Nowadays, almost everything and anything is more technologically advanced. From televisions to eye glasses — our world is consumed with blue tooth this and high-definition that. Well, what if that technology extended to our brains? Not in a literal sense, of course, but scientists have found that with younger people, their memories are better in comparison to older folks because their brains have a better visual working memory, sort of like a hi-def brain, as the author describes it.

The study was led by, Philip Ko of Vanderbilt University. Ko and his team focused on visual memory and a person’s ability to retain visual information when there were no visual provocations present. The study had two different groups, one with 11 subjects around 67 years old and 13 subjects around 23 years old.

Ko believes that younger people might use, “perceptual implicit memory” to retrieve stored memories. Older adults do not appear to have this type of visual memory. He describes this as “high definition” memory and conversely, as the brain ages, people usually have “fuzzier” less clear memories.

"First, further analysis of this current dataset and other studies from our laboratory suggest that older adults retrieve memories differently than younger adults,” Ko said. "Second, there is emerging evidence from other labs suggesting that the quality of older adults' memories is poorer than younger adults."

They were asked to view two, three, or four colored dots and memorize their appearance. After a few seconds, a single dot appeared in one of the previous colors or a new color appeared. The participants were expected to answer "same" or "different," which showed how well they memorized the colors.

Ko found that both groups had around the same neural memory capacity. However, behavioral measures indicated a lower capacity in older adults than younger adults to memorize items. Neural memory capacity refers to the amount of physical storage in the brain. Behavioral memory capacity refers to the habitual memory — meaning that this type of memory is formed through repetition and patterns as opposed to obvious knowledge.

"We don't know why older adults perform poorly when their neural activity suggests their memory capacity is intact, but we have two leads," Ko said.

This study suggests further research to conclusively determine how the brain ages and the effect it has on human memory.

Source: Ko PC, Duda B, Hussey E et al. Understanding age-related reductions in visual working memory capacity: Examining the stages of change detection. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics. 2014.