Lifespan Institute Speaker Series continues with talk on memory and aging

If you have ever left a grocery store laden with parcels and realized you had no idea where you’d parked the car, you are not alone.

Karen Campbell, Assistant Professor in Brock’s Department of Psychology, will talk about why this may happen on Thursday, Jan. 28 when she presents “Learning more, not less: Memory as we age,” a free public webinar offered by the Lifespan Institute Speaker Series.

“One of the biggest memory challenges people face as they age is focusing on what you want to remember and blocking out the distraction or wrongly remembered details that can interfere with what you want to remember,” Campbell says. “For instance, when you park your car at the store and later want to find it, all the other places where you recently parked may come to mind and get in the way of remembering today’s parking spot.”

Campbell, who holds a Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience of Aging, recently presented some of her research findings for the Psychonomic Society after receiving their Early Career Award this year. Next week’s talk will be adapted from her lecture and include an overview of several studies, as well as new data from her current research on how the mind and brain change during the course of normal aging.

“In particular, we focus in our lab on how the ability to control attention affects memory, showing that older adults are a bit more distractible than younger adults, which can lead to errors in memory, but also some advantages,” Campbell says.

According to Campbell, there are popular misconceptions when it comes to normal aging and memory, particularly around the idea that a decline in memory is inevitable as we age.

“Semantic memory, or knowledge, actually increases with age, and implicit memory, or memory that is tested indirectly, is also preserved with age,” says Campbell. “We have also shown that older adults’ ability to link different pieces of information together, such as a face and a name, does not decline with age as much as people — including aging researchers — think it does.”

However, our ability to be distracted and to connect too many unrelated dots in our minds may impede our memory.

“Our work suggests that older adults may actually be linking too much information together, and sadly, this does sometimes lead to memory errors,” Campbell says. “I will discuss what we think the implications are for everyday memory.”

The free webinar takes place Thursday, Jan. 28 from 12:30 to 2 p.m. and is open to the public but requires advance registration on the Lifespan Development Research Institute’s website.

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