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Features of an ageing memory

Even normal ageing causes a decline of memory functioning is an indisputable fact. An EU-funded project has evaluated young and old to get information for feeding more reliable computational models of ageing and its effects.
Features of an ageing memory
The CHARM (Cognitive mechanisms that lead to age related memory deficits) project has tested to see if an ageing memory is due to a global decline in processing efficiency where both automatic and controlled processes are affected. At the same time, the researchers evaluated if only controlled processes were slowed down.

To see how general processing efficiency was different in young and older adults, the researchers applied a new approach – the response-signal speed-accuracy trade-off (SAT) procedure. This estimates retrieval speed and accuracy using short-term recognition memory. Accuracy levels were comparable in both groups but older adults showed slower retrieval speed.

CHARM researchers also used the SAT test to gauge memory performance when there is interference. Older adults showed no impairment in automatic recognition memory tasks but were slower with accrual of more detailed information. Results overall show that ageing causes selective impairment of retrieval with interference. Another test evaluating recovery of the order of information with time indicated that older adults were slower in this serial memory task.

Overall then, the research results show that ageing causes a selective deficit in controlled memory operations. Data collected by CHARM can be applied to improve computational and theoretical models of the effects of ageing on memory. It can also be used to facilitate older adults in the challenges they face in cognitive functioning, particularly in the work environment.

Dissemination included a total of 12 journal articles, two conference presentations and 11 conference abstracts. The training programme benefited both graduates through to postdoctoral researchers. Collaborations during CHARM were forged on a national and international basis.

Related information


Ageing, memory, computational models, speed, accuracy
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