Memory Maximizers: EVOO for Memory; Multitasking’s Effect on Memory

Here's the latest research to help you keep your brain sharp.

Study Suggests That Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Helps Protect Memory

Scientists believe they have found the reason why the Mediterranean diet is linked to a lower risk for dementia. Their research using mice bred to develop Alzheimer’s disease (AD) suggests that a major component of the diet—extra-virgin olive oil—reduces brain inflammation and promotes the destruction and removal of the classic AD hallmarks: toxic beta-amyloid plaques and tau tangles. According to a paper published in the June 21, 2017 issue of Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, the researchers fed a normal diet of mouse chow to one group of 6-month-old AD mice that had not yet developed cognitive symptoms, while a similar group was given chow mixed with extra-virgin olive oil. After three to six months, tests revealed that the olive-oil mice performed significantly better on tests designed to assess their learning ability, spatial memory, and working memory than the mice fed normal chow. Examination of the animals’ brain tissue revealed a dramatic difference between the olive-oil animals and the other group. The diet rich in extra-virgin olive oil was associated with significantly reduced signs of pathological changes characteristic of AD. The appearance and functioning of the synapses (communication points between brain cells) in the olive-oil mouse brains were normal, while those of the control group had deteriorated. The olive-oil mice showed significantly lower accumulations of amyloid plaques and tau tangles, telltale markers of AD. The Mediterranean diet—which is rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, fish, poultry, occasional servings of red meats, and modest consumption of red wine—replaces unhealthy saturated fats such as butter with generous amounts of olive oil. The mouse study suggests that the olive oil may be one reason why it helps protect against AD.

Researchers Suggest Avoiding Multi-Tasking to Improve Memory

Learning and retaining new information can be accomplished more efficiently if you are focused only on that new information. Listening to music, watching TV, or performing other tasks while reading new information or listening to someone provide new information significantly reduces your ability to grasp and recall that information, according to a recent National Institute on Aging study published in Psychological Science. However, that same study found that people can filter out distractions if there is important information to be learned. In the study, researchers had volunteers try to remember lists of words and numbers that appeared briefly on a computer screen. One group of participants had no distractions, while others had music playing, and another group listened as a voice read the numbers as they appeared on screen. Members of the last group also had to press a button every time they heard three consecutive odd numbers. Having that extra task proved a difference maker, as that group scored the worse in recalling words after the test. The groups that listened to music didn’t do quite as well as the group with no distractions. Interestingly, before the test, each group was told that certain words were worth more than other words. Participants in all the groups scored very well in recalling the high-value words. The results suggest that multitasking adversely affects memory, but that when a specific piece of information is considered important, people can often ignore distractions in order to remember it.

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