Brain scans have shown differences in activity levels in brain regions during memory encoding , according to whether or not individuals believe they have good recall abilities or not. More than a century ago, German scientists showed that people performed almost twice as well in memory tests if they took breaks.
How to Improve Your Memory
More recently, neuroscientists have shown that some amnesia patients and healthy volunteers are more able to retain lists of words if the task is followed by periods of quiet time. Having an active social life delays memory loss as we age. US scientists who asked people in their 50s and 60s to do memory tests every other year between and found the decline in recall abilities of their most sociable subjects to be half that of the least well connected.
Having good friends, volunteering for charities and other forms of social engagement also protect memory. What we eat does, however, affects cognitive function. So stock up on plant-based foods, cut back on red meat and dairy — and use olive oil as your main source of fat. This article contains affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission if a reader clicks through and makes a purchase.
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By clicking on an affiliate link, you accept that Skimlinks cookies will be set. Sleep on it Sleeping well helps reinforce episodic memories — those associated with time and place. Chill out Stress affects memory in different ways depending on when the stressful event occurs. Meditation, with its power to help us concentrate, has also been shown to improve improve standardized test scores and working memory abilities after just two weeks.
Why does meditation benefit memory? During meditation, our brains stop processing information as actively as they normally would. In the image below you can see how the beta waves shown in bright colors on the left , which indicate that our brains are processing information, are dramatically reduced during meditation on the right.
Whether caffeine can improve memory if taken before learning something new is debatable.
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Most research has found little-to-no effect from ingesting caffeine prior to creating new memories. One recent study , however, found that taking a caffeine pill after a learning task actually improved memory recall up to 24 hours later. Participants memorized a set of images, and were later tested by viewing the same images targets , similar images lures and completely different images foils. The task was to pick out which were the exact pictures they had memorized, without being tricked by the lures which were very similar.
The researchers in this study focused on the effects of caffeine on memory consolidation: This is why they believe there were effects when caffeine was ingested after the learning task, rather than before.
Tips and Exercises to Sharpen Your Mind and Boost Brainpower
Another diet-related effect on memory is the mounting research that eating berries can help to stave off memory decline. A study from the University of Reading and the Peninsula Medical School found that supplementing a normal diet with blueberries for twelve weeks improved performance on spatial working memory tasks. The effects started just three weeks in and continued for the length of the study.
A long-term berry study that tested the memory of female nurses who were over 70 years old found that those who had regularly eaten at least two servings of strawberries or blueberries each week had a moderate reduction in memory decline. More research is needed in this area, but science is getting closer to understanding how berries might affect our brains.
Seven ways to improve your memory | Life and style | The Guardian
In particular, blueberries are known for being high in flavanoids , which appear to strengthen existing connections in the brain. Studies in both rat and human brains have shown that regular exercise can improve memory recall. Fitness in older adults has even been proven to slow the decline of memory without the aid of continued regular exercise. Of course, the benefits of exercise are numerous, but for the brain in particular, regular exercise has been shown to improve cognitive abilities beyond memory.
See how a quick walk ignites the brain in the scan below:. Another easy method to try that could improve your memory is chewing gum while you learn new things. One reason that chewing gum might affect our memory recall is that it increases activity in the hippocampus , an important area of the brain for memory.
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.