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Could It Be That ‘Senior Moments’ Are the Result of Too Much Knowledge Rattling Around in Your Brain?


WASHINGTON, DC, Feb 18 – Dementia is not an inevitable part of growing old. On the other hand, memory issues are, indeed, a part of the aging process. 

A new study published in the journal, Trends in Cognitive Science, reveals that perhaps forgetfulness is a result of an overabundance of information we have stored in our brains, according to the authors of the review, Tarek Amer at Columbia and Harvard Universities and Jordana Wynn at Harvard. Their assessment asserts that: “Healthy aging is accompanied by declines in control of attention. These reductions in the control of attention result in older adults processing too much information, creating cluttered memory representations. Cluttered representations can impair memory by interfering with the retrieval of target information but can also provide an advantage on tasks that benefit from extensive knowledge.”

In other words, the older you are, the more information you have stored in your brain – so much information that it can interfere with your ability to remember. However, as someone once explained, it is normal to forget where you left your glasses; it is not normal to forget that you wear glasses. The Centers for Disease Control [CDC] says that forgetting things that can disrupt your life is not part of growing old.

The CDC says the risk factors for dementia include smoking, high blood pressure, not getting enough exercise, being overweight, trouble sleeping, isolation, and blood sugar levels and cites the British medical journal, The Lancet, which suggests that dealing with these risk factors can “prevent or delay” 40% of dementia cases. 

There is a distinct difference between being absent-minded every so often and serious cognitive problems, according to the National Institutes of Health [NIH]. The NIH notes that “It’s normal to forget things once in a while as we age, but serious memory problems make it hard to do everyday things like driving, using the phone, and finding your way home.”

One can only report on the differences between “senior moments,” normal occasions of forgetfulness, and the potential of dementia. So, if you have too many forgetful moments, you should consult your health care provider.

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5 months ago

Good article. There are two fields of study that I’m familiar with that support this.

The first area is the computers science field of neural networks (part of AI research). There is a definite issue when it comes to neural networks in that they can become “over trained” and their performance suffers. Our memories are stored in very unique neural networks, but probably not so unique that they are immune to over training.

The second field seems unrelated but isn’t. Within the arena of holography, there is a way to store multiple images inside a single cube of image recording material. They use a reference laser to index the image when stored and use that same reference to retrieve that particular image vs. the other images store in the cube. However, there is a limit to how many images can be stored in a single cube before it becomes saturated. The closer they get to that limit, the fuzzier the retrieved images become as they start to bleed over into each other. There is evidence that human memory is holographic in nature and if so, our memories would likely suffer from the same saturation problem.

Think of it this way, the first time you ever walk into a room to go retrieve something (or place something down), it’s a novel experience, distinct from any other, and thus easy to remember. The 500th time you do it, there is little to differentiate it from the other 499 times, making it that much harder to recall that one particular time. As we age, we may have done a particular thing many thousands if not tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of times — remembering one unremarkable instance out of that huge dataset can be quite the challenge if not impossible. There just isn’t enough differentiation to make it unique enough to remember, it just blurs in with all the other times.

That is quite distinct from remember aspects of your life that are characteristics rather than events. As in the example in the article, the fact that you wear glasses is a singular fact that doesn’t change over time (or at least rarely), there should be no trouble remembering that. Putting your glasses down is just one event in a (usually) long list of similar events, quite unremarkable and easily forgotten. The first kind of memory loss is a real problem that might have medical causes and should be treated accordingly, the second kind of memory loss is the normal natural outcome of a long life even for a perfectly functioning, 100% effective brain.

As to the CDC, as a human run organization of humans it will have it’s issues and failures, but it doesn’t mean *everything* coming of the CDC is garbage. One should never automatically trust nor automatically throw away something from *any* organization. Just as its simplistic to simply believe everything the CDC says, it’s also simplistic to automatically dismiss everything the CDC says. Just like everything and everybody else, it’s a mixed bag.

1 year ago

Agree that the CDC

1 year ago

CDC has lost me. I no longer trust or believe anything they say! They told lies to the American people and participated in isolating us and causing unnecessary frats.

1 year ago
Reply to  Adella

Agree 100%

1 year ago

These days whenever I hear quotes from the CDC and the NIH, I lose respect for the article. It’s a shame, but we have been so throughly deceived by them these past years, they have lost all credibility in my book.

1 year ago
Reply to  LMK

Absolutely right on! CDC has zero credibility. The quickest way to get me to NOT read or trust any article is to quote the CDC.

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