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Aging and Memory


Abstract

Memory is the ability of individuals to remember concepts they learn in the course of their daily lives. Cognitive psychology is the aspect of studying the internal mental status of the individual as a way of gauging their memory status. The aged have been found to possess a serious challenge in memory especially as their days advance hence researchers have found a close relationship between declined memory and the age of the individual. This low memory status is attributed to aging and wear of the chemical transmitters in the brain thus the rate at which information is relayed in the brain is delayed causing poor memory. Low blood flow in the body is also significant in causing poor memory among the aged as it disrupts the normal rate at which information is transmitted.


 Introduction

Ageing among humans beings refers to the physical, physiological and social accumulation of changes over time. While some dimensions of aging improve over time, memory declines as the years go by. This is demonstrated by the aspect of increasing knowledge and the rate at which new things are learnt decreases considerably. Aging as an important part of the human being cycle is culminated by aging having considerable effects on the cognitive psychology of the individual. This paper will look at aging as a normal biological process and its effect on memory. Consequently, emphasis will be laid on the physiological changes that occur in the human brain cells which lead to the deteriorating memory as age progresses.


 Statement of the problem

 When evaluating the problem statement of “aging and memory” it is crucial to note that over the years research has been conducted on normal aging and its effect on the working memory. This has involved numerous cross-sectional and longitudinal studies that as age progresses, the person undergoes declined abilities to recall recently processed information. This has been attributed to poor coordination of information during encoding and retrieval at a late date. These lapses have been detrimental in various issues such as those who are under medication failing to take medicine and frequent accidents involving electrical appliances at home. Therefore, aging affects memory and as a way of establishing this link, adequate information has to be obtained regarding the events that surround the biological process, as well as, analyzing the cognitive psychology (Kalat, 2009).


 Literature review

Aging

There are various definitions of aging depending on the elements that encompass the aging process. One of them is universal aging that refers to the sort of aging and changes which occur to everyone who is undergoing the aging process. There is also probabilistic aging that is not applicable to all aging persons such as the time when memory lapse occurs in human beings. It is not a defined stage thus disparities arise. The other definition is chronological aging which refers to the age of an individual as the determinate of his/her aging stage. Social aging is the expectations set by society of how individuals at various age groups should behave or handle themselves and biological aging which is the physical state of the living organism such as man as he ages (Masoro and Austad, 2006).


 Aging is a biological process that begins from the first day of birth such that ones days tend to increase immediately after they are born. Therefore, their body cells and systems begin wearing, as well as tearing from this instant. Normal aging is multidimensional as it occurs in the different facets of the human body such as the social, physical and physiological life. Combinations of such changes over time result in normal aging which have varying effects on the well being of the individual such that some processes improve while others decline. Wisdom is one aspect which improves directly proportional as age advances while memory and the cognitive ability of the individual decline considerably (Kalat, 2009).


 Age is measured in terms of full years for those who have been around for more than one year while in children it is done in months.  According to recent survey a child is born every 7 seconds while on average 100,000 people die each day all over the world as a result of age related complications. Researchers have coined various lifespan divisions for human beings as a way of determining their age though the effects of aging occur differently among members of the same age group or division. These age divisions are given below;

  1. Juvenile stage (0-19 years) this category includes infants, children, adolescents and teenagers
  2. early adulthood (20-39 years)
  3. middle adulthood (40-59 years)
  4. late adulthood (60+ years)

Memory

Memory is a process that involves encoding, storing, retaining and retrieving information promptly whenever required. Depending on the ability to perceive and recall information, there are two types of memory; short term memory that employs only a few seconds to see an image, store it and recall its aspects promptly when requested. Long term memory involves perceiving and storing large quantities of information for periods as long as ones lifespan. An example of long term storage is remembering telephone numbers for long periods especially after repeated efforts to memories the number. Thinking and language acquisition are vital aspects of memory which are essential in determining ones capacity to learn new things and relate them with others to increase the chances of retrieval (Kalat, 2009).


 The physiology of memory

The brain is the main organ in the body that is involved in memory thus in order to understand memory there is need to look into the anatomy and physiology of this organ. The hippocampus which is one of the sections in the brain is involved in spatial, as well as, declarative learning of new information in human beings. The amygdala takes care of emotional memory such that damage to the hippocampus, the amygdala or pathways connecting these parts causes a deficit in the individual’s memory status (Masoro, 2006).


 Although research in neuroscience has shown that the brain tissue does not bear down to tears and wear, the glial cells, in addition to, over time neurons are subjected to intense tears in the course of signal transmission.  This in turn leads to dire consequences in the production and release of neurotransmitters in the hippocampus of the brain. Consequently, cognition and memory are impaired hence as the individuals age progresses the efficiency of the neurotransmitters declines until the individual experiences severe problems in their cognitive abilities (Demetriou, Mouyi and Spanoudis, 2010).


 The brains frontal lobe supports integration, storage and retrieval of information in the short-term memory while the long-term memories are handled by the stable neural connections all over the brain. Similarly, new information regardless of the term is incorporated by the hippocampus such which enables the brain to sore short term or long term information as well as availing it when required. However, in order to attain this mission, the individual has to get sufficient sleep to allow the hippocampus to consolidate the information to various memories in the brain.  This explains why an individual who rest sufficiently after studying and before an examination tend to score higher as their memory status is often enhanced by rest (Mather & Carstensen, 2005).


 According to research, as age progresses the ability to fall into restful sleep declines such that the young are more likely to sleep continuously for long as compared to their parents. Hence the cognitive ability of a young learner is upheld at a higher level than that of their parent who is pursuing their post graduate studies due to the ability to sleep well after studying. This consolidation period for new information allows the long-term memory to work efficiently in storing the learnt concepts (Kalat, 2009).


 How aging affects memory

Memory is one of the cognitive abilities of human beings that involve encoding raw data which has been grasped visually or in audio form. The raw data is processed by the brain, and then stored to create room for retrieval when it is needed in future. According to recent research, human beings usually have fewer problems in receiving information unless age has reduced the efficiency of the five senses in their bodies. However, intense challenges occur during processing of the same information such that relating information among individuals of varying age groups is quite different. This is because of the older individual’s brain memory cells incapability to adopt swift transmission due to accumulated wear and tear (Masoro, 2006).


 The other processes in encoding of new information are storage and retrieval. Storage is enhanced by the amount of information such that for the very young and the very old, small bits of information is more likely to be stored in the long-term memory. This is contrasted to the middle aged and adolescents who are able to store huge chunks of information and retrieve it easily in future. This is because of their active brain cells and the fact that they always engage their hippocampuses in frequent resting periods when storage is carried out (Demetriou, 2010).


 The other factor which could be responsible for deteriorating recall problems among the aged is low production of neurotransmitters which interferes with inter-glial cells communication. Consequently, communication which results in coordination among the various parts of the brain are interfered with thus relay of signals regarding storage and retrieval of information to the brains memory is obscured. This explains the one reason as to why the children are bale to learn new or second languages much faster than their parents. This is made possible by their increased capacity to create relations between new vocabularies of the second language and those learnt earlier on, as well as, their ability to remember related elements much easily (Kalat, 2009).


 Consequently, there are physiological causes of aging which affect memory such as disorders of the nervous system causing conditions like Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s affects the chemical production of the brain’s chemical components like neurotransmitters which are essential in transmission of signals regarding cognition. Similarly, there is also decreased blood supply to the brain with age due to clogged arteries. This could be due to breakdown of the blood vessels nourishing the brain cells or those responsible for removing the wastes from the cranium. Such pathological problems cause the brain to suffer from subsequent inefficiencies due to poor blood flow systems, as well as, low oxygen supply. Exercise has been recommended as a pathway to increasing oxygen and blood supply to the brain such that loss of memory is not a strange phenomenon at this stage. However, research has shown that as age progresses human beings do not engage in plenty of physical exercises hence deteriorating the problem further (Mather, 2005).


 Findings

Just as the emotional social selectivity theory suggests the older generation is more likely to lay emphasize of their tasks on the cognitive and behavioral resources which boost memory. The older representation of the study demonstrated decreased ability to perceive new information such as new images, objects and words. Consequently, the ability to digest and remember the same concept in the next round of learning proved to be an uphill task for the elderly (Kalat, 2009).


 From the same study, young learners especially those who are still in school from kindergarten to the university did not experience major problems in their learning. This was more profound in languages as the information was quite new for their caliber. However, one exemplary aspect of cognitive ability among the older participants is that they could remember numerical figures which had been learnt a long time ago probably during their schooling days. However, ones level of education is significant in determining their ability to perceive information later on in life. For those who barely made it through high school, their cognitive ability in academic matters was severe. Similarly, their ability to relate items for easier retrieval and memory was lower hence performing poorly as compared to those who had been university graduates and worked in the corporate world for longer (Masoro, 2006).


 The physical and emotional health of participants was a determining factor to their memory abilities despite age being the most significant factor. Lack of physical exercise and plenty of sleep in all age groups was a leading problem in memory lapse while those who were physically active had less problems with their cognitive abilities. However, the problem intensified with age such that those above 60 years who did not engage in consistent physical activities during their youthful days experienced the most severe challenges. Nutrition was also a key factor, as well as, the nature of disorders in the participants. Participants with Alzheimer’s, as well as, those who had a mental disorder like insomnia developed frequent memory lapse scenarios especially among participants who were way past their 40s (Kalat, 2009).


 Discussion

The relationship between aging and memory is a mutual one with each being equal dependent on the other though in different capacities. This has been made possible by research findings by various cognitive psychologists and neurologists who have been able to illustrate the numerous effects of aging on memory. The evidence portrayed by the researchers is that though aging is not the sole cause of memory problems main the aging, the effects of aging on the entire body are diverse hence making it the major cause.


 Various studies have been conducted to evaluate the effects of aging on the entire body most of which end up affecting the brain; the main organ that handles memory. This is because as age progresses, the entire body systems suffer from accumulated tear and wear that is not restricted to some parts of the body hence all the process are slowed down (Demetriou, 2010).


 However, one advantageous aspect of aging is that it increases the individual’s capacity of wisdom. Wisdom is as a result of experiences that have been part of the individual’s life which have been stored in the long-term memory of the brain. Therefore, it would be wrong to blame aging to all the effects it imparts on memory as some advantages are derived form it too. This explains the older participant’s ability to relate events or concepts as a way of enhancing their cognitive abilities. This capability is not present or used widely by the younger generation hence even the elderly have ways of enhancing their memory conditions as compared to cramming among the young (Masoro, 2006).


 From the findings of the study, the low perception ability to learn new concepts among the elderly could be due to accumulated tear and wear of the hippocampus which handles new information. Similarly, lack of nutrients and sufficient oxygen to the brain due to clogged arteries interferes with signal transmission in the brain. This could be used to explain the low production of neurotransmitters in the brain which affects transmission of signals at the synaptic junction’s hence impairing consolidation of information (Mather, 2005).


 Consequently, frequent mental and physical exercise plays an important role in boosting one memory in the later stages of life. This explains why the participants who were used to life in the corporate world did not fall into memory lapse with age as fast as those who were barely through high school before dropping out.  The same case applies for those who had developed healthy lifestyles such as getting sufficient sleep, engaging in physical exercises and consuming nutritious food (Kalat, 2009).


 Evaluating the literature used in the study, one key bias is on the sample population selection criteria as majority of the participants were whites. Similarly, this could have affected the findings as obesity due to poor lifestyles is a common phenomenon among the white population. However, the aspect of evaluation some of the probable causes of poor memory with age such as level of education reduced biases in the results. Therefore, the findings were valid, as well as, reliable as the study cut across various sections of the entire population (Mather, 2005).


 Conclusion

The research question “what are the effects of aging on memory” was chosen for the study on aging and memory as a way of identifying the various effects of aging on an individuals cognitive ability. An open approach which entailed subjecting the participants to extensive interviews and experiments which resulted into attainment of data which showed that aging is the major cause of memory problems in human beings. Similarly, the education level of the person and their mental, as well as, physical conditions are essential factors in affecting their cognitive abilities. However, the problems can be reduced by engaging in healthy lifestyles early in life such as physical exercise and mental activities. Most important off all is that aging is a normal process hence it could be difficult to adjourn a biological process which is bund to occur at the designated time.


 References

Demetriou, A., Mouyi, A., and Spanoudis, G. (2010). The development of mental processing. NJ: John Wiley & Sons
Masoro E.J. & Austad S.N.. (2006), Handbook of the Biology of Ageing, Sixth Edition. Academic Press
Kalat, W.J. (2009), Biological Psychology. 10th ed. Cengage Learning
Mather, M., & Carstensen, L. L. (2005). Ageing and motivated cognition: The positivity effect in attention and memory. Trends in Cognitive Sciences vo.9, pp.496-502
 
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