Brain Research at UCSF Aims to Help Distracted Remember

July 18, 2011

UCSF cognitive neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley, MD, PhD, has used functional brain imaging and EEG studies to discover that older adults fare worse than younger adults at remembering following distractions. He hopes to improve their performance with cognitive training using a newly developed video game.

Translating Science into Real-life Solutions

See special web package

Gazzaley, a UCSF associate professor of neurology, physiology and psychiatry and director of the UCSF Neuroscience Imaging Center, is exploring the potential of software brain-training programs to help older people improve their ability to mentally process tasks simultaneously.

Anecdotal accounts of “senior moments” — such as forgetting what one wanted to retrieve from the refrigerator after leaving the couch — combined with scientific studies conducted by Gazzaley's team at UCSF and elsewhere indicate that the impact is greater in older people.

Adam Gazzaley, MD, PhD

Adam Gazzaley, MD, PhD

“The impact of distractions and interruptions reveals the fragility of working memory,” said Gazzaley, who also is a member of the W. M. Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience at UCSF.  “This is an important fact to consider, given that we increasingly live in a more demanding, high-interference environment, with a dramatic increase in the accessibility and variety of electronic media and the devices that deliver them, many of which are portable.”

The latest results of his studies were reported in April in the online early edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Read the news release

Gazzaley is among the UCSF scientists to have received funding from the Clinical and Translational Science Institute's T1 Catalyst program that provides extensive consultation and assistance to identify industry partnerships for investigators pursuing promising discoveries that are potentially translatable to new therapies or diagnostic tests.