Research shows that people with difficulty in remembering things can be helped with a memory training strategy. The hippocampus, an area of the brain critical for the formation of memories, can even be re-engaged with memory training. Researchers investigated memory training strategies for individuals having mild cognitive impairment. The methods made use of in this research were known to be effective for healthy individuals, but it’s been uncertain how brain function could be affected in individuals having mild cognitive impairment.
Individuals having mild cognitive impairment are still able to cope with daily living tasks but have difficulty forming new memories. Impaired function in areas of the brain such as the hippocampus causes difficulty in learning and remembering new information.
The focus of the study was on how well individuals could remember where common household objects were located. There are three steps involved in the memory training strategy. Individuals first focus on a feature of a room that stands out and is close to the object being remembered, then a short explanation is learned for why the object is located there. A mental picture is finally created to put all the information together.
Household objects were shown to the individuals one at a time over several sessions, each object followed by its location. They were asked an hour later to identify where each object was located from among 3 choices.
Individuals returned to the laboratory for 3 training sessions after the first visit. On a 5th visit 2 weeks later, they were tested on how well the locations of the objects could be remembered. A control group that was not given explicit training had the same amount of exposure to the objects and where they were located.
At the beginning of the study individuals with mild cognitive impairment had more difficulty remembering location of objects and had less hippocampus brain activity in comparison to healthy people.
Healthy controls as well as individuals with mild cognitive impairment benefitted significantly more from making use of memory training strategies compared to just exposure. Memory training strategy individuals with mild cognitive impairment also showed increased hippocampus activity as they learned and remembered where the objects were. Memory training individuals showed increased hippocampal activity, even when attempting to remember new object locations.