Getting the Best Performance Out Of Your Memory

(Editor’s note: This article is from a past issue of Brain World magazine. If you enjoy this article, please consider a print or digital subscription!)


Mentally exhausted? Worried about your memory performance in the onslaught of the digital age? As well as switching off and unplugging every now and then, here are some strategies to help keep your memory nimble, even in the face of advancing years.

SLEEP AFTER LEARNING

Researchers at the University of Notre Dame gave several students a declarative memory test (the ability to remember facts and events), one group took it at 9 a.m. and the other at 9 p.m. They retested the participants 30 minutes, 12 hours, or 24 hours later, and the 12-hours tests showed that the 9 p.m. group — who’d slept after the tests — retained more information. The difference appeared to be that they’d slept after the testing, which gives the brain time to absorb what it’s learned.

GET MORE HOBBIES

Columbia University doctors found that people who took up six or more physical, social, or intellectual hobbies (anything from walking to crosswords or lunch with friends) were 38 percent less likely to develop dementia later in life, with the risk decreasing by a further 8 percent for each additional hobby they pursued.

It works because the fresh neural connections formed as you take in something new can bolster what’s called cognitive reserve, your brain’s ability to resist memory loss. Learning a new language is a particularly powerful defense.

BE HAPPY

The fuzzy-mindedness and lack of focus that results from depression is bad enough, but it also stops the brain from bathing its own machinery with the right chemicals needed for optimal performance.


Positive moods trigger the release of dopamine and other “reward” hormones in the brain in areas related to memory, so a good wash-down with these neurohormones might be in order. The journal Cognition and Emotion reported in 2013 that adults who experienced positive emotions experienced improvements in their memory by 19 percent.

(Editor’s note: This article is from a past issue of Brain World magazine. If you enjoy this article, please consider a print or digital subscription!)

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