• by: Fondazione Valter Longo Onlus Editorial StaffFondazione Valter Longo Onlus
  • March 17th, 2022

A group of psychology researchers from the University of California at Riverside has identified three determinants of so-called “working memory”: age, sleep and mood. In particular, resting well and keeping a positive mood positively affects this part of memory directly linked to our cognitive performance. The study was published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society (July 2019). Let’s see the details to understand the connection between the various factors.


The “working memory” is that part of short-term memory, which holds information temporarily, and then manages it to carry out cognitive activities. This type of memory is also linked to learning and the ability to reason, so it guides us in the actions we carry out every day as a sort of navigator. Working memory connects actions, perception and long-term memory, thus allowing us to perform different tasks in our daily life.

Furthermore, this type of memory is fundamental – as well as for understanding and reasoning – also for intellect, language, the ability to plan actions and solve a problem creatively. To analyze the correlation between working memory versus age, sleep and mood, the researchers separated these three factors, analyzing their different roles and quantifying their effects.


In the past, scientific research had already dealt with analyzing the consequences that the three factors – age, sleep and mood – separately have on memory. In this new study, the American psychologists wanted to statistically isolate the effects of the individual factors considered, related to the quality and quantity of working memory, or what is defined as “memorization capacity”.

Specifically, two studies were conducted separately. In the first, the role of sleep and mood were considered, on a group of 110 university students. In the second study, however, the age factor was analyzed in a group of 31 individuals, ranging from 21 to 77 years. In both cases, participants underwent tests to assess cognitive performance related to working memory. 


The results of the two studies compared show that the three factors analyzed (age, sleep and mood) have a different role on working memory. In particular, sleep and mood can have quantitative effects. That is, if you do not rest enough and, in the same way, suffer from a depressed mood, the amount of information stored decreases and the likelihood of remembering a past event in detail is reduced. In addition, insomnia and low mood, even individually, worsen working memory. Age, on the other hand, affects the quality of memory, meaning that memories (emotions, images, etc.) appear blurry and unclear, like in an old photo faded by time.

The various factors, then, are also linked to each other. If you sleep little and badly, your mood lowers, as well as advancing age can be related to depressed moods. Furthermore, this study is further confirmation of the close link between rest and memory. Finally, this new survey highlights how sleep and mood act on memory independently of each other.


Weizhen Xie, Anne Berry, Cindy Lustig, Patricia Deldin e Weiwei Zhang – Poor Sleep Quality and Compromised Visual Working Memory Capacity – Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, July 2019 (Last viewed: 02/11/2022)



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