72 Memory & Aging

Based on Research by Sherry Willis & Michael Marsiske, 2006.  Psychology Science Minute written by Psychological Association, adapted by Juanita N. Baker, Ph.D..

As we age and cannot remember names, we worry about memory. What can we do to keep our memory sharp?

Psychologist Michael Marsiske and colleagues wondered whether short mental workouts would improve performance and prevent memory loss. They assigned 2,800 well-functioning elder volunteers, average age 74, to one of three different thinking skills training: memory  (or mnemonic strategies for remembering lists), reasoning (strategies for finding the pattern in a letter or word series), and processing speed (visual search with divided attention). Another condition had no training.

All trained participants received ten hours of instruction. A year later half received 8 hours of “booster” training. Five years later, compared to untrained controls, each trained group still performed significantly better on their specifically trained brain skills. In addition, the groups exhibited fewer declines in real world activities, such as accurately reading medicine labels, finding items, or reacting quickly to road signs. The reasoning-trained group showed the most improvement and additional benefits from the booster sessions.

You too can get 18 hours of intense instruction. Take a course; learn a new skill, language or musical instrument.  Stay active: volunteer, socialize and support friends, do puzzles.  Use your brain in new areas to prevent memory loss and the development of dementia such as Alzheimer’s.


For more details see:


American Psychological Association, June 11, 2006

Cited Research

Willis, S.L.; Tennstedt, S.L.; Marsiske, M.; Ball, K; Elias, J.; Koepke, K. M.; Morris, J. N.; Rebok, G.W.; Unverzagt, F. W.; Stoddard, A. M.; Wright, E.; (2006). Long-term effects of cognitive training on everyday functional outcomes in older adults. JAMA, 296 (23), 2805-2814. doi:10.1001/jama.296.23.2805.

Full article: http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=204643

From a study called Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE), which Michael Marsiske co-directed with other psychologists (Karlene Ball, George Rebok, Sherry Willis) and non-psychologists, and with funding from the National Institute on Aging and the National Institute of Nursing Research.

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