advertisement
Home » News » People Have Unique Memory Traits
People Have Unique Memory Traits

People Have Unique Memory Traits

Emerging research suggests that people may have distinct brain connection patterns leading some to be better at remembering past experiences, while others are better at recalling details.

The findings help to explain why some have richly detailed recollection of past experiences (episodic memory), while others tend to remember just the facts without details (semantic memory).

Researchers from the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences discovered that these different ways of experiencing the past are associated with distinct brain connectivity patterns that may be inherent to the individual and suggest a life-long “memory trait”.

The study was recently published online in the journal Cortex.

“For decades, nearly all research on memory and brain function has treated people as the same, averaging across individuals,” said lead investigator Dr. Signy Sheldon.

“Yet as we know from experience and from comparing our recollection to others, peoples’ memory traits vary. Our study shows that these memory traits correspond to stable differences in brain function, even when we are not asking people to perform memory tasks while in the scanner.”

Investigators had 66 healthy young adults (average age 24) complete an online questionnaire — the Survey of Autobiographical Memory (SAM). This tool helps to describe how well an individual remembers autobiographical events and facts.

Participant’s responses fell between the extremes seen in people with Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM) or Severely Deficient Autobiographical Memory (SDAM). This allowed researchers to study normal variation in autobiographical memory.

Then, after filling out the online survey, the 66 participants had their brains scanned at with resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging — a technique that maps patterns of brain connectivity, or how activity correlates across different brain regions.

The researchers focused on connections between the brain’s medial temporal lobes and other brain regions. The medial temporal lobes are well known to be fundamentally involved with memory function.

Those who endorsed richly-detailed autobiographical memories had higher medial temporal lobe connectivity to regions at the back of the brain involved in visual processes. In contrast, those tending to recall the past in a factual manner (minus the rich details) showed higher medial temporal lobe connectivity to areas at the front of the brain involved in organization and reasoning.

The findings raise interesting questions for cognitive scientists, related to aging and brain health.

One of the more provocative inquiries: could certain memory traits be protective, delaying the manifestation of age-related cognitive decline in later years?

“With aging and early dementia, one of the first things that people notice is difficulty retrieving the details of events,” said the study’s senior author Dr. Brian Levine.

“Yet no one has looked at how this relates to memory traits. People who are used to retrieving richly-detailed memories may be very sensitive to subtle memory changes as they age, whereas those who rely on a factual approach may prove to be more resistant to such changes,” he said.

Could a person’s profile of memory traits help guide treatment of memory issues in later life?

Researchers believe the new findings open the door to exciting possibilities that require further scientific exploration. Follow-up studies are now being conducted relating memory traits to personality, psychiatric conditions such as depression, performance on other cognitive measures, and genetics.

Source: Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care/EurekAlert

People Have Unique Memory Traits

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). People Have Unique Memory Traits. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 19, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2015/12/11/people-have-unique-memory-traits/96088.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 11 Dec 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 11 Dec 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.