Nav: Home

Psychologists find that acting is the key to remembering tasks

August 02, 2018

  • Research explores prospective memory which reminds you to take action in the future
  • Poor prospective memory can be an early indicator of Alzheimer's disease
  • Prospective memory may be improved via 'acting out' scenarios
  • Improved prospective memory supports safer, independent living
Have you ever been shopping and returned home to find that you have forgotten to buy the very item you went shopping for? Have you known it was going to rain yet left your umbrella at home? Have you gone out and left the television on?

All these instances are examples where prospective memory has failed - you have not remembered to take the action you had planned. While these examples are comparatively trivial, poor prospective memory can have serious consequences - forgetting to take medication, or leaving the stove on, for example.

A failing prospective memory can be an early sign of Alzheimer's disease, according to University of Chichester psychologists, and new therapeutic methods are being used to utilise levels of prospective memory as a means to accurately diagnose diseases of cognitive impairment. Such methods can be effective non-invasive alternatives to traditional clinical methods such as the extraction of cerebral spinal fluid.

In research published in the journal "Neuropsychology", a team led by the University of Chichester has studied prospective memory performance of 96 participants including patients with mild cognitive impairment aged 64 to 87 years, healthy older adults aged 62 to 84 years and younger adults aged 18 to 22 years.

The study, which also included members from Radboud University Nijmegen, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Lisbon, looked at prospective memory performance before the introduction of an enhancement technique and compared it with performance after the enhancement technique. The technique used was encoded enactment, where subjects were encouraged to act through the activity they must remember to do.

All age groups reported improvement in prospective memory, but it was particularly marked in those older subjects with mild cognitive impairment, that is, potentially in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. The study suggests that encouraging people in this category to adopt enactment as a means to enhance prospective memory could result in them leading independent, autonomous lives for longer

Leading the study was Dr Antonina Pereira from the University of Chichester. She said: "Poor prospective memory can range from the vaguely annoying to life threatening, depending on the circumstances. We wanted to confirm two things - that prospective memory deteriorates with age and that enactment techniques might support those with a poor prospective memory."

She added: "We did indeed find that prospective memory erodes as we get older, and our early findings in this little researched area would suggest that enactment techniques are effective in improving prospective memory. We were heartened to see that there was improvement in our group with mild cognitive impairment. Enactment techniques offer the potential for a cost-effective and widely applicable method that can support independent living. This contributes to an individual's health, well-being and social relationships while reducing the burden of care."

Antonina's tip for overcoming poor prospective memory

"The next time you would like to remember to pick up a pint of milk from the store on your way home, do not wait until you have got home to realise you have forgotten to do it. Instead, recreate the action you would like to remember, pretending that you are actually doing it, in as much vivid detail as possible. This might feel awkward to begin with, but it has been identified as an optimal technique to enhance prospective memory. It can have very long lasting effects and work even for people with cognitive impairment. Acting is the key."
-end-
[Peer reviewed, experimental study involving people]

475 WORDS

Notes to editors

Dr Antonina Pereira, Reader in Psychology (Research Methods, Cognition and Neuroscience) at the University of Chichester's department of Psychology and counselling.

[Research paper] "Sustaining Prospective Memory Functioning in Amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Lifespan Approach to the Critical Role of Encoding"

By Antonina Pereira, Mareike Altgassen, Lesley Atchinson, Alexandre de Mendonça, Judi Ellis

University of Chichester

Related Cognitive Impairment Articles:

USPSTF statement on screening for cognitive impairment in older adults
The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) concludes that current evidence is insufficient to make a recommendation about screening for cognitive impairment in adults 65 or older.
Scientists discover link between autism and cognitive impairment
Scientists have found how a single gene fragment impacts social behaviour and cognitive ability, revealing a common molecular mechanism for autism and Fragile X syndrome.
Mild cognitive impairment, ISS produces the first epidemiological estimation
In a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, ISS researchers estimated about 680,000 cases of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), in a total of 12,730,960 migrants, aged between 60 and 89 years, living in the European Union (EU) in 2018.
Research underscores value of cognitive training for adults with mild cognitive impairment
Researchers at the Center for BrainHealth®, part of The University of Texas at Dallas, combined two non-pharmacological interventions for adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI): eight sessions of Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Training (SMART), a cognitive training program shown to improve reasoning and ability to extract bottom-line messages from complex information; and Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) over the left frontal region, associated with cognitive control and memory recovery success in people with Alzheimer's.
Kidney disease triggers cognitive impairment, even in early stages
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is increasingly recognized as a systemic condition.
Lowering blood pressure reduces risk of cognitive impairment
Intensive control of blood pressure in older people significantly reduced the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a precursor of early dementia, in a clinical trial led by scientists at Wake Forest School of Medicine, part of Wake Forest Baptist Health.
Advances in the study of drugs to combat cognitive impairment in schizophrenia
A study by the UPV/EHU has assessed the effectiveness of various drugs, which are used to delay cognitive deterioration in patients with Alzheimer's, in improving cognitive impairment displayed by patients with schizophrenia.
Antioxidants may prevent cognitive impairment in diabetes
Cognitive difficulties in patients with diabetes, caused by repeated episodes of low blood sugar, could be reduced with antioxidants, according to a new study presented at the Society for Endocrinology annual conference in Glasgow.
Visual impairment associated with a decline in cognitive function
Worsening vision and declining cognitive function are common conditions among older people.
What if you could know that your mild cognitive impairment wouldn't progress
Researchers from the Lisbon School of Medicine, University of Lisbon found that, in some mild cognitive impairment patients, real neuropsychological stability over a decade is possible and that long-term stability could be predicted based on neuropsychological tests measuring memory and non-verbal abstract reasoning.
More Cognitive Impairment News and Cognitive Impairment Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Debbie Millman: Designing Our Lives
From prehistoric cave art to today's social media feeds, to design is to be human. This hour, designer Debbie Millman guides us through a world made and remade–and helps us design our own paths.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#574 State of the Heart
This week we focus on heart disease, heart failure, what blood pressure is and why it's bad when it's high. Host Rachelle Saunders talks with physician, clinical researcher, and writer Haider Warraich about his book "State of the Heart: Exploring the History, Science, and Future of Cardiac Disease" and the ails of our hearts.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Insomnia Line
Coronasomnia is a not-so-surprising side-effect of the global pandemic. More and more of us are having trouble falling asleep. We wanted to find a way to get inside that nighttime world, to see why people are awake and what they are thinking about. So what'd Radiolab decide to do?  Open up the phone lines and talk to you. We created an insomnia hotline and on this week's experimental episode, we stayed up all night, taking hundreds of calls, spilling secrets, and at long last, watching the sunrise peek through.   This episode was produced by Lulu Miller with Rachael Cusick, Tracie Hunte, Tobin Low, Sarah Qari, Molly Webster, Pat Walters, Shima Oliaee, and Jonny Moens. Want more Radiolab in your life? Sign up for our newsletter! We share our latest favorites: articles, tv shows, funny Youtube videos, chocolate chip cookie recipes, and more. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.