Memory study at Washington University

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ST. LOUIS (KTVI) - It’s no secret your memory doesn’t work as well as you grow older. Doctors at Washington University School of Medicine want to know if that process can be slowed or even reversed.

Doctors are dealing with normal memory loss, not specifically diseases of the brain. Typically, people have their best memory abilities when they are in their 30s. After that, their skills decline.

Don Windsor lives in Swansea, Illinois. For Windsor, retirement doesn’t mean he’s nearing the autumn of his life. He’s working to keep his body and brain as fresh as springtime.

“I do have trouble remembering names once in a while and I do get frustrated,” he said.

That’s why Windsor is participating in a memory study at Washington University. Professor David Sinacore said they wanted to find the “best treatment for early memory problems and early loss of concentration.”

Exercise is a big part of the study. Dr. Eric Lenze, the person in charge of the study, said people have admitted to feeling sharper and more able to concentrate after just a single session of exercise.

Exercise has also been found to help fight depression.

“I look back in the times of my life when I was the happiest it was when i was getting the most exercise,” said Leslie Caplan, a participant in the study.

Windsor adds, “If you don’t use it you lose it. Get perky.”

Researchers are also looking into meditation. Will peacefulness cause the brain work to function better in old age?

“Stress is bad for the body and stress is bad for the brain,” Lenze said.

They are recruiting 560 people for the study. A memory test is given before participants begin the program. A similar test will be given at the end to determine if there is any measurable improvement. The participants will be divided into four groups. Some will do both exercise and meditation. A group will only do one of the two. Others will just be told how to live a healthy life.

The $15 million study is funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Quality of life for the elderly is at stake.

“A lot of the reason older people stop driving, stop working, stop volunteering is related to their mind not working as well their memory and their thinking,” Dr. Lenze said.

For more information on the memory study, contact Washington University's School of Medicine at 314-747-1134.