(Want to learn more about simple, effective, easy to use memory techniques for people with MCI? See my three-part video series here.)
I don’t wonder what people with mild cognitive impairment are struggling with. I ask them, and they tell me.
Based on their feedback, I would say their greatest concern is memory loss.
So it becomes really important for people with MCI to know there are good tools out there to help them cope with that. You can learn these tools, and use them, and they can help you compensate for the memory loss you’re experiencing.
And thanks to the wonders of modern technology, better tools are on the way. In fact, today I want to introduce you to one that may be coming to an app store near you.
Hi, I’m Tony Dearing of GoCogno.com, the website for people with mild cognitive impairment.
Today my topic is the art of memory compensation. We have tools available to us today that date all the way back to the Greeks, and the current tools we use are actually pretty good. They’re being taught to people with MCI at such leading medical centers as the Mayo Clinic and Baycrest in Toronto.
The best way it was explained to me is this. Think of memory compensation as eyeglasses for the brain.
Glasses don’t fix your eyes, but when you put them on, your vision improves, and everything else becomes a lot easier because you can see better again. This is the same idea, but for your brain.
Earlier this year, I did a three-part video series on some basic but really effective memory compensation tools, and showed you how you can learn more.
Today, I want to show you what the future holds. Welcome to Hippocamera, an experimental app designed to step in and take over the memory-forming function you used to rely on your hippocampus for.
Hippocamera is being developed by a team at the University of Toronto, and the idea is that it can take over one of the functions of the hippocampus, which is a part of the brain associated with forming of new memories.
The lead researcher, Morgan Barense, says one of the roles of the hippocampus is to act like a movie projector, rapidly replaying a new memory over and over again until it’s preserved in the brain.
When cognitive impairment sets in, the hippocampus is one of the first areas to be affected. So the idea is that the Hippocamera replaces that function. This article in the Toronto Globe and Mail shows how.
In this case, the example is to record a memory of a child riding a bike. The person makes an audio recording of what’s being remembered, captures the event on video, and then watches the video at high speed over and over again.
In a study of 40 cognitively normal older adults between the ages of 60 and 80, people remembered 40 percent more of details of an event three months later when they used the Hippocamera. Now it’s being tested on people with cognitive impairment.
So to be clear, this is still a ways off. You can’t go to the app store and get this right now.
But technological solutions are coming, and some of them are already here. For instance, take smart speakers like the Amazon Echo or Google Home. People with MCI are learning how to use these devices to remember all sorts of things. There are a lot of advantages and one of the best is that Alexa is perpetually patient and helpful. She will never say to you, “Why are you asking me that again? I just told you.”
And please understand, you don’t have to be a geek to use memory compensation tools. There are many good old fashioned non-digital techniques, and I hope you’re taking advantage of them.
If you need a refresher, or if you’re new to the concept of memory compensation, I invite you to watch my three-part video series, and learn things like the “toothbrush trick” and Stop. See it. Say it.
I hope you find this helpful, and I look forward to seeing you again next week. Until then, as always, be kind to your mind.