5 ways to improve your memory

Looking for powers of recall to rival that of an elephant? Engage in these five mind-sharpening activities to hone your memory and keep it robust for years to come.

1. Take a ‘novel’ approach
According to R. Douglas Fields, a senior investigator in neuroscience at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, our brains are constantly deciding what’s important enough to remember and what it can a ord to throw away. This means, when you’re in a novel situation — be it brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand or driving a different route to work — the brain assumes that this intel is important and worth holding on to. Think about it; we remember the first-time we met the in-laws more than the 20th time we met them. This intuitive reaction triggers the cellular machinery in charge of consolidating short term memories into long term ones. In other words, driving a different way to the o ice may in fact aid you in remembering your presentation better.

2. Play mind games
The brain is essentially a muscle that requires training to build and strengthen its abilities. Launched in 2007, Lumosity is a leading brain training programme designed by scientists to challenge core cognitive abilities. These scientists take neuropsychological and cognitive research tasks, or design new ones, and work with game designers to transform them into cognitive games. Designed to be both fun and adaptively challenging, we’re inclined to jump on the bandwagon alongside the existing 70 million registered users worldwide. Better yet, Lumosity’s Human Cognition Project sees them using the data on cognitive task performance to assist over 90 university collaborators in conducting larger, faster and more e icient studies.

3. Try intermittent fasting
One of the biggest and quite possibly, most surprising benefits of fasting is the boost
to your brain power. According to research from Baltimore’s National Institute on Aging, fasting triggers a mild stress response in the brain causing it to become more active. The evolutionary response to the lack of food triggers the brain to work harder to find your next means of sustenance. And if that wasn’t enough, when studied, researchers found that fasting mice displayed higher levels of brain- derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) — a protein that prevents neurons from dying. In fact, fasting was shown to delay memory problems by about six months in rats — the human equivalent of around 20 years.

4. Use chunking
To create something memorable, it first needs to be meaningful. And through ‘chunking’, a seemingly random gaggle of items can be grouped in a manner that makes them more meaningful. For example, a grocery list of fish, lettuce, orange juice, asparagus and tomatoes can become a word, in this case, FLOAT, which is easier to remember than recalling five separate items. According to the book The Ravenous Brain by neuroscientist Daniel Bor, the technique helped a track runner go from remembering a seven digit sequence to an 80 digit one after 20 months of practice. To recall a run time three minutes and 22.1 seconds he would group the numbers to 3221, making them significantly easier to remember.

5. Take a vitamin D supplement
While you should already be familiar with the mood-lifting benefits of vitamin D, the vitamin also holds the key to increasing nerve growth in the brain in the areas involved with planning and processing information as well as the formation of new memories. According to doctor and research scientist Robert Przybelski at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, “vitamin D activates and deactivates enzymes in the brain and the cerebrospinal fluid that are involved in neurotransmitter synthesis and nerve growth.” With plenty of new research linking low vitamin D levels to poorer brain function, it is imperative that you head outside for a decent daily dose of sun. Alternatively, to ensure your vitamin D stores remain where they need to be for optimum brain function, consider a vitamin D3 supplement as animal and lab studies suggest that the vitamin can also protect neurons and reduce inflammation.


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