Why it’s not just ageing mice that need to worry about memory loss

// April 19th, 2011 // Information Overload

This news item on the BBC site refers to some published research that suggests elderly mice struggled to remember their way around a maze when subject to an excess of cortisol. Cortisol is one of those “goldilocks” hormones that we need a little of but not too much. We can end up with too much cortisol as a consequence of experiencing stress or burnout.

I had this article in mind on Friday evening when playing tennis with a few mates. One of them struggled to keep up with the score throughout both sets of doubles that we played and seemed genuinely surprised on a couple of occasions that the game had ended. This being men’s doubles, he was inevitably subjected to fair amount of banter. Afterwards, over a drink, I asked him what sort of week he had had. It turned out he had spent the whole week in a project management role dealing with multiple bosses, team members and frequent interruptions by phone and email. Naturally, he was dealing with each email as it came in. I left him with a few tips including putting his email on autoreply and checking messages only two or three times a day. I saw him last night – it’s early days but he said the tips were working.

Of course this is purely anecdotal and unscientific but how many of us are subjecting ourselves to short term memory problems because of the way we work? Neuroscientists are increasingly getting a grip upon the impact of the way we work on cognitive performance and are increasingly seeing symptoms recognisable in those with ADD, Accidental Brain Injury and Alzheimers. Worrying indeed.

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