Sustained Engagement on Cognitive Function

The Impact of Sustained Engagement on Cognitive Function in Older Adults
The Synapse Project
Denise C. Park, et al.

In the research reported here, we tested the hypothesis that sustained engagement in learning new skills that activated working memory, episodic memory, and reasoning over a period of 3 months would enhance cognitive function in older adults.
In three conditions with high cognitive demands, participants learned to quilt, learned digital photography, or engaged in both activities for an average of 16.51 hr a week for 3 months.

Results at posttest indicated that episodic memory was enhanced in these productive-engagement conditions relative to receptive-engagement conditions, in which participants either engaged in nonintellectual activities with a social group or performed low-demand cognitive tasks with no social contact.

The findings suggest that sustained engagement in cognitively demanding, novel activities enhances memory function in older adulthood, but, somewhat surprisingly, we found limited cognitive benefits of sustained engagement in social activities.

journalistic version:


Out-of-body–induced hippocampal amnesia

body_illusionOut-of-body–induced hippocampal amnesia
PNAS, approved February 7, 2014
Loretxu Bergouignana, et al.

Theoretical models have suggested an association between the s own body and hippocampus-based episodic memory.
This link has been supported by clinical reports of long-term episodic memory impairments in psychiatric conditions with dissociative symptoms, in which individuals feel detached from themselves as if having an out-of-body experience.

Here, we introduce an experimental approach to examine the necessary role of perceiving the s own body for the successful episodic encoding of real-life events.
While participants were involved in a social interaction, an out-of-body illusion was elicited, in which the sense of bodily self was displaced from the real body to the other end of the testing room.
This condition was compared with a well-matched in-body illusion condition, in which the sense of bodily self was colocalized with the real body.
In separate recall ’ episodic memory of these events.

The results revealed an episodic recollection deficit for events encoded out-of-body compared with in-body.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging indicated that this impairment was specifically associated with activity changes in the posterior hippocampus.
Collectively, these findings show that efficient hippocampus-based episodic-memory encoding requires a first-person perspective of the natural spatial relationship between the body and the world.
Our observations have important implications for theoretical models of episodic memory, neurocognitive models of self, embodied cognition, and clinical research into memory deficits in psychiatric disorders.

self-consciousness | body illusion | dissociative experience | autobiographical memory

journalistic version:
Memories Can Go Astray When We Step Outside Our Bodies
March 10, 2014