MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr Antonina Pereira – CPsychol, PhD, FHEA, AFBPsS
Head of Department of Psychology & Counselling
University of Chichester
Chichester, West Sussex UK
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Prospective memory (PM) is the ability to remember to perform future activities, such as remembering to take medication or remembering to attend an appointment. Prospective memory tasks pervade our daily lives, and PM failures, although sometimes merely annoying (e.g., forgetting an umbrella at home on a rainy day), can have serious and even life-threatening consequences (e.g., forgetting to turn off the stove).
The fulfilment of such delayed intended actions can indeed be an early indicator of Alzheimer’s disease, with prospective memory failures representing one of the most prominent memory concerns in older adulthood and a fundamental requirement for independent living across the lifespan.
We aimed to address this issue by exploring the potential benefits of a purposefully designed technique, encoded enactment, where participants were encouraged to act through the activity they must remember to do.
This particular study was the fruit of an international research collaboration led by the University of Chichester and including members from Radboud University Nijmegen, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Lisbon.
Our team has explored the potential benefits of this specific encoding strategy for healthy younger adults, healthy older adults as well as for patients with mild cognitive impairment.
Results were very encouraging: All age groups reported improvement in prospective memory, but this was particularly evident in older patients 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.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: Prospective memory does indeed deteriorate with age. However, this dramatic decline is not entirely inescapable. Our early yet encouraging findings in this little researched area would suggest that enactment techniques are effective in improving prospective memory.
We were heartened to witness an improvement in prospective memory when this purposefully designed technique was used.
This improvement was identifiable for all the participants in our study, but especially so for patients with mild cognitive impairment.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?
Response: It is now crucial for future studies to explore and extend the findings of this study by attempting to disentangle the multifaceted benefits of this encoding strategy to improve prospective memory performance, for example, to explore how patients with different levels of cognitive compromise might differ in their benefit from this encoding strategy.
Such studies may inform the development of easily implementable rehabilitation techniques that might contribute to promote independence at the early stages of the neurodegenerative process.
Enactment techniques offer the potential for a cost-effective and widely applicable method that can support independent living.
This can have a crucial impact to in the future by contributing to an individual’s health, well-being and social relationships while reducing the burden of care.
Pereira, A., Altgassen, M., Atchison, L., de Mendonça, A., & Ellis, J. (2018). Sustaining prospective memory functioning in amnestic mild cognitive impairment: A lifespan approach to the critical role of encoding. Neuropsychology, 32(5), 634-644.
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