Memory Mondays: Social Interaction and Memory

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Social interaction yields many health benefits both physically and mentally, especially as we get older. Notably, group social interaction and memory strongly correlate in terms of protecting the brain, a new study has revealed.

To date, research has shown that staying in close touch with friends leads to better preservation of cognition. However, researchers from Ohio State University set out to determine whether sociability protects cognitive abilities.

“Our research suggests that merely having a larger social network can positively influence the aging brain,” study leader Elizabeth Kirby noted.

To dig into this, the researchers clustered aging mice in groups or as couples. All had the same opportunities to explore. This approach allowed researchers to observe differences in memory recall based on their level of social interaction through various tests.

One assessment, for example, tested the mice’s ability to remember small details. The researchers placed a toy in one location, and then moved it to a slightly different location.

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

That’s to say that group social interaction tended to lead to better memory function.

The findings prove the importance of where and how we live as we age. Accommodation choices like senior living can facilitate the relationship between social interaction and memory, while remaining at home in old age may prevent rich social lives.

“Something as basic as how long it takes to drive or walk to a friend’s house can make a big difference as we get older,” Kirby said.