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Synaesthesia is known to be linked to enhanced episodic memory abilities, across a variety of stimuli and tests, but the evidence has tended to come from younger adults. This enhanced cognitive ability in early adult life, together with the known brain-related differences linked to synaesthesia (e.g., in both grey and white matter structure), makes it an ideal candidate for exploring the notion of 'reserve'. That is, synaesthetes may be able to utilize additional cognitive and/or neural resources to mitigate against the effects of age-related decline. This was explored in a 2 × 2 design contrasting age (young, old) against the presence/absence of synaesthesia in two different studies: recognition memory for digits, snowflakes, and music; and visual associative learning. Synaesthesia and age had independent, non-interacting, effects on memory ability suggesting that, while synaesthetes show a memory advantage and maintain this advantage in later life, the presence of synaesthesia is not able to act as a reserve to protect against the effects of ageing. On our tasks, the benefit of having synaesthesia (enhancing memory) was of a similar magnitude to the effects of age (impairing memory); in other words, elderly synaesthetes present with 'youthful' memory abilities. It is important for future research on elderly cohorts to consider the presence of synaesthesia as an individual difference.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Journal of neuropsychology
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A neuropsychological test designed to assess different memory functions. It may incorporate an optional cognitive exam (Brief Cognitive Status Exam) that helps to assess memory related cognitive function.
Memory related to spatial information.
Type of declarative memory, consisting of personal memory in contrast to general knowledge.
Loss of the ability to form new memories beyond a certain point in time. This condition may be organic or psychogenic in origin. Organically induced anterograde amnesia may follow CRANIOCEREBRAL TRAUMA; SEIZURES; ANOXIA; and other conditions which adversely affect neural structures associated with memory formation (e.g., the HIPPOCAMPUS; FORNIX (BRAIN); MAMMILLARY BODIES; and ANTERIOR THALAMIC NUCLEI). (From Memory 1997 Jan-Mar;5(1-2):49-71)
May protect against hypoxic damage; proposed for treatment of shock due to trauma or blood loss; also stimulates paretic gastrointestinal system.