those irrelevant bits of information clutter up our minds and slow down our learning processes.

The scientists, led by graduate student Mervin Blair, put about 60 people through a series of memory tests. Half the volunteers were around 23 years old, the other half were around 67. Among other recall tests, both groups were given a sequential task in which information required for one step became irrelevant at the next step. Not surprisingly, the seniors had reduced working memory when compared to the younger group. However, the older individuals also had a harder time eliminating unnecessary data from their consciousnesses. The accumulated clutter of thoughts made it that much harder for them to process and remember new information.

Apart from storing our memories in Dumbledore’s pensieve in order to free up space, there’s not that much we can do to de-clutter our minds. Relaxation exercises may help to a point, but ultimately a longer more memory-filled life equates with a harder time discriminating between thoughts that are no longer important and those that must be kept.