8 Tips for Memory Enhancement Part I

July 27, 2016 by  

Memory is the mental activity of recalling information that you have learned or experienced. It is also a complex process that involves many different parts of your brain and serves you in disparate ways.
There are different aspects to your memory…..there are both short and long term memory centres in your brain which vary in how they operate and what they store for future use.

Short Term Memory is how your mind stores information for a few seconds or a few minutes: the time it takes you to dial a phone number you just looked up or to compare the prices of several items in a store.
This aspect of your memory is fragile, and it is meant to be that way. Here is why; your brain would soon read “disk full” if you retained every phone number you called, every dish you ordered in a restaurant, and the subject of every ad you watched on TV. Your brain is meant to hold an average of seven items at once, which is why you can usually remember a new phone number for a few minutes but need your credit card in front of you when you’re buying something online. Many of you can likely remember your Social Insurance Number because it is set up in groups of three digits, so even though that is actually nine numbers, due to its structure you can probably remember it.

Long Term Memory, on the other hand, involves the information you make a conscious or unconscious effort to retain, because it is personally meaningful to you.

For example: birth dates and anniversaries of family members and friends, work related procedures that you require to do your job well, or information you are studying in order to do well on a test. In addition, if an incident or experience made an emotional impression on you, such as a riveting movie, the first time you ever caught a fish, or the day a special relative or friend died, you are likely to retain this information.
Some information that you store in long-term memory requires a conscious effort to recall, such as episodic memories, which are very personal experiences you have had at specific times and semantic memories, which are certain factual data you have accumulated that are not bound to a specific time or place. Those memories can be anything from the names of the planets to the color of your child’s hair.
Finally, another type of long-term memory is procedural memory, which involves skills and routines you perform so often that they don’t require any conscious recall.

Just like muscular strength, your ability to remember increases when you exercise your memory and nurture it with a good diet and other healthy habits.

There are three stages that the brain goes through in forming and retaining memories.
I Acquisition: This is how new information enters your brain along pathways between the neurons (nerve cells) in the appropriate area of the brain. The key to encoding information into your memory is concentration; so unless you focus on information intently, it goes “in one ear and out the other.” This is why teachers are always nagging students to pay attention!
II Consolidation: If you have concentrated well enough to encode new information into your brain, the hippocampus (which is a small structure located in the centre of your brain) sends a signal to store the information as long-term memory. This happens more easily if it is related to something you already know, or if it stimulates an emotional response
III Retrieval: When you need to recall information, your brain has to activate the same pattern of nerve cells it used to store it. The more frequently you need the information, the easier it is to retrieve it along healthy nerve cell connections.

One more thing to understand…..your brain is designed to create new brain cells (neurons) as long as you are alive, but only if you challenge it to do so but learning new things and thereby opening up new neuropathways in your brain. In other words, always doing things in exactly the same way, rather like a robot, is not very healthy for your brain. Being curious and exploring alternate ways to conduct your regular activities or daring to learn new skills, even at an advancing age is the best way to keep your brain healthy. And a healthy brain will have better memory retention.

Now that you understand a little more about how your brain deals with memory retention, let’s explore the habits you can espouse that will enhance that retention.  In Part II of this blog I will give you the 8 Tips to enhance your memory.

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