How to Save Long-Term Memory in Multiple Sclerosis
Long-term memory problems are not uncommon among people who have multiple sclerosis. However, there are things you can do to help ward off this cognitive challenge.
About 50 percent of people with multiple sclerosis experience cognitive symptoms, including problems with long-term memory. Now a new study has found that working memory may be a major player in supporting long-term memory.
The study, which was conducted by scientists from Kessler Foundation and Rutgers—New Jersey Medical School, explored the hypothesis that working memory capacity “may mediate the relationship between intellectual enrichment” and the decline in verbal long-term memory among people with MS. A total of 70 individuals with multiple sclerosis participated in the study.
All the volunteers were evaluated for intellectual enrichment, their working memory capacity, and their verbal long-term memory capabilities. Standard tests were used for the evaluation, including the Wechsler Test of Adult Reading and Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, Digit Span Total, delayed recall of the Hopkins Verbal Learning Test (revised), and the Logical Memory of the Wechsler Memory Scale.
An evaluation of the results indicated that interventions that focus on improving working memory in people who have multiple sclerosis may enhance cognitive reserve, which in turn can protect against a decline in long-term memory.
How to improve working memory
The natural question to ask, given the findings of this study, is how can you improve your working memory? First, however, you should know what working memory is.
Working memory refers to information you keep in mind or that is quickly retrievable. It is the form of memory that people use to plan and carry out actions or behaviors. For example, you use working memory when you are adding up a column of numbers without a piece of paper to write them down or when you are making a recipe and you are remembering which ingredients you already added to the pot.
Fortunately there is a convenient and fun way to keep your working memory healthy—games. In fact, chess is one of the best games you can play to help support and enhance working memory. Others include bridge, Memory, Concentration, and pinochle.
A search on the internet for “games that improve working memory” will provide you with an endless array of possibilities, including video games and games you can play online. However, be sure you look for those that specify improvement of working memory.
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It’s also important to note that both stress and the use of medications can cause or contribute to cognitive problems, including memory issues. So in addition to boosting your working memory with games, review your medications to see which ones may affect brain function, and also practice stress management on a daily basis. In the latter category, a few suggestions include tai chi, meditation, yoga, and progressive relaxation.
Cowan N. What are the differences between long-term, short-term, and working memory? Progressive Brain Research 2008; 169:323-38
Sandry J and Sumowski JF. Working memory mediates the relationship between intellectual enrichment and long-term memory in multiple sclerosis: an exploratory analysis of cognitive reserve. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society 2014 Jul 14: 1-5