Keeping track of important things: Helping to Improve Memory

Jun 27, 2019

“It’s hard for me to remember names when meeting new people or the names of books, authors, food dishes. I can easily reproduce all the details of the novel that I read, but I don’t remember the name of the book right away…”

“Okay, so you don’t remember how the books are named, but some people have it even worse! For example, I do not remember some events of my life. But it can be very interesting listening to where I’ve been and what I’ve done or said. A friend of mine often says: “Remember how we did this or that?” I just look at her in bewilderment and say: “When did this happen?”

– From anonymous posts in a topic forum

How often do you notice yourself being forgetful? For example, do you lose your gloves? Do you claim that you have never been to a certain place until you are reminded of who you were with, what you talked about and what you ate? Or, perhaps, you forget the pill you need to take before eating over and over again.

Such seemingly minor occasions may indicate the possible development of more serious memory problems in the future. To avoid them, constant training of cognitive abilities is necessary.

 

If we offer unusual tasks to our brain from time to time, memory and attentiveness, as well as the ability to concentrate, think logically and unconventionally, will improve. In this article we will talk about how memory works and how an adult can increase its effectiveness.

Contents:

  1. How memory works
  2. Types of memory
  3. Age-related memory features
  4. Causes of memory impairment
  5. How to improve adult memory

How memory works

A dialogue similar to what is written above could hardly have taken place between Napoleon Bonaparte and Alexander Suvorov. The point here is not  the hostile positions of these famous commanders, but their phenomenal memories. They both knew by name and could recognize all their soldiers – tens of thousands of people.

Here is how Arthur Dumchev, an expert in the field of memory and attention development, commented on such examples: “Few people believe that they themselves could remember as much and all this because of the habit of abutting the limits set by the brain to circumvent them”. [1]

 

Memory is a complex mental process that manifests itself by the capture, preservation, recognition, and reproduction by an individual of their experience. By memory limitations we mean selection mechanisms (filters) that block the memorization of unimportant information. The brain “decides” how important information is, based on our reactions and assessment of the importance of an event in the moment. It also analyses the depth of contact (“I saw it with my own eyes” or “I heard it from a friend”), similarities with existing knowledge and the frequency of accessing memories about a specific experience.

Types of memory

There are a few signs according to which the types of memory are distinguished: how long we remember, what we remember and what efforts we make to remember.

By duration of information storage

Depending on the duration of information storage, two types of memory are distinguished: short-term and long-term.

The short-term (working) memory allows information to be stored for no more than thirty seconds. The American psychologist George Miller explained the limited amount of short-term memory by a relatively small number of “units” of stored information – about seven. Short-term memory is a consequence of the formation of temporary neural patterns.

Long-term memory stores information for several years and several decades. It is based on the formation of stable neural connections. The volume of information that long-term memory can store is enormous. But these capabilities depend on the operation of information selection mechanisms. The longer that the information lingers in short-term memory, the more importance is attached to it, and the more emotions it causes and thus the higher is the probability of its memorization for a long time.

Some sources add sensory (instant, immediate, automatic) memory and sliding memory to this classification.

• Sensory memory stores information in the current moment and disappears, moving on to the next moment.

• Sliding memory explains the memorization of some amount of information for a given short period before the occurrence of a certain event and its disappearance after the completion of the event. For example, a student is studying for an exam in a subject that he/she does not plan to study more deeply in the future. Having well mastered all the material before the exam, he/she instantly forgets it after successfully passing.

By objects of memorization

 

Depending on the objects of memorization, the following types of memory are distinguished:

Memory type
Object
Image
Phenomena of reality, images of people
Visual
Forms and outlines of objects, appearance and manners of people, animal habits
Auditory
Voices, music
Flavoring
Taste of food
Verbal-logical
Meaning of what had been read or heard
Motor
Movements
Emotional
Feelings, emotions

By degree of volitional regulation

 

Depending on the degree of volitional regulation, on the purpose and methods of memorization and reproduction, arbitrary and involuntary memory are distinguished. With involuntary memory, information is absorbed and remains there per se. If we set the goal of memorizing certain information and make volitional efforts to preserve it, we are dealing with arbitrary memory.

Causes of memory impairment

Approaching the question of how to improve memory and attention in adults, we need to consider possible causes of forgetfulness.

1. Non-observance of work and rest

A haphazard approach to the work and rest regime leads to a decrease in concentration and headaches, which inevitably affect the memorization of important information necessary for work.

2. Uncontrolled medication

Forgetfulness can be a side effect of taking medications. The risk increases when drugs are taken haphazardly, without a doctor’s prescription.

3. Lack of vitamins and minerals

Doctors have established a relationship between the balance of vitamins and minerals in the body and the level of memory. Thiamine (B1) affects the ability to remember information and the lack of it causes uric acid to accumulate, which can weaken the brain function. The lack of vitamin B5 leads to a deterioration in long-term memory. Vitamins C, D, B3, B6, B9, B12 are also important for the brain.

4. Bad habits

Scientists have proven that systematic use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs affects the cognitive abilities of the brain. One example of such studies used a CT scanner. Alesia Schweinsburg from the University of California found that adolescents taking marijuana had to put a lot more effort into doing the same tasks as their peers who were not addicted to drugs. [2]

5. Lack of oxygen

An acute shortage of oxygen is experienced by climbers and this can cause sickness and sometimes even deaths during an ascent. This is an extreme consequence of insufficient oxygen supply to the brain. But the brain can experience oxygen starvation even in everyday life. Working or staying in an unventilated room reduces brain activity.

6. Information overload

Working with many different projects and a large flow of simultaneous information disorientates and interferes with concentration, making one often lose one’s train of thought. The result is a decrease in the total amount of stored information.

7. Professional and emotional burnout

A person who is close to complete burnout loses his or her ability to work and experiences difficulty in making decisions. He/she may suffer from insomnia and drowsiness. In this state the brain turns on protective mechanisms and blocks the incoming stream of new information and the person consequently remembers less.

8. Increased emotional stress, anxiety

A person in a tense emotional state feels the need to constantly check and double-check information and the location of important objects (documents, keys, phone).

9. Stress and depression

Under the influence of severe stress or in a state of clinical depression, an inability to remember new information becomes evident. Against the backdrop of depression and stress, an individual may experience acute panic attacks. In this state the brain sends false signals about serious danger to activate the protective mechanisms of the nervous system and blocks the flow of information at the current moment.

10. Physiological changes and head injuries

Memory impairment can also result from brain injuries as well as irreversible physiological changes (dementia or senile dementia). The materials presented in this article are not applicable to these cases.

 

As you can see, many of these reasons are due to the psyche. It is important to identify those that put you at risk in order to work with the problem purposefully and change the current mindset. One of the effective ways to deal with memory problems is by utilizing the 7Spsy behavior modification technique.

Age-related memory features

A lot of scientific research has been devoted to memory change issues, which concluded that our cognitive abilities change in the course of a lifetime. In foreign literature there are separate studies involving even infants. They were carried out using techniques close to the conditioned reflex experiments of I.P. Pavlov. The following facts have been established in these works:

• With age there is a rapid development of visual memory for emotionally significant objects: a baby remembers the face of his/her mother in the first six months of life.

• At the preschool age the memory system significantly changes. In addition to the emotional-image and involuntary forms, arbitrary auditory and visual-symbolic forms of memory appear.

• The amount of short-term memory increases at 9 – 10 years of age. Gradually, the child begins to memorize more: 6.4 characters of the text series by the third grade, compared to 4.5 characters at the beginning of schooling. At this age, it is easier for a child to learn foreign languages, expand his/her vocabulary, and remember factual data about the world around them. [3]

Adult memory

As a rule, adults remember new information by logically and associatively linking it with their previous experiences. In adults, this is a conscious process. That is why it is quite difficult for an adult to learn a foreign language from scratch – an adult can hardly learn a lot of information that does not have direct associations, it is difficult to “memorize” lexical units.

 

How memory works in an adult depends on the intensity of its use. The less we memorize, the lower the memory efficiency. For example, if after graduation you got a job with a clear algorithm of actions that does not require constant mental effort, your memory capability might falter.

 

Without a conscious approach to training, the risk of age-related memory failures increase as one reaches old age. Professional “insurance” against memory problems in old age is obtained by people whose occupation is related to the need to memorize changing instructions and long texts, for example, actors, television presenters, personnel trainers, etc.

 

To concentrate on memorizing new information, an adult needs a key factor – motivation. One wishes to improve the knowledge of foreign languages in order to travel more and increase one’s work value[CR1]  – here the motivation is obvious. However, in general, the level of motivation to train our memory has decreased with the development of the Internet, since information can now be checked at any time.

It is important to think about the future, however, because a clear memory is the key to a healthy, happy life in adulthood.

 

Elderly memory

Aging is an irreversible process that encompasses the entire human body, and its manifestations can be found in all organs, systems and functions. With long-term monotonous activity and lack of proper attention to training the mind reconciles to the fact that memory begins to deteriorate. After 45 years, there is a slowdown in reactions. Also amnesia, memory lapses and losing the train of thought begin to appear. All this leads to social maladjustment and expressed difficulties in the professional sphere and in everyday life. An unhealthy lifestyle aggravates the situation – and it becomes more rapid if a person for many years did not practice proper nutrition and exercise, abused alcohol, and smoked.

 

Elderly people remember better those things that are important to them or which may be useful in everyday life. Yet more and more often they forget about arrangements, meetings, and appointments with doctors, and confuse names. It is difficult for them to admit that they’re having problems with memory. They may feel aggrieved in response to comments by relatives about something forgotten. They may become irritable, and sometimes even aggressive.

 

 

The reserve capacity for brain development in the elderly is significantly less than that in young adults. As a rule, improving memory after 50 years becomes a very difficult task.

How to improve adult memory

“Sometimes acquaintances admire me and ask how I manage to keep everything in my head. They ask for advice on how to make their memories better. Personally, acting classes were a huge help for developing my memory – both visual and sensory. It is important to constantly keep the focus on yourself, on your partner and on the space. Acting trains the ability to highlight the main thing and keep a focus on it. Even after a long time without rehearsals, if I get into a familiar situation the text comes back quickly.

I am quite an organized person, keeping a daily planner, notebooks and notes on the refrigerator. But I want to explain that I more often than not remember everything I need to do by myself, without planners or notebooks.

– Natalia, 43, sales manager

Classes in creative studios positively affect cognitive functions, including the ability to make decisions and improve memory and attention. You can attend public speaking or acting classes, as Natalia did, or even attend classes at “schools of memory”, which are held in many cities at medical neurological centers.

It will be useful to study independently or with relatives and friends. Let’s analyze some exercises and techniques.

1. Word games

This is probably the easiest way to quickly improve memory. Make it a habit to list the words related to a particular group one after another with your friends while traveling by car or standing in a traffic jam. It could be names of birds, car brands, names of Hollywood actors. Or words united by a certain attribute such as everything that emits light or makes sounds.

2. Remember the movements

Such games can be practiced as entertainment with children, but they are also useful for adults. Come up with your family with some shorthand. For example, the leader’s clap corresponds with players crouching with their hands on their knees, a jump – with placing their hands on shoulders, etc.

3. Learning foreign words

Learning new words is easier using mobile apps. With apps, you can work with dictionary cards and constantly expand your vocabulary. In addition, an app analyzes your abilities and gradually establishes the necessary repetition rate. An important condition for such training is regularity. It is better to use the app each day for 15 minutes than once a week for an hour and a half.

4. Intellectual games

Participating in youth quizzes and intellectual quests is not just fun, but also useful for memory training. Such events are held in almost every city, you can easily find ads about intellectual games on social media.

5. Memorization and recitation of verses

Such a hobby becomes especially useful for people of the mature and older age groups. The support of like-minded people is important in this activity. Organize a hobby club and meet once a week or at weekends.

Reader clubs, where each meeting a new book is discussed, also have a positive effect on the ability to retain information that you could soon forget without proper motivation.

6. Use of mnemonics

Mnemonics are special techniques of memorization that allow any person to memorize unlimited amounts of information. Mnemonics involve simple associations. For example, images, words, smells, and other things familiar to you that can be associated with new information. Use your imagination to learn this technique for improving memory. One of the most common mnemonics is the so-called “method of places” or the “Cicero method” which involves mentally arranging and hanging information and images in the corners, tables and window-sills of the office or your room. When you need to remember something, you simply remember the room and turn to those parts of it that the facts you need are assigned to. [1]

7.   Classes using 7Spsy behavior modification technique

The 7Spsy behavior modification technique is a patented method based on the behavioral theories of I.P. Pavlov, A.A. Ukhtomsky and B.F. Skinner. The technology answers the question: “How can I quickly improve my memory and brain function”.

The method allows you to develop a mindset that contributes to the qualitative improvement of short-term memory and the storage of large amounts of information for a long time.

The peculiarity is that the work begins with the identification of psychologically determined causes of memory impairment and is accompanied by exercises to eliminate them. With this method, distance learning is provided. The course is supervised by a psychologist who will be in touch with you by e-mail, over the phone or by messenger.

The development of memory is your responsibility. By paying attention to this important function of the brain right now, you will make your life more productive and organized, and in old age you will be able to maintain your clarity of mind for longer.

 

 

 

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