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Brandeis researcher awarded grant to investigate memory and aging

Waltham, MA Brandeis psychologist Margie E. Lachman has been awarded a $1.45 million five-year grant from the National Institute on Aging to learn more about factors that can minimize memory declines in middle-aged and older adults. The research will identify modifiable beliefs and behaviors that are tied to better memory and enhanced functioning in everyday life.

Many middle-aged and older adults believe that memory declines are inevitable and there is little that can be done, said Lachman, chair of the psychology department. Such beliefs of low self-efficacy and limited control over memory aging are associated with poorer performance on a wide range of memory tasks, especially among older adults.

Lachman has spent more than two decades researching healthy adult development through the prism of memory and cognitive function. She says a sense of control over memory protects older adults from disruptive anxiety and rumination and promotes persistence in the face of challenging memory tasks. In short, to some extent, how we age is up to us. There are a number of strategies, from stress reduction and organization of information, to cognitive and physical exercise, that can boost memory performance in aging adults.

In this study Lachman aims to learn more about how a low sense of control is a risk factor for poor memory. Along with her colleagues in the Brandeis Lifespan Lab, she will explore the psychological and physiological pathways through which control beliefs and memory performance are related.

The research will examine how strategy use, anxiety, stress reactivity, and arousal are tied to beliefs about control over memory and ultimately to memory performance on a number of tasks. Lachmans lab will assess several different types of memory in adults ages 25 to 85 living in the Greater Boston area. The research will use a variety of assessment techniques, including measuring stress through cortisol levels and heart rates, to daily diary keeping to evaluate how and when subjects feel more or less control over their memory performance.

Good memory functioning is critical in everyday life to maintain health, well-being, and independence, says Lachman. The studys results will be used to help develop effective interventions to reduce distress, impairment, and dependence, and to enhance beliefs about aging and memory.


Contact: Laura Gardner
Brandeis University

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