Ten Minutes of Conversation Improves Memory as Much as Games
Senior citizens concerned about the loss of their mental abilities and that is about everyone are mostly aware of abundant "use it or lose it" research results advising them that to avoid dementia and Alzheimer`s they should exercise their brains. The suggested games, particularly electronic games and puzzles,Often appear too daunting to many older people. There is new hope; however, from a University of Michigan study that tested people as old as 96 and found it only takes about 10 minutes of talking to someone else to improve your memory.
The study of memory improvement tested people as old as 96. A second test of students found conversation also improves performance on tests.
"In our study, socializing was just as effective as more traditional kinds of mental exercise in boosting memory and intellectual performance," said Oscar Ybarra, a psychologist at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR) and a lead author of the study with ISR psychologist Eugene Burnstein and psychologist Piotr Winkielman from the University of California, San Diego.
In the article, Ybarra, Burnstein and colleagues report on findings from two types of studies they conducted on the relationship between social interactions and mental functioning.
Their research was funded in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation and will be published in the February 2008 issue of the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
In one study, they examined ISR survey data to see whether there was a relationship between mental functioning and specific measures of social interaction. The survey data included information on a national, stratified area probability sample of 3,610 people between the ages of 24 and 96.
Their mental function was assessed through the mini-mental exam, a widely used test that measures knowledge of personal information and current events and that also includes a simple test of working memory.
Participants' level of social interactions was assessed by asking how often each week they talked on the phone with friends, neighbors and relatives, and how often they got together.
After controlling for a wide range of demographic variables, including age, education, race/ethnicity, gender, marital status and income, as well as for physical health and depression, the researchers looked at the connection between frequency of social contact and level of mental function on the mini-mental exam.
The higher the level of participants' social interaction, researchers found, the better their cognitive functioning. This relationship was reliable for all age groups, from the youngest through the oldest.