Socializing Improves Memory

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Researchers establish a strong link between a strong social network and memory preservation, according to a new study published in May 2018.

New research from The Ohio State University found that mice that were kept in groups had better memories and healthier brains than animals that lived in pairs.

Social connections help preserve the mind and improve quality of life. Lead author of the study, Kirby said “Our research suggests that merely having a larger social network can positively influence the aging brain. We know that in humans there’s a strong correlation between cognitive health and social connections, but we don’t know if it’s having a group of friends that’s protecting people or if it’s that people with declining brain health withdraw from their human connections.”

Some mice lived in pairs, while others were put in groups of six for three months, this scenario involves complex interactions between the mice. Mice in the study were 15-18 months old, which is a time significant to natural memory decline throughout their lifespan. This is similar to what mice post-retirement age would be.

Tests of memory showed that those in groups fared better at memory than those living alone. They were given a test of identifying if a plastic car had moved its location and those with good brain health were able to identify change in location.

“With the pair-housed mice, they had no idea that the object had moved. The group-housed mice were much better at remembering what they’d seen before and went to the toy in a new location, ignoring another toy that had not moved,” Kirby said.

The mice were given another maze-based memory test. Both the groups during this test were able to improve their strategies of escape-route search with practice. However, the mice that were put together did not show any improvement in speed over the course of a day.

“But over the course of many days, they developed a serial-searching strategy where they checked every hole as quickly as possible. It’d be like walking as quickly as possible through each row of a parking lot to look for your car rather than trying to remember where your car actually is and walk to that spot,” Kirby said. This reflected improved memory among mice that were grouped together over those that were not.

 

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