Memory Maximizers: Drawing vs. Writing for Memory Retention; Berries & Greens for Memory Loss

Here's the latest research to help you keep your brain sharp.

Drawing May Be Better Than Writing Notes for Memory Retention

Whether you’re another Rembrandt or a stick-figure specialist, drawing as a means of retaining new information may be more effective than writing notes or using other memory-retention techniques. In a study published in Experimental Aging and Research, Canadian researchers found that drawing led to better recall because it involved multiple ways of representing information. These included visual, spatial, verbal, semantic, and motoric skills. In the study, groups of undergraduate students and senior citizens were presented with sets of words to recall later. Participants would either encode each word by writing it out, drawing it, or listing physical attributes related to each word. Later on, memory was assessed. Both the undergraduate and older adult groups performed better in recalling the words if they used drawing rather than the other techniques. The advantages of drawing were especially significant in the group of older adults. Difficulty with short-term memory can be especially challenging as we age. The researchers suggest that drawing pictures to help with recall is especially effective because it involves regions of the brain responsible for visuospatial processing, and these structures tend to survive fairly well as age-related changes or dementia starts to take a toll on other regions involved with memory. Researchers were encouraged that average or even poor drawing skills didn’t seem to make a difference in the effectiveness of drawing as a memory tool. They are hopeful that drawing can become a therapeutic intervention to help people with dementia hold on to valuable episodic memories as the disease progresses.

Eating Berries and Dark Leafy Greens May Help Reduce Memory Loss

Adding more dark, leafy greens and dark orange and red vegetables and berries to your diet may result in a lower risk of memory loss, according to a study published in the journal Neurology. Study author Changzheng Yuan, a doctoral student in nutritional epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, looked at the health records (which included questionnaires about diet) of more than 27,000 men over a period of 20 years. The average age of the men at the start of the study was 51. The study found that men who consumed the most vegetables (an average of six servings daily) were 34 percent less likely to develop poor thinking and memory skills than the men who consumed the least amount of vegetables (an average of about two servings per day). Men who consumed the most fruit (about three servings per day) were less likely than men who consumed the least (about half a serving of fruit per day) to develop memory problems. The results proved to be a little weaker after researchers accounted for other factors, such as the consumption of fruit juices, legumes, and a few other types of foods. However, men who drank orange juice every day were also shown to have less memory loss than men who drank orange juice less than once a month. The study didn’t prove that eating more fruits and vegetables and drinking more orange juice directly preserved memory. It only suggested an association between the consumption of these healthy foods and a lower risk of memory loss. Though this study looked at the possible connection between diet and memory loss among men only, it’s likely that women who consume more fruits and vegetables also may reap similar benefits.

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