Ever walk into a room and forget what you came in for? Lose your keys? Your glasses? And at what point do you stop laughing it off and start worrying that these are the early warning signs of dementia?

Scientists in Italy  recently researched a link between age-related cognitive decline and general inflammation in otherwise healthy adults. Age-related inflammation typically shows itself in conditions like thickened arteries, arthritis and diabetes, and increases at a similar time to a decrease in memory and reasoning.

The study took 32 adults over 60 and treated them to 1 hour of Memory Training twice a week for 6 months, while another group of 28 older adults received no intervention. At the start and end of the study the participants took a number of cognitive tests, as well as giving a blood sample so that the scientists could establish levels of Cortisol (the stress hormone) and other inflammatory markers.

While memory training, or Brain Training, as it is sometimes called, has become a popular in commercial products, the research behind it has often been called into question. Just because you train your mind to recall a list of names, and makes you better at name recall, doesn’t necessarily mean that your brain is ‘fitter’ all over.

But, interestingly, the 2017 study discovered that the adults who received training in specific memory tasks, namely:

  • shopping list recall
  • remembering the locations of monuments on a map in an unfamiliar city
  • names and photographs of faces
  • remembering a short story and re-writing it from memory

not only performed better in recall tests, but also showed lower inflammatory markers and lower Cortisol in the 6 month follow-up test. The mechanism for this relationship is not fully understood, but it seems that by practising these tasks, not only did the participants’ brains improve in memory tests, but their level of inflammation (and therefore risk of diabetes, thickened arteries and arthritis) declined over the same period.

Perhaps there is more to Memory Training than simply finding your keys where you expected them to be.