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Study: Information overload leads to cluttered brain, impaired memory function in older adults

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – According to a new study published in Trends in Cognitive Science, having too much knowledge may impair memory function in older adults. 

The report, authored by Canadian scientists, found older people have larger amounts of information stored in their brain compared to younger people. As a result, they often have difficulty with memory retrieval.

But it’s not all bad news.

“When you get older you may think you have lost memories, but they’re still in there,” Dr. Patrick Healey, geriatrician at Ascension St. Vincent Center for Aging, told News 8. “It’s just that your efficiency of finding them is not as precise and not as quick. On top of that, you get anxious when you can’t [remember something] immediately and that doesn’t help you. That makes it worse.”

Healey says it’s not that adults have forgotten things. Rather, it’s just their mind is filled with a lifetime of information, which makes it more difficult for their brain to suss through the clutter and find the memory.  

He goes on to tell News 8 the results of this study shouldn’t deter a person from continuing to learn. In fact, he takes a more optimistic approach. The brain is like a muscle, he says. Using it makes it stronger.