Friday, April 29, 2011

Tips for Memory Enhancement

What is memory?

Memory is the mental activity of recalling information that you have learned or experienced. That simple definition, though, covers a complex process that involves many different parts of the brain and serves us in disparate ways.

Two types of Memory:

There are two types of Memory. Memory can be short-term or long-term.

Short-term Memory:

In short-term memory, 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. Such memory is fragile, and it's meant to be; 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 also meant to hold an average of seven items, 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.

Long-Term Memory

Long-term memory involves the information you make an effort (conscious or unconscious) to retain, because it's personally meaningful to you (for example, data about family and friends); you need it (such as job procedures or material you're studying for a test); or it made an emotional impression (a movie that had you riveted, the first time you ever caught a fish, the day your uncle died).

Some information that you store in long-term memory requires a conscious effort to recall: episodic memories, which are personal memories about experiences you've had at specific times; and semantic memories (factual data not bound to time or place), which can be everything from the names of the planets to the color of your child's hair. Another type of long-term memory is procedural memory, which involves skills and routines you perform so often that they don't require conscious recall.

Tips for Memory Enhancement

Do you feel that you have a poor memory? 

You may just have some less-than-effective habits when it comes to taking in and processing information. Barring disease, disorder, or injury, you can improve your ability to learn and retain information.

Brain exercises

Memory, like muscular strength, is a "use it or lose it" proposition. The more you work out your brain, the better you'll be able to process and remember information.Novelty and sensory stimulation are the foundation of brain exercise. If you break your routine in a challenging way, you're using brain pathways you weren't using before. This can involve something as simple as brushing your teeth with your nondominant hand, which activates little-used connections on the nondominant side of your brain.

Or try a "neurotic" exercise – an aerobic exercise for your brain – that forces you to use your faculties in unusual ways, like showering and getting dressed with your eyes closed. Take a course in a subject you don't know much about, learn a new game of strategy, or cook up some recipes in an unfamiliar cuisine. That's the most effective way to keep your synapses firing.

General guidelines to improve memory

In addition to exercising your brain, there are some basic things you can do to improve your ability to retain and retrieve memories:

1. Pay attention. You can't remember something if you never learned it, and you can't learn something — that is, encode it into your brain — if you don't pay enough attention to it. It takes about eight seconds of intent focus to process a piece of information through your hippocampus and into the appropriate memory center. So, no multitasking when you need to concentrate! If you distract easily, try to receive information in a quiet place where you won't be interrupted.

2. Tailor information acquisition to your learning style. Most people are visual learners; they learn best by reading or otherwise seeing what it is they have to know. But some are auditory learners who learn better by listening. They might benefit by recording information they need and listening to it until they remember it.

3. Involve as many senses as possible. Even if you're a visual learner, read out loud what you want to remember. If you can recite it rhythmically, even better. Try to relate information to colors, textures, smells and tastes. The physical act of rewriting information can help imprint it onto your brain.

4. Relate information to what you already know. Connect new data to information you already remember, whether it's new material that builds on previous knowledge, or something as simple as an address of someone who lives on a street where you already know someone.

5. Organize information.
Write things down in address books and datebooks and on calendars; take notes on more complex material and reorganize the notes into categories later. Use both words and pictures in learning information.

6. Understand and be able to interpret complex material. For more complex material, focus on understanding basic ideas rather than memorizing isolated details. Be able to explain it to someone else in your own words.

7. Rehearse information frequently and "over-learn". Review what you've learned the same day you learn it, and at intervals thereafter. What researchers call "spaced rehearsal" is more effective than "cramming." If you're able to "over-learn" information so that recalling it becomes second nature, so much the better.

8. Be motivated and keep a positive attitude.

Tell yourself that you want to learn what you need to remember, and that you can learn and remember it.
Telling yourself you have a bad memory actually hampers the ability of your brain to remember, while positive mental feedback sets up an expectation of success.

Healthy habits to improve memory

• Feed your mind and body with good food and enough rest. Fat from fishes containing DHA and omega 3 essential fatty acids is said to be helpful in brain functioning. Follow a diet which Includes vitamin rich foods. Fishes (salmon, tuna etc.), magnesium rich foods, eggs, nuts such as cashew nuts and almonds are helpful in enhancing the brainpower.

Folic acid can also help your memory
Folic acid (also known as folate) seems to have a direct effect on memory.
Some of the best foods for folic acid include fortified whole-grain breakfast cereals, lentils, black-eyed peas, soybeans, spinach, green peas, artichokes, broccoli, wheat germ, beets and oranges.

• Your brain needs a work out just like your body to keep itself fresh. There are quite a few puzzle games available online. Puzzle games such as cross word puzzle, strengthen your focus and sharpen your concentration.

Avoid mood enhancers like alcohol, cigarettes, and caffeine if you want to attain better memory. Caffeine and nicotine keep you awake for a while but they damage your brain functioning in the end.
• Never skip a breakfast. Breakfast gives your body and mind the energy to perform at their best.

• Learn and practice meditation. Meditation allows you to relax and stay cool by reducing your stress level. Stress is the real culprit. If you can reduce it, you would naturally attain more concentration and memory.

• The busy schedules have left no time for us to sleep. Most people sleep late in night and get up early in the morning for work. This improper timetable of sleep disrupts your concentration in a big way. Have a proper sleep of at least eight hours.

• You have to be very attentive to the events happening before your eyes. Try to build interest in activities that are assigned to you. This makes your brain, work more efficiently.

• Yoga helps to improve the memory power and concentration. It helps you to control the flickering mind. Yoga has worldwide followers because nothing can match its ability to condition the mind.

Mnemonic devices to improve memory

Mnemonics (the initial "m" is silent) are clues of any kind that help us remember something, usually by causing us to associate the information we want to remember with a visual image, a sentence, or a word.
Common types of mnemonic devices include:

1. Visual images

A microphone to remember the name "Mike," a rose for "Rosie." Use positive, pleasant images, because the brain often blocks out unpleasant ones, and make them vivid, colorful, and three-dimensional — they'll be easier to remember.

2. Sentences in which the first letter of each word is part of or represents the initial of what you want to remember.

Millions of musicians, for example, first memorized the lines of the treble staff with the sentence "Every good boy does fine" (or "deserves favor"), representing the notes E, G, B, D, and F. Medical students often learn groups of nerves, bones, and other anatomical features using nonsense sentences.

3. Acronyms, which are initials that creates pronounceable words.

The spaces between the lines on the treble staff, for example, are F, A, C, and E: FACE.

4. Rhymes and alliteration:

Remember learning "30 days hath September, April, June, and November"? A hefty guy named Robert can be remembered as "Big Bob" (though it might be best to keep such names to yourself).

5. Jokes or even off-color associations using facts, figures, and names you need to recall, because funny or peculiar things are easier to remember than mundane images.

6."Chunking" information

That is, arranging a long list in smaller units or categories that are easier to remember. If you can reel off your Social Security number without looking at it, that's probably because it's arranged in groups of 3, 2, and 4 digits, not a string of 9.

7. "Method of loci":

This is an ancient and effective way of remembering a lot of material, such as a speech. You associate each part of what you have to remember with a landmark in a route you know well, such as your commute to work.

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