As you start to age, your memory power and ability to remember information degrades. According to researchers from Vanderbilt University, it is not that older people, as they age, don’t remember things; it’s just that they can’t remember them as well as young people because the latter recall memories in, what they call “high definition”. For their study, the researchers analyzed the visual working memory of 11 older adults around 67 years of age and 13 younger adults approximately 23 years of age. In the study, each participant was asked to perform a task called “visual change detection,” which had them viewing two, three or four colored dots and then memorizing their appearance. The dots would randomly appear on a screen for a few seconds and then be substituted by a single dot of either the same color or a new one. Participants were asked to answer either “same” or “different”. The accuracy of a participant’s response is referred to as “behavioral measure”. The researchers also used electroencephalographic data to get a “neural response” of the participants’ memory capacity.
The researchers found that while the neural measurement was similar across both age groups, the behavioral measurement indicated a lower memory capacity in older participants. From their findings, the authors of the study concluded that older people tend to store their memories in a lower resolution than younger people, which can lead to impaired recollection. The researchers also noted that younger people are able to use “perceptual implicit memory”, giving them a “boost” when they try to retrieve the stored information.
“We don’t know why older adults perform poorly when their neural activity suggests their memory capacity is intact, but we have two leads,” Philip Ko of Vanderbilt University said. “First, further analysis of this current dataset and other studies from our laboratory suggest that older adults retrieve memories differently than younger adults. Second, there is emerging evidence from other labs suggesting that the quality of older adults’ memories is poorer than younger adults. In other words, while older adults might store the same number of items, their memory of each item is ‘fuzzier’ than that of younger adults.”