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Report of an event where individuals reminisced together, sharing memories connected to various objects as part of a wider discussion on maintaining brain health throughout the lifespan.

WIN researchers Shona Forster and Luciana Maffei at another reminiscence session in April 2022.

By Grace Gillis, Research Coordinator, Department of Psychiatry

On 14 March, my colleague Gemma Butler and I had the opportunity to engage with older adults in Banbury, at a monthly Reminiscence group hosted by Banbury Museum. This activity was part of the events programme tied to the museum's Your Amazing Brain exhibition, created in partnership with WIN. During the Reminiscence session, individuals gathered to reminisce together, sharing memories connected to various objects. This event formed part of a wider discussion on maintaining brain health throughout the lifespan.

Attendees were invited to bring an object that was associated with strong memories. We began with a brief presentation on the interactions between memories and the brain. Afterwards, we had time to discuss the brought objects and associated memories. We rooted our conversation in the interaction between memories and sensory experiences, even linking back to the underlying neural networks. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the stories associated with the various objects, from a figurine with memories of the suffragette movement to a small coinbox with memories of managing finances in a different era. Beyond hearing these reflections, my favourite part was seeing the sense of community that developed across the group from the sharing of common experiences. I was witness to the power of group reminiscence to stave off the social isolation and loneliness so pervasive among older adults.

We finished with a discussion on additional ways to maintain brain health, including learning new things and staying socially engaged. It was inspiring to see their interest in our research, including an eagerness to get involved. For me, public engagement activities like this refresh my motivation to research cognitive ageing in health and disease.