How do memories formed in children differ from those formed in adulthood and elderhood? It turns out that mature brains remember things in a richer, more detailed, way.
From the Japan Times
Forty-nine healthy volunteers ranging in age from 8 to 24 were tested recently on their recognition of 250 common scenes, such as a kitchen, shown to them as they lay in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner. Their brain responses were recorded by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as the volunteers tried to commit each picture to memory. Shortly after the volunteers left the scanner, they were shown 500 scenes and asked if they had seen each one before, and if so, how vividly did they recall the scene.
Aha! A memory test! Surely the older people failed miserably compared to the mighty young!
[There were] age-related differences related to the quality of the volunteers’ memories. The older the volunteers, the more frequently their correct answers were enriched with contextual detail. Ofen found that the enriched memories also correlated with more intense activation in a specific region of the prefrontal cortex. In other words, the older brains remembered things better, more deeply.
Feel the burn youngsters!
“We found no change with age for memories without context. All the maturation is in memories with context,” Ofen says. “Our findings suggest that as we mature, we are able to create more contextually rich memories, and that ability evolves with a more mature prefrontal cortex.”
Aging is a kind of growth but we live in a culture that blinds us to many of its possibilities.