Sunday, Feb 08, 2009: “When I Forget: Normal Aging or Something Else”

St. Mark’s Adult Education Meeting Summary
When I Forget: Normal Aging or Something Else
A Study Led By Dr. William Askren
Sunday, February 8, 2009




Dr. Askren (Bill) was one of the original founders of the Psychology Department at Wright State University.  He is a Fellow of the American Psychology Association and has published over eighty articles on various subject matters.  His hobbies include reading and bicycling.


Normal Aging or Something Else:


> Normal vs. Diseased Cognitive Aging

> Symptoms /  Causes of Diseased Cognitive Aging

> Suggestions to Keep the Brain Alert

> The brain is very complex.  Memory is formed by the formation of synapses between neurons in the brain.

> Some of Bill’s discussion today is based upon the works of Prof. Sarah Faias,  Dept. of Neurology, University of California, Davis.  Everyday cognition “ECog.”

>Everyday Cognition:    Memory /  Language  / Visual-Spatial Perceptual / Planning / Organizing / Divided Attention, etc.

> Language:  1) Forget names of objects.  2) Verbal instructions confused.  3) Finding the right words.  4) Remembering thoughts in the right sequence.  5) Following TV shows.  6) Remembering common words., etc.

> Visual-Spatial Perceptual:  1) Follow a map to a new location.  2) Read a map and give others directions.  3) Find your car in a parking lot.  4) Find a meeting spot.  5) Finding your way around the house., etc.

> Planning:  1) Plan a new trip.  2) Anticipate weather changes., etc.

> Organization: 1) Keep living space organized.  2) Keep financial records., etc.

> Divided Attention: 1) Do two things at once (multiplex).  2) Cook and talk at the same time., etc.

Rating a person’s ability relative to the above lists, Dr. Faias developed a list of 39 items to be ranked against the following three groups:  1) NORMAL AGING, 2) MODERATE COGNITIVE IMPAIRED, AND 3) DISEASED COGNITIVE IMPAIRED.

Procedure:  A spouse or very close friend or relative of the person under study would be asked the list of questions relative to the above subject matter.  The responses were then ranked with the following scale:

Better or no change = 1;     Questionable changes = 2;     Some degradation = 3;   Much degraded = 4.

The person would then be ranked in each of the major groups:  Memory /  Language  / Visual-Spatial Perceptual / Planning / Organizing / Divided Attention, etc. and plotted on a chart.

The results proved that this type of testing method was very effective in determining if a person was aging normally or if their cognitive abilities were degrading in a more accelerated matter due to disease, etc.

Medical people look for some of the following symptoms:  get lost in familiar places, repetitive questioning, odd behavior, forgetting recent events, falling or losing ones balance, no planning or organizing skills, change in eating habits, change in hygiene, apathy, language difficulties, etc.

The risk factors include:  high blood pressure, diabetes, poor nutrition, social isolation, heart disease, family histories, stress and depression, environment, etc.

A new study has shown that the environment can actually have a direct effect on someone’s genetic makeup.

Suggestions to help keep the brain alert:  don’t smoke, limit alcohol consumption, keep physically active, have routine checkups, exercise for good cardio-vascular fitness, stay socially active, religion, etc.

To keep an active brain, try new things you don’t normally do!  Try doing activities with your opposite hand!  Buy a new computer, learn an instrument, do different things!

Many thanks to Bill for his very informative discussion!