Memory Maximizers: Memory Health & Brain Function

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

Take a Walk in Your Mind, Depositing Bits of Information Along the Way

Without realizing it, you attach memories to songs, smells and even shops. Not just shops, of course, but locations. Think about the flood of memories that accompany a return to your childhood home or your alma mater. But these attachments don’t have to occur by chance. Memory experts have been using a process called the “method of loci” for many years to help lock in memories. The idea is to take a mental journey through a familiar place—the main street in your community or the shops in your favorite mall. As you pass by or stop into the various locations along your route, you place a nugget of information there. Then, when you’re trying to recall that information, you lace up your imaginary walking shoes and take that same little journey. With each stop, you should be able to recall what information you left behind on your last trip. In a study published in the journal Neuron, this kind of mnemonic device was shown to actually reorganize your brain’s functional network to improve memory. It’s especially helpful when trying to recall lists or step-by-step procedures. Science students often use the method of loci to recall the parts of a lab experiment, for example. The method, also known as a “memory journey” or the “mind place technique,” dates back to ancient Greek and Roman times. The fictional detective Sherlock Holmes also referred to his mind as a place with information stored in myriad locations. The next time you want to remember a list or sequence of steps or directions, try linking them to familiar places your mind can take you.

Stay Positive About Memory Health and Brain Function

If you are sure that your memory is going to rapidly decline in your later years, you may be ensuring that it happens just that way. However, if you are optimistic about preserving your memory and thinking skills, research suggests that such an outlook may actually help keep your memory and cognition intact. Numerous studies have shown that the more confident you are that you will retain your memory, the more likely you are to enjoy good recall later in life. While there is certainly no guarantee that Alzheimer’s disease, a stroke, or some other circumstance will affect your brain function, there is widespread belief that your outlook may go a long way in preserving memory and many other thinking skills. Part of this connection between optimism and healthy memory may be explained by the hippocampus—a part of the brain that is key to memory and helps allow you the capacity to imagine a positive future.

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