Does Memory Training Actually Work?

Shirley Amy
October 31, 2019

As things stand, the loss of memory in older people, is becoming a very serious issue indeed, and this is a great concern for people’s families and loved ones, as statistics show that more and more people are suffering. This often means that when things get worse, they cannot manage to live independently, and this creates all kinds of unwelcome difficulties. So apart from medication, which does not seem to be doing much good, what can be done?


A New Study Which Offers A Glimmer of Hope

The Journal of Memory and Language recently published a new study conducted by the Umeå University, Sweden, and the Åbo Akademi University, Finland, which gives an insight into the (thus far), misunderstood, fundamental mechanisms of a working memory. The researchers do not accept the findings of past research, and the initial view that working memory capacity can be increased through the use of repetitive computerized training. To that end, they looked at cognitive skill learning, which corresponds to working memory training.

Gaining a Better Understanding of the Brain’s Processing

“Training makes participants adopt various strategies to manage the task, which then affects the outcome of the training”

At the present time, the cognitive mechanisms which are rudimentary to the restricted transfer effects of  WM (working memory) training, are not fully understood. So the researchers conducted large-scale detailed testing on something called the Strategy Mediation theory, with 258 adults. This was done with three groups: two groups who had received working memory training, and another group who had not been given any training, to see if the trained group would be able to carry out certain tasks better than the non-trained group. The working memory training research was conducted for a period of 4 weeks, during which time, subjects carried out 3 x 30-minute training sessions every 7 days, as well as a weekly working memory updating assignment. One of the groups received their training via strategy instruction from an external provider; while the other group received training that did not include  any strategy instruction. There was a third group which acted as a control.

A Type of Skill Learning

This training of a person’s working memory, is a type of skill learning (through which adopting specific task strategies plays an important part), and as such, should appeal to the millions of people who can potentially benefit. The current dilemma is that: “hundreds of commercial training programs that promise memory improvements are available for the public. However, the effects of the programs do not extend beyond tasks similar to the ones that people have already been trained on” .

A Good Result

For the very first time, these Nordic researchers: “obtained clear evidence of the important role strategies have in memory training. Acquiring strategies can also explain why the effects of memory training are so limited. Typically, improvements are limited only to tasks that are very similar to the training task – training has provided ways to handle a given type of task, but not much else”. The results showed that: “strategies generated during training indicate training gains. These self-generated strategies stabilize early on. Externally given strategy only produces a fleeting training task gain”.

Shirley Amy

Shirley Amy is a Holistic Health Specialist and professional writer who's published 4 books. Her  interests include optimum wellness, mental health, fitness, and positive lifestyle change. She holds University and College qualifications in the fields of Health Science, Nutrition, Mental Health, Fitness, Holistic Therapy and Aromatherapy.

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