- Human memory has 3 stores: sensory, short-term, and long-term.
- Memory loss can happen because of aging, genetic factors, or brain injury.
- Forgetting is a mild form of memory loss. It happens because of interference, fatigue, and information overload.
- The following are the 7 tips to improve memory:
Chunking – organizing information into meaningful bits.
Spacing – learning over an extended period instead of cramming.
Encoding specificity – learning and reproducing in a similar environment.
Testing effect – practicing with mock tests.
Process for meaning- understanding the meaning of the material instead of rote learning.
Visual imagery – using images and mental maps to memorize lists and sequences.
Sleeping over it – relaxing or taking a nap helps consolidate learned materials.
Human memory is fascinating. Cognitive psychologists have long grappled with how memory works, where information is stored, how it is retrieved, why we forget, and so on. Multiple models of human memory approach these questions from different angles.
The most widely accepted theory is the information processing model. In this model, there are three kinds of memory stores- sensory, short-term, and long-term.
Sensory memory is just momentary awareness of what you see, hear, taste or feel. It lasts for less than a few seconds. Short-term memory holds information for about 30 seconds, e.g., when you read a phone number, you are holding it in short-term memory. If you memorize this number, then it passes into long-term memory. Long-term memory has unlimited capacity. No one has been able to accurately measure how much information we can hold in long-term memory. As we live, we keep creating new memories, and while some of them get erased or distorted over time, most of the information is kept intact in long-term memory.
What Is Memory Loss?
- Many times, human memory is compared to the working of a computer. But it is far from that. Our memory is like a rewritable CD. Once we learn new information, it is forgotten, rewritten, and distorted several times over the years. You’ll be surprised to know that our memory for even the most alarming events like car accidents is distorted.
Memory loss is a condition triggered by biological changes in the brain. This is why it is important to observe a healthy lifestyle. The loss of memory could be because of age, genetic tendencies, or an injury to the brain. The person either loses memories from before the injury or fails to form new memories after the injury. In medical terms, these conditions are called retrograde amnesia and ante retrograde amnesia, respectively.
Amnesia is an extreme instance of losing memory. In daily life, we encounter milder forms of memory loss. For example, some people suffer short-term memory loss after drinking. Forgetting things is another minor memory loss. Forgetting happens for many reasons.
One reason for forgetting is interference. Sometimes, the learning of new information interferes with old material and vice versa. For example, if you learn two foreign languages simultaneously, terms from your Spanish class will interfere with your French homework later that day. Other reasons for forgetting are fatigue, information overload, and passage of time.
7 Tips to Sharpen Long-Term Memory
When we look for ways to sharpen our memory for a test or job, we often refer to long-term memory. While memory inevitably declines with age, there are some techniques you can follow to support brain health. Let us look at some tips to improve memory.
- Chunking. Chunking means breaking down information into meaningful pieces. For example, when you memorize a grocery list, you can segregate the items into different clusters, like vegetables, fruits, and dairy products. When you organize bits of information, they are assigned meaningful labels and remembered better.
When you have a large body of information to memorize, it is better to spread out the work over several days instead of stuffing it in all at once. When you introduce one bit, the material gets consolidated or placed more securely in memory.
- Encoding specificity. Encoding specificity is a tried and tested principle of memory. It means that memory is sharper when the material is memorized and reproduced in the same context. If you learned something in a classroom, you would quickly recall it if the exam is in the same classroom. If you thought of something when you were happy, you would better recall it in a happy mood. Sometimes the things we learn under alcohol intoxication are better recalled when we are drunk!
- Testing effect. A healthy lifestyle entails physical and mental training to support the brain’s normal function. The testing effect has been studied in several lab experiments by cognitive psychologists. If you want to remember information for a test, take mock tests instead of reading the material repeatedly. Quiz yourself and use flashcards if it is an objective test. If you have essay questions, try writing a paragraph.
- Process for meaning. This should come as a no-brainer; if you understand the meaning of what you are memorizing, you are in a better position to recall it. Sure, children learn poems and songs without knowing the meaning at a young age, but understanding the meaning gives you an edge over rote learners when it comes to large volumes of material. To help better understand the context of situations, Youthful Brain is a supplement that promises to improve cognitive processes, including focus, retention, and concentration.
- Visual imagery. Visual imagery is a powerful cue for memory. Visualizing items in a list and linking them sharpens memory for those words. For example, using charts and graphs can help you memorize academic concepts. While memorizing lists of items, e.g., a grocery list or a to-do list for the day, you can use mental maps, e.g., visualize the route from your office to your home and the errands you need to run and the stops you need to make on the way.
- Sleeping over it! Taking breaks after long hours of mental processing is necessary when you want to lead a healthy lifestyle. Studies have shown that taking a nap after reading material gives your brain some time to process and consolidate the information. This also works if you relax or do a leisure time activity like listening to music instead of sleeping. This technique works because when you have a time out between memorizing and reproducing, there is no interference in between. The learned material stays intact in its store.
These were some specific tips to improve memory. In general, being physically active, mental exercising, regular socializing, a healthy diet, and sufficient sleep are the ways to keep your memory strong in the long run. These practices nourish your youthful brain and ensure better performance even with age.
In addition, you can use brain health supplements that naturally boost memory, like fish oil and caffeine. Creatine is a substance found in meat, fish, and eggs that improves memory and thinking skills. Acetyl-L-Carnitine, sold in vitamin stores, keeps you alert and prevents memory decline by age.
You can also find herbal supplements like Ginkgo Biloba, but they have shown mixed results in research studies. However, it is essential to discuss these with your doctor if you are already on another medication. Brain health supplements and mental exercises keep your brain cells at the peak of their performance.
Also, you can read up on medical and consumer reviews to ensure that you are consuming safe and approved supplements. Youthful Brain is among the cognitive enhancers on the market that’s made from natural ingredients. It has gained some positive reports from consumers. Information online may help you come up with a wise decision.
Finally, an overall healthy lifestyle is vital.