Research Finds Photos More Useful Than Words for Memory Recall

Apr 30, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have found that pictures allow patients with very mild Alzheimer's disease (AD) to better recognize and identify a subject as compared to using just words. In addition, the researchers found that these patients can rely on a general sense of knowing or familiarity but not recollection to support successful recognition. These findings appear in the current issue of the journal Neuropsychologia.

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) has been conceptualized as a transitional stage between healthy aging and Alzheimer's disease (AD). The amnestic subtype of MCI has received a great deal of attention as it has been associated with an estimated tenfold increase in Alzheimer's disease compared to age-matched controls with no cognitive impairment.

with amnestic MCI and controls participated in separate recognition tests of words and , while high density event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded during memory retrieval. These ERPs allow researchers to understand the underlying brain activity associated with certain cognitive processes. The results of the study showed that frontally based ERP components typically associated with memorial familiarity and post-retrieval monitoring were similar between both groups for retrieval of pictures. However, these components were diminished in the patient group during the retrieval of words.

"The results suggested that patients with very mild Alzheimer's, or amnestic , were able to rely on intact frontally-based cognitive processes, such as implicit conceptual priming and explicit memorial familiarity, to remember pictures," said study author Brandon Ally, PhD, an assistant professor of neurology at BUSM.

According to the researchers, this is a novel finding with regards to how people conceptualize memory retrieval, particularly in patients with dementia. "Perhaps there is more of an interaction of implicit and explicit memory processes than we once thought, and patients with mild AD can successfully use implicit memory, or memory without conscious awareness, to support recognition. If this is the case, perhaps we can develop strategies that rely on implicit memory processes such as conceptual priming to support new learning in patients with AD, allowing them to live more engaged and independent lives," added Ally. "Overall, the current results have shown that pictures and words differentially affect how memorial decisions are made in patients with aMCI. Pictures have a clear memorial advantage over words, but the debate as to why is far from settled."

Future research by Ally and his team will attempt to translate these findings into real-world interventions to help patients with memory problems.

Source: Boston University

Explore further: Know the brain, and its axons, by the clothes they wear

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Education protects against pre-Alzheimer's memory loss

Oct 20, 2008

ST. PAUL, Minn. – People with more education and more mentally demanding occupations may have protection against the memory loss that precedes Alzheimer's disease, according to a study published in the October 21, 2008, ...

MRI shows brain atrophy pattern that predicts Alzheimer's

Feb 10, 2009

Using special MRI methods, researchers have identified a pattern of regional brain atrophy in patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) that indicates a greater likelihood of progression to Alzheimer's disease. The findings ...

Heart failure linked to cognitive impairment

Feb 05, 2009

Nearly half of patients with heart failure (HF) have problems with memory and other aspects of cognitive functioning, reports a new study published by Elsevier, in the February issue of Journal of Cardiac Failure .

Recommended for you

Know the brain, and its axons, by the clothes they wear

Apr 18, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—It is widely know that the grey matter of the brain is grey because it is dense with cell bodies and capillaries. The white matter is almost entirely composed of lipid-based myelin, but ...

Turning off depression in the brain

Apr 17, 2014

Scientists have traced vulnerability to depression-like behaviors in mice to out-of-balance electrical activity inside neurons of the brain's reward circuit and experimentally reversed it – but there's ...

Rapid whole-brain imaging with single cell resolution

Apr 17, 2014

A major challenge of systems biology is understanding how phenomena at the cellular scale correlate with activity at the organism level. A concerted effort has been made especially in the brain, as scientists are aiming to ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Cancer stem cells linked to drug resistance

Most drugs used to treat lung, breast and pancreatic cancers also promote drug-resistance and ultimately spur tumor growth. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have discovered ...

Finnish inventor rethinks design of the axe

(Phys.org) —Finnish inventor Heikki Kärnä is the man behind the Vipukirves Leveraxe, which is a precision tool for splitting firewood. He designed the tool to make the job easier and more efficient, with ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.