A physical arousal memory intervention in elders

Laura L Wulff, Marquette University


It has been well established that a moderate amount of physical arousal performed shortly after acquiring newly learned information enhances delayed memory retrieval within animal and human studies. Further, it has been well established that aging has negative consequences on cognitive functioning, particularly the effects on memory. This study examined and applied a memory-enhancing technique as a possible memory intervention for elders. A within-subjects design was used with 52 older participants inducing muscle-tension by squeezing a sand-filled latex ball with moderate tension for 30 seconds. The sequence of arousal induction as well as memory measures was counterbalanced. Examination of retention and recognition tests were collected on verbal and visual memory measures two weeks after initial learning. Using repeated measures ANOVA, significant enhancement of delayed recall and recognition was observed for tasks of verbal memory, but with no significant effects for visual memory tasks. In an additional experiment, 26 participants applied the memory-intervention technique for two weeks outside the laboratory and recorded their use in a memory diary for specific common-day tasks given to them by the experimenter (e.g., reading a comic strip, completing a crossword puzzle) while the remaining 26 participants only completed a memory diary for the same tasks. Participants were not told that they would be tested for memory retention on these tasks. No significant effects on memory retention were found for these common-day tasks between the two groups. The results of this study are consistent with past literature findings that manipulating muscle-tension is capable of modulating memory consolidation. However, this study only found this effect in the verbal domain of memory. When applied outside the laboratory, this technique was unsuccessful. Potential reasons for these findings are discussed.

Recommended Citation

Wulff, Laura L, "A physical arousal memory intervention in elders" (2007). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI3284695.