Do you often leave home with the television on? Or go shopping but return to find that you have forgotten to buy the item you went shopping for? While these examples are comparatively trivial, poor prospective memory can have serious consequences as well. A failing prospective memory can be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease, according to University of Chichester psychologists.
New therapeutic methods are being used to utilise levels of prospective memory as a means to accurately diagnose diseases of cognitive impairment. Such methods can be effective non-invasive alternatives to traditional clinical methods such as the extraction of cerebral spinal fluid.
The research led by a team of the University of Chichester included members from Radboud University Nijmegen, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Lisbon, looked at prospective memory performance before the introduction of an enhancement technique and compared it with performance after the enhancement technique. The technique used was encoded enactment, where subjects were encouraged to act through the activity they must remember to do.
All age groups reported improvement in prospective memory, but it was particularly marked in those older subjects with mild cognitive impairment, that is, potentially in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. The study suggests that encouraging people in this category to adopt enactment as a means to enhance prospective memory could result in them leading independent, autonomous lives for longer.
She added, “We did find that prospective memory erodes as we get older, and our early findings in this little-researched area would suggest that enactment techniques are effective in improving prospective memory.”
Enactment techniques offer the potential for a cost-effective and widely applicable method that can support independent living. This contributes to an individual’s health, well-being, and social relationships while reducing the burden of care. The full findings are present in the journal Neuropsychology.