Loss Begins At 20
By Rose Palazzolo ABCNEWS.com
a room and forget why? Forget your mom's phone number? Memory
is more than just something to store in your hard drive, say researchers.
If you don't use it, you might lose it.
why you walked into a room, put your car keys or blanking on someone's
name may sound like a list of the early signs of Alzheimer's disease.
But the common
lapses in memory are what many twentysomethings experience and
the gradual decline of memory says that the process begins at
the ripe age of 20 and as brain cells slip away, gone forever,
the chemicals that help the brain work efficiently are also not
being produced in the same quantities as when you were a fast-thinking
of more than 350 men and women between the ages of 20 and 90,
psychologist Denise Park found that normal memory loss in adults
in their 20s and 30s affects their everyday lives in minor ways,
such as forgetting a commonly used phone number or a person's
in their 20s and 30s notice no losses at all, even though they
are declining at the same rate as people in their 60s and 70s,
because they have more capital than they need," says Park, who
directs the Center for Aging and Cognition at the University of
Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR) and who appears in
The Secret Life of the Brain , a new PBS series funded
by the National Science Foundation.
Using Computer Memory and Not Your Own?
recent research suggest that sections of the brain that strengthen
memory are becoming flimsy and weak in a generation reliant on
computers. With an increasing reliance on computers for research
and guidance, as well as Palm pilots and navigation devices, instead
of exercising these parts of the brain, young adults just search
the Web or punch some words into a gadget, say researchers.
study released earlier in the year looked at 150 20- to 35-year-olds
in Japan and found that more than one in 10 were suffering from
severe memory problems. Researchers from Hokkaido University's
in Japan said the memory dysfunction was enough to further study
the possible connection between reliance on computer gadgets,
organizers and automatic car navigation systems.
the ability to remember new things, to pull out old data or to
distinguish between important and unimportant information. It's
a type of brain dysfunction," said Toshiyuki Sawaguchi, the university's
professor of neurobiology. "Young people today are becoming stupid."
that an increase in experience and general knowledge, as measured
by vocabulary, compensate for memory loss.
But when people
use the computer as a kind of external memory device, vocabulary,
general knowledge and experience are not stored in the body's
own "hard drive," instead they reside on the World Wide Web.
performance is a direct result of brain activity and brain structure
much like cardiovascular fitness relates to our ability to exercise
and perform physical tasks," Park said
Exercising the Brain Like a Bicep
By the time
people are in their mid-60s, according to Park, the continuous
decreases in cognitive abilities may become noticeable.
Park is now
embarking on a grand study of the brains of younger and older
minds at work. By linking behavioral testing and neuroscience,
she is studying what parts of the brain older adults use for different
types of mental tasks compared to younger adults, and what patterns
of brain activation high-performing older adults show compared
to their lower-performing peers.
"Only 40 years
ago, we had little understanding of how smoking and cholesterol
levels were related to cardiovascular health," Park said. "It's
likely that just as diet and exercise help to keep our bodies
fit and healthy, we'll find ways to improve the functioning of
our aging minds."
Reference Source 104