While you probably know that memory plays a critical role in learning and retaining new information, you may be surprised to learn that you can improve memory function on your own using specific techniques, study habits, and nutrition.
That’s because despite the importance of memory in everyday life, most people actually know very little about how memory functions, and how to improve it.
Can Your Brain Adapt?
Yes! The brain is a highly dynamic organ. Composed of around 100 billion neurons, it is the most powerful computer in the Universe. Unlike other computers, however, the human brain has the ability to adapt. An Oxford University study in 2009 showed that learning to juggle changes the physical makeup of the brain.
Learning new skills, obtaining new knowledge, and committing things to memory changes the neural pathways, altering the architecture of the brain Improve Memory .
If the brain can be changed by learning a new skill, then it stands to reason that you can improve memory by training the brain in specific ways. Below are ten tips to bulk up your brain and improve memory:
Ten Tips to Improve Memory
1. Learn to Juggle
While on the subject of juggling, it turns out that learning this whimsical activity actually increases white matter – building the material to help you improve memory. A further study into the effects of juggling on the brain, published in Nature, showed that learning to juggle increased the brain matter of test subjects.
The hypothesized justification for this growth in brain matter was that learning to use peripheral vision more effectively causes the brain to adapt and grow. The upshot is this: the brain is a muscle that needs to be exercised. Learning a new skill can lead to a livelier mind and improve memory. This leads us to tip #2.
2. Play More Chess
Challenging mental sports give the brain a workout in cognitive function and memory. A study from researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine showed that playing chess regularly lowered the risk of developing dementia in subjects by up to 74%. The same study found that stimulating mental activities, such as reading and card playing, helped improve memory and brain function.
GULP is an acronym for a strategy, offered by Pepperdine University, to improve memory function by enhancing your study strategies. This strategy is highly effective for students, and can lead to higher GPA’s and better test scores. GULP stands for:
- Get it: Actively listen to new information, and experience it with as man senses as possible (i.e., hear it and read it at the same time)
- Use it: Review material immediately, write it down, and repeat it.
- Link it: Associate the material with something you already know, something that sounds like it, rhymes with it, or starts with the same letter.
- Picture it: Visualize the new information in your mind’s eye, and make it a vivid, colorful , bizarre image.
GULP involves using mnemonic devices that link new information to something more memorable. This can be an effective strategy for remembering anything. For example, if you meet a girl named Sue and you notice she has new shoes, you can remember her as New Shoe Sue.
Getting into the habit of using mnemonic devices is a great way to improve memory.
4. Eat Your Vegetables
(From MSNBC and The Today Show) Every study into the relationship between vegetables and memory has shown that the more produce you eat, the better your memory is.
Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli), leafy greens, quercetin veggies (onions), and all berries, which contain anthrocyanin, improve memory function across the board, and some actually reversed the effects of memory loss in laboratory animals.
5. Take Folic Acid
As reported by the BBC, a Dutch Study by Dr. Jane Durga and her colleagues has demonstrated that folic acid can improve memory as we age, and reverse the damaging effects of dementia.
Test subjects who were given folic acid regularly over a period of three years showed similar cognitive functions to subjects an average of five years younger who didn’t take folic acid. Folic acid can be taken as a dietary supplement, or it can be found in such foods as whole grain cereal, lentils, artichokes, broccoli, beets, and oranges.
6. Eat Fish
Fish is another food that has been proven to improve memory function. Researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago followed 3,000 individuals and recorded differences in diet over six years. Those who ate a lot of fish showed faster cognitive response and memory equal to other subjects three years younger.
7. Ask Yourself, “Why?”
Daniel T. Willingham, professor of cognitive psychology at University of Virginia and author of Why Don’t Students Like School? Has studied the learning process in school-age children and come up with effective strategies to improve memory that merit application.
One such strategy to improve memory is to ask, “Why?” after learning a new fact. Understanding the reasons behind a fact seemed to implant it in the memory of school children, and improve memory of the specific fact. It can do the same for you.
Taken together, these tips can help you improve memory. If you are a student, improved memory and cognitive function is essential to boosting GPA and test scores, early benchmarks that can lead to success later in life.
Improved memory can help any student succeed, but can also help anyone hoping to lead an active, fulfilling life. Take control, train your brain, and improve memory and cognitive function by taking these steps today.