It is now well accepted that once memories are initially encoded, they pass through a period of consolidation that cements them in long-term storage. This was once thought to happen primarily during sleep, with heightened communication between the hippocampus — where memories are first formed — and the cortex, a process that may build and strengthen the new neural connections that are necessary for later recall.
View image of The brain might use downtime to cement what it has recently learnt Credit: Getty. This heightened nocturnal activity may be the reason that we often learn things better just before bed. In the study, participants were first asked to memorise pairs of pictures — matching a face to an object or scene — and then allowed to lie back and let their minds wander for a short period.
Sure enough, she found increased communication between the hippocampus and areas of the visual cortex during their rest. Crucially, people who showed a greater increase in connectivity between these areas were the ones who remembered more of the task, she says. Perhaps the brain takes any potential down time to cement what it has recently learnt — and reducing extra stimulation at this time may ease that process. Other psychologists are excited about the research.
View image of Scheduling regular periods of rest could help us hold onto new memories Credit: Getty. Practically speaking, he points out that it may be difficult to schedule enough periods of rest to increase their overall daily recall. But he thinks it could still be valuable to help a patient learn important new information — such as learning the name and face of a new carer.
Beyond the clinical benefits for these patients, Baguley and Horner both agree that scheduling regular periods of rest, without distraction, could help us all hold onto new material a little more firmly. Our minds clearly do too. David Robson is a freelance writer based in London. Future Menu. What is BBC Future? Follow the Food. Future Now. And while some caffeine might be helpful, too much can leave you irritable, sleepless, anxious, and even addicted.
Caffeine now meets the criteria for an addictive substance: dependence, tolerance, and withdrawal.
Five ways to boost concentration
But it may surprise you that moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages in general — wine, beer, champagne or spirits — can positively impact memory. Equivalencies for alcoholic drinks Image courtesy of Lehigh University. Processed foods, depleted soils, stress, pollution, and medications are only some of the mostly unavoidable factors of modern life that rob your brain of nutrients. Proper amounts of vitamins C, D, E, K and B complex in the diet have all been linked to memory enhancement. And keep in mind that no memory supplement will take the place of the core nutrients — vitamins, minerals, and essential fats — that your brain needs.
Essential oils are naturally occurring volatile compounds extracted and concentrated from plants. Now science has confirmed that sniffing rosemary essential oil can significantly improve memory, processing speed, alertness, and focus on the spot! Peppermint is another essential oil that can make you more alert and attentive. Research found that peppermint works by increasing beta waves, the brainwave state associated with concentration and memory.
Chew peppermint gum or mints, drink peppermint tea, or sniff peppermint essential oil for an immediate memory boost. But taking an unfamiliar route activates the cortex and hippocampus. Astoundingly, this includes main routes, 25, streets, and the location of 20, landmarks. Adults who speak more than one language are likely to have a better working memory and memorization skills. There is a lot of controversy surrounding the exploding billion-dollar brain fitness industry.
The experts are still on the fence as to whether brain training makes you better only at playing brain games or whether the benefits translate to an overall improvement in mental function. This book is the granddaddy of brain exercise, written in when few people were talking about brain fitness. One of Dr.
What Are Mnemonics?
Kids who learn to play an instrument develop better memories and higher IQs than kids with no musical training. Seniors with dementia seem to be brought in touch with their emotions when they listen to their favorite music. Or sign up for a free trial of Focus Will which offers scientifically engineered music channels for enhancing focus based on your personality type. The average person has a non-stop flow of 50, to 70, thoughts per day.
Over 1, published studies have demonstrated the health benefits of meditation. Zen12 Brainwave Entrainment Meditation Feel more relaxed and focused in just 12 minutes a day A simple program that meditates for you. When you stop learning, some parts of your brain start to atrophy while unused neural connections wither away. In fact, physical exercise could be the most important thing you do to keep your brain in shape, even more important than using it to think!
Just as regular exercise builds bigger muscles and a stronger heart, it also increases brain volume. Walking increases oxygen, encourages the growth of new brain cells, offsets brain shrinkage, and promotes connectivity between brain cells. Two hours of walking per week can measurably increase hippocampus volume. If you need a little motivation, consider getting a personal fitness tracker or app that measures your mileage or counts your steps.
These ancient exercises increase brain volume while improving memory and thinking. The top yoga poses for better concentration include the eagle pose, the prayer pose, and the warrior III pose. Exercising outdoors, more so than indoor exercise, increases vitality, enthusiasm, pleasure, and self-esteem while lowering tension, depression, and fatigue. Having houseplants is another good way to bring nature inside. But there are some other lifestyle factors and habits that can dramatically boost your memory as well. According to the Penn State Hershey Sleep Research and Treatment Center, skimping on just one night of sleep affects your mental performance as much as being legally drunk.
Food choices, stress levels, caffeine consumption, light exposure, and other lifestyle factors play a role in how well you sleep. This is bad news for your brain since y our brain uses a disproportionate amount of oxygen and brain cells can live only a few minutes without it. You can maximize your oxygen intake with each breath by practicing diaphragmatic belly breathing. Then slowly inhale through your nose, concentrating on keeping your chest still while expanding your stomach. Image courtesy of Amanda Soto, Washington Post.
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As little as ten minutes of conversation with a friend results in measurable memory improvement. A large study found that over-the-counter OTC antihistamines, pain relievers, sleep aids, and remedies for acid reflux significantly increase your risk of dementia.
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See 1. Another theory focuses on the i ncrease of oxygen from chewing gum , which can help with focus and attention. One study found that participants who chewed gum during learning and memory tests had higher heart rate levels than control groups, which can also lead to more oxygen flowing to the brain. Sleep has proven to be one of the most important elements in having a good memory. Even a short nap can improve your memory recall. In one study , participants memorized illustrated cards to test their memory strength. After memorizing a set of cards, they had a minute break wherein one group napped, and the other stayed awake.
After the break, both groups were tested on their memory of the cards — the group who had napped performed better:. Much to the surprise of the researchers, the sleep group performed significantly better, retaining on average 85 percent of the patterns, compared to 60 percent for those who had remained awake.
Apparently, napping actually helps our brain to solidify memories :. Not only is sleep after learning a critical part of the memory creation process, but sleep before learning something new is important as well. Research has found that sleep deprivation can affect our ability to commit new things to memory and consolidate any new memories we create.
Have you tried any of these methods for improving your memory? What works best for you?
How to Improve Memory: Power, Concentration, Retention, and Focus
Let us know in the comments. This article originally appeared on Buffer and is reprinted with permission. By Belle Beth Cooper 6 minute Read. Recalling the memory This is what most of us think of when we talk about memory, or especially memory loss.