- Memory is vital to retrieve past information for the development of language, relationships and personal identity.
- Memory declines as a natural process of aging and in some conditions like dementia, brain injury or a stroke
- Techniques like walking backward, drawing, exercising at the right time, taking a break and napping help improve memory
Memory is the process by which information is encoded, stored, and retrieved when necessary. Memory is important as it helps to retain information from the past and use it for present and future actions. Loss of memory is termed as forgetfulness or amnesia.
Three important brain centers involved with memory are the prefrontal cortex, the hippocampus, and the amygdala. The hippocampus is also involved with spatial memory. The amygdala is associated with emotional memory, and the prefrontal cortex is important for cognitive functions such as language, speech, decision making, and executing function.
Memory declines as a natural process of aging. Sometimes conditions like dementia, brain trauma, or repeated stress can also affect memory. Memory loss can range from simple forgetfulness to major disease-related memory loss in conditions like Alzheimer's disease where people cannot manage day-to-day tasks with ease. It affects their normal functioning.
Research has also shown that interacting with people has a positive psychological impact and improved brain health. Social interaction helps to keep stress and depression at bay, which sharpens the brain and might prevent memory loss.
Some techniques might that might help in sharpening memory are:
Walking backward encourages the mind to go backward in time. This helps to retrieve memories with ease. This suggests a link between time and space. Researchers at the University of Roehampton confirmed the theory by conducting an experiment where people were shown a list of words, and pictures, or a staged video of a handbag bag stolen from a woman.
The people were then instructed to walk either forward or backward across a room. In each of the pictures, words, or staged video tests, those who walked backwards remembered more.
This experiment shows that when people remember a past event, it is reconstructed in the reverse order in our minds. On seeing an object, the details like patterns, and colors are observed first and then the function. But while trying to remember the object, the function is first recalled and then the details.
Drawing out a piece of information, rather than writing it down, helps to recall information more easily. Drawing also made a big difference in people with dementia. This is because while drawing out the information, people consider in more detail and this deeper processing helps to recall information with more accuracy.
Right Exercise at the Right Time
Regular aerobic exercise such as running can improve memory. Brain health improves considerably when the body is active as it improves blood flow, metabolism, and improves brain structure and function. While learning something new, a single bout of exertion might help boost memory, especially if combined with the right timing. Training right before learning something new helps in remembering better.
Not Doing Anything
Sometimes, doing nothing also helps to enhance memory. To establish this theory, an experiment was conducted where people suffering from amnesia as a result of stroke were asked to memorize a list of 15 words. Some of them were asked to do some tasks after that, while others had to sit idle in a darkened room. Those who engaged in some kind of activity were only able to recall 14% of the original list of words while those who sat idle recalled 49/5 of the words.
In healthy people, a short break taken after learning something preserved memory up to a week later.
Taking a quick nap helps to consolidate memories by replaying or reactivating the acquired information. This technique worked best among people who are used to taking regular afternoon naps.
Stress hormones can damage the hippocampus, which is a memory center, and cause memory loss. Taking seven to eight hours of sleep is very important for brain and body healing.