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It’s Not You, It’s Your Door

Study shows doorways may be to blame for your forgetfulness.

Few are immune to the frustration that comes with walking into a room intent on the task at hand, only to completely forget just what that task actually was. Though we tend to become more forgetful as we age, psychologists at the University of Notre Dame suggest cognitive decline may not be the only forgetful factor at work.

Psychology professor Gabriel Radvansky attributes these memory lapses to what he calls an “event boundary,” a physical barrier or change in environment that causes gaps between brain activities or thoughts. As a result of these “event boundaries,” ideas conjured up in one room become compartmentalized and are more difficult to access once you pass through a physical barrier into different surroundings.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

The study analyzed three scenarios created by both real and virtual (videogame) environments in which subjects performed various memory tasks. The surprising findings? Subjects responded slower and less accurately on memory tests after walking through a doorway than they did walking the same distance without crossing a threshold of any kind. Researchers attribute this decline in recall to the fact that entering a new environment signals the brain to regard thoughts invoked in the previous room as less relevant.

The subjects studied were all college students, thus the memory barrier analysis was not characteristic of an older population as might be expected, but of an educated young adult sample. Psychologists have long understood that memory retrieval functions better when accessing thoughts under environmentally homogenous circumstances, but this study suggests just how significant environment truly is.

So, fair members, don’t worry, it’s not your faulty memory, it’s those darn doors! Maybe we’d all benefit from building our houses with open floor plans…

Vitamin E: The Neglected Nutrient for Brain Health

In recent years, numerous studies have linked high levels of vitamin E in the blood to a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s, as well as improved symptoms in people with mild cognitive impairment. Several studies have also attacked vitamin E and warned against its alleged negative effects when consumed in excess. However, new findings from experts at the Linus Pauling Institute show that toxic levels of vitamin E are ‘almost impossible’ to consume.

The real problems, experts suggest, are that over 90% of Americans fail to meet the recommended daily allowance of vitamin E and funding for vitamin E research is sorely lacking. In fact, most Americans don’t even consume half of the recommended intake. As a result of this shocking statistic, scientists are now calling the humble E an “overlooked nutrient.”

Supporting Sight and Boosting the Brain

A powerful antioxidant, vitamin E scavenges toxic free radicals and prevents damage to cell membranes. It has also been shown to support healthy eye function. That means that not only can vitamin E help you remember what you went downstairs to get, but it can also help you see the stairs and keep from tripping on that pesky carpet!

Nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils are great dietary sources of vitamin E. In fact, in the early 1920s, scientists discovered that vegetable oil improved fertility in rats! They designated the mystery substance in vegetable oil vitamin E, now known to come in eight different forms, four of which are called tocopherols. The term “tocopherol” stems from the Greek word tokos, meaning childbirth, and the verb phero, meaning to bring forth. Pretty cool stuff, huh?

So while science tells us it’s now valid to blame your faulty memory on the existence of doorways, proper nutrition remains as essential as ever to graceful aging.