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Tips and Exercises to Sharpen Your Mind and Boost Brainpower

A strong memory depends on the health and vitality of your brain. Whether you're a student studying for final exams, a working professional interested in doing all you can to stay mentally sharp, or a senior looking to preserve and enhance your grey matter as you age, there are lots of things you can do to improve your memory and mental performance. In This Article:

Don't skimp on exercise or sleep Make time for friends and fun Relaxation Bulk up on brain-boosting foods Give your brain a workout Mnemonic devices and memorization Enhancing your ability to learn

Harnessing the power of your brain They say that you cant teach an old dog new tricks, but when it comes to the brain, scientists have discovered that this old adage simply isnt true. The human brain has an astonishing ability to adapt and changeeven into old age. This ability is known as neuroplasticity. With the right stimulation, your brain can form new neural pathways, alter existing connections, and adapt and react in ever-changing ways.

The brains incredible ability to reshape itself holds true when it comes to learning and memory. You can harness the natural power of neuroplasticity to increase your cognitive abilities, enhance your ability to learn new information, and improve your memory. Improving memory tip 1: Don't skimp on exercise or sleep Just as an athlete relies on sleep and a nutrition-packed diet to perform his or her best, your ability to remember increases when you nurture your brain with a good diet and other healthy habits. When you exercise the body, you exercise the brain Treating your body well can enhance your ability to process and recall information. Physical exercise increases oxygen to your brain and reduces the risk for disorders that lead to memory loss, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Exercise may also enhance the effects of helpful brain chemicals and protect brain cells. Improve your memory by sleeping on it When youre sleep deprived, your brain cant operate at full capacity. Creativity, problemsolving abilities, and critical thinking skills are compromised. Whether youre studying, working, or trying to juggle lifes many demands, sleep deprivation is a recipe for disaster. But sleep is critical to learning and memory in an even more fundamental way. Research shows that sleep is necessary for memory consolidation, with the key memory-enhancing activity occurring during the deepest stages of sleep. Improving memory tip 2: Make time for friends and fun When you think of ways to improve memory, do you think of serious activities such as wrestling with the New York Times crossword puzzle or mastering chess strategy, or do more lighthearted pastimeshanging out with friends or enjoying a funny moviecome to mind? If youre like most of us, its probably the former. But countless studies show that a life thats full of friends and fun comes with cognitive benefits. Healthy relationships: the ultimate memory booster? Humans are highly social animals. Were not meant to survive, let alone thrive, in isolation. Relationships stimulate our brainsin fact, interacting with others may be the best kind of brain exercise.

Research shows that having meaningful relationships and a strong support system are vital not only to emotional health, but also to brain health. In one recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health, for example, researchers found that people with the most active social lives had the slowest rate of memory decline. There are many ways to start taking advantage of the brain and memory-boosting benefits of socializing. Volunteer, join a club, make it a point to see friends more often, or reach out over the phone. And if a human isnt handy, dont overlook the value of a petespecially the highly-social dog. Laughter is good for your brain Youve heard that laughter is the best medicine, and that holds true for the brain as well as the body. Unlike emotional responses, which are limited to specific areas of the brain, laughter engages multiple regions across the whole brain. Furthermore, listening to jokes and working out punch lines activates areas of the brain vital to learning and creativity. As psychologist Daniel Goleman notes in his book Emotional Intelligence, laughterseems to help people think more broadly and associate more freely. Looking for ways to bring more laughter in your life? Start with these basics:

Laugh at yourself. Share your embarrassing moments. The best way to take ourselves less seriously is to talk about the times when we took ourselves too seriously. When you hear laughter, move toward it. Most of the time, people are very happy to share something funny because it gives them an opportunity to laugh again and feed off the humor you find in it. When you hear laughter, seek it out and ask, Whats funny? Spend time with fun, playful people. These are people who laugh easilyboth at themselves and at lifes absurditiesand who routinely find the humor in everyday events. Their playful point of view and laughter are contagious. Surround yourself with reminders to lighten up. Keep a toy on your desk or in your car. Put up a funny poster in your office. Choose a computer screensaver that makes you laugh. Frame photos of you and your family or friends having fun. Pay attention to children and emulate them. They are the experts on playing, taking life lightly, and laughing.

Improving memory tip 3: Keep stress in check

Stress is one of the brains worst enemies. Over time, if left unchecked, chronic stress destroys brain cells and damages the hippocampus, the region of the brain involved in the formation of new memories and the retrieval of old ones. The stress-busting, brain-boosting benefits of meditation Get depression in check

In addition to stress, depression takes a heavy toll on the brain. In fact, some of the symptoms of depression include difficulty concentrating, making decisions, and remembering things. If you are mentally sluggish because of depression, seeking treatment will make a big difference in your cognitive abilities, including memory.

The scientific evidence for the mental health benefits of meditation continues to pile up. Studies show that meditation helps improve many different types of conditions, including depression, anxiety, chronic pain, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Meditation also can improve focus, concentration, creativity, and learning and reasoning skills. Meditation works its magic by changing the actual brain. Brain images show that regular meditators have more activity in the left prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain associated with feelings of joy and equanimity. Meditation also increases the thickness of the cerebral cortex and encourages more connections between brain cellsall of which increases mental sharpness and memory ability. Improving memory tip 4: Eat a brain-boosting diet Just as the body needs fuel, so does the brain. You probably already know that a diet based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats (such as olive oil, avacados, nuts, fish) and lean protein will provide lots of health benefits, but such a diet can also improve memory. But for brain health, its not just what you eatits also what you dont eat. The following nutritional tips will help boost your brainpower and reduce your risk of dementia:

Get your omega-3s. More and more evidence indicates that omega-3 fatty acids are particularly beneficial for brain health. Fish is a particularly rich source of omega-3, especially cold water fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, halibut, trout, mackerel, sardines, and herring. In addition to boosting brainpower, eating fish may also lower your risk of developing Alzheimers disease. If youre not a fan of seafood, consider non-fish sources of omega-3s such as walnuts, ground flaxseed, flaxseed oil, winter squash, kidney and pinto beans, spinach, broccoli, pumpkin seeds, and soybeans. Limit calories and saturated fat. Research shows that diets high in saturated fat (from sources such as red meat, whole milk, butter, cheese, sour cream, and ice cream) increase your risk of dementia and impair concentration and memory. Eating too many calories in later life can also increase your risk of cognitive impairment. Talk to your doctor or dietician about developing a healthy eating plan. Eat more fruit and vegetables. Produce is packed with antioxidants, substances that protect your brain cells from damage. Colorful fruits and vegetables are particularly good antioxidant "superfood" sources. Try leafy green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, romaine lettuce, Swiss chard, and arugula, and fruit such as apricots, mangoes, cantaloupe, and watermelon. Drink green tea. Green tea contains polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that protect against free radicals that can damage brain cells. Among many other benefits, regular consumption of green tea may enhance memory and mental alertness and slow brain aging. Drink wine (or grape juice) in moderation. Keeping your alcohol consumption in check is key, since alcohol kills brain cells. But in moderation (around 1 glass a day for women; 2 for men), alcohol may actually improve memory and cognition. Red wine appears to be the best option, as it is rich in resveratrol, a flavonoid that boosts blood flow in the brain and reduces the risk of Alzheimers disease. Other resveratrol-packed options include grape juice, cranberry juice, fresh grapes and berries, and peanuts.

For mental energy, choose complex carbohydrates. Just as a racecar needs gas, your brain needs fuel to perform at its best. When you need to be at the top of your mental game, carbohydrates can keep you going. But the type of carbs you choose makes all the difference. Carbohydrates fuel your brain, but simple carbs (sugar, white bread, refined grains) give a quick boost followed by an equally rapid crash. There is also evidence to suggest that diets high in simple carbs can greatly increase the risk for cognitive

impairment in older adults. For healthy energy that lasts, choose complex carbohydrates such as whole-wheat bread, brown rice, oatmeal, high-fiber cereal, lentils, and whole beans. Avoid processed foods and limit starches (potato, pasta, rice) to no more than one quarter of your plate. Improving memory tip 5: Give your brain a workout By the time youve reached adulthood, your brain has developed millions of neural pathways that help you process information quickly, solve familiar problems, and execute familiar tasks with a minimum of mental effort. But if you always stick to these well-worn paths, you arent giving your brain the stimulation it needs to keep growing and developing. You have to shake things up from time to time! Memory, like muscular strength, requires you to use it or lose it. The more you work out your brain, the better youll be able to process and remember information. The best brain exercising activities break your routine and challenge you to use and develop new brain pathways. The activity can be virtually anything, so long as it meets the following three criteria: 1. Its new. No matter how intellectually demanding the activity, if its something youre already good at, its not a good brain exercise. The activity needs to be something thats unfamiliar and out of your comfort zone. 2. Its challenging. Anything that takes some mental effort and expands your knowledge will work. Examples include learning a new language, instrument, or sport, or tackling a challenging crossword or Sudoku puzzle. 3. Its fun. Physical and emotional enjoyment is important in the brains learning process. The more interested and engaged you are in the activity, the more likely youll be to continue doing it and the greater the benefits youll experience. The activity should be challenging, yes, it should also be something that is fun and enjoyable to you. Make an activity more pleasurable by appealing to your sensesplaying music while you do it, or rewarding yourself afterwards with a favorite treat, for example. Use mnemonic devices to make memorization easier Mnemonics (the initial m is silent) are clues of any kind that help us remember something, usually by helping us associate the information we want to remember with a visual image, a sentence, or a word.

Mnemonic device


Visual image - Associate a visual image with a To remember the name Rosa Parks and what word or name to help you remember them shes known for, picture a woman sitting on a better. Positive, pleasant images that are vivid, park bench surrounded by roses, waiting as her colorful, and three-dimensional will be easier bus pulls up. to remember. Acrostic (or sentence) - Make up a sentence in The sentence Every good boy does fine to which the first letter of each word is part of or memorize the lines of the treble clef, represents the initial of what you want to representing the notes E, G, B, D, and F. remember. Acronym - An acronym is a word that is made The word HOMES to remember the names of up by taking the first letters of all the key the Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, words or ideas you need to remember and Erie, and Superior. creating a new word out of them. Rhymes and alliteration - Rhymes, alliteration The rhyme Thirty days hath September, April, (a repeating sound or syllable), and even jokes June, and November to remember the are a memorable way to remember more months of the year with only 30 days in them. mundane facts and figures. Chunking - Chunking breaks a long list of numbers or other types of information into smaller, more manageable chunks. Remembering a 10-digit phone number by breaking it down into three sets of numbers: 555-867-5309 (as opposed to5558675309).

Method of loci - Imagine placing the items you For a shopping list, imagine bananas in the want to remember along a route you know entryway to your home, a puddle of milk in the well or in specific locations in a familiar room middle of the sofa, eggs going up the stairs, or building. and bread on your bed. Tips for enhancing your ability to learn and remember

Pay attention. You cant remember something if you never learned it, and you cant learn somethingthat is, encode it into your brainif you dont pay enough attention to it. It takes about eight seconds of intense focus to process a piece of information into your memory. If youre easily distracted, pick a quiet place where you wont be interrupted.

Involve as many senses as possible. Try to relate information to colors, textures, smells, and tastes. The physical act of rewriting information can help imprint it onto your brain. Even if youre a visual learner, read out loud what you want to remember. If you can recite it rhythmically, even better. Relate information to what you already know. Connect new data to information you already remember, whether its 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. For more complex material, focus on understanding basic ideas rather than memorizing isolated details. Practice explaining the ideas to someone else in your own words. Rehearse information youve already learned. Review what youve learned the same day you learn it, and at intervals thereafter. This spaced rehearsal is more effective than cramming, especially for retaining what youve learned.


Making Exercise a Fun Part of Your Everyday Life

Exercise is one of the easiest and most effective ways of improving both your physical and mental health. As well as lowering your risk for serious health problems, a little regular exercise can ease depression and anxiety, boost energy and mood, and relieve stress. But you dont have to be a fitness fanatic to reap the benefits. No matter your age or fitness level, there are lots of enjoyable ways to use physical activity to help you feel better, look better, and enjoy life more. In This Article:

Benefits of exercise Obstacles to exercise Its easier than you think Easy ways to move more Start exercising slowly Make exercise fun Stay motivated

The life-changing benefits of exercise If youre an older adult See Senior Exercise & Fitness Tips If you have an injury, disability, weight problem, or diabetes See Chair Exercises & Limited Mobility Fitness Exercise is not just about aerobic capacity and muscle size. Sure, exercise can improve your health and your physique, trim your waistline, improve your sex life, and even add years to your life. But thats not what motivates most people to stay active. People who exercise regularly tend to do so because it gives them an enormous sense of wellbeing. They feel more energetic throughout the day, sleep better at night, have sharper memories, and feel more relaxed and positive about themselves and their lives. And it doesnt take hours of pumping weights in a gym or running mile after mile to achieve those results. By focusing on activities you enjoy and tailoring a regular mild to moderate exercise routine to your needs, you can experience the health benefits of exercise and improve your own life by:

Easing stress and anxiety. A twenty-minute bike ride wont sweep away all of lifes troubles, but exercising regularly helps you take charge of anxiety and reduce stress. Aerobic exercise releases hormones that relieve stress and promote a sense of wellbeing. Lifting your mood. Exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication. Exercise also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirits and make you feel good.

Sharpening brainpower. The same endorphins that make you feel better also help you concentrate and feel mentally sharp for tasks at hand. Exercise also stimulates the growth of new brain cells and helps prevent age-related decline. Improving self-esteem. Regular activity is an investment in your mind, body, and soul. When it becomes habit, it can foster your sense of self-worth and make you feel strong and powerful. Boosting energy. Increasing your heart rate several times a week will give you more get-up-and-go. Start off with just a few minutes of exercise a day, and increase your workout as you feel more energized.

Obstacles to exercise: Whats holding you back? Despite all the life-changing benefits, many of us still think of exercise as a chore, either something that we dont have time for, or something thats only suitable for the young or the athletic. There are many commonly-held myths about exercise that make it seem more arduous and painful than it has to be. Overcoming obstacles to exercise starts with separating fact from fiction. Why we dont exercise I dont have enough time to exercise. Even short low-impact intervals of exercise can act as a powerful tool to supercharge your health. If you have time for a 15-minute walk with the dog, your body will thank you in many ways. Exercise is too difficult and painful. Consider no pain, no gain the old fashioned way of thinking about exercise. Exercise doesnt have to hurt to be incredibly effective. You dont have to push yourself to the limit to get results. You can build your strength and fitness by walking, swimming, even playing golf or cleaning the house. Im too tired to exercise. Regular exercise is a powerful pick-me-up that can significantly reduce fatigue and make you feel much more energetic. If youre feeling tired, try taking a brisk walk or dancing to your favorite music and see how much better you feel afterwards.

Im too old to start exercising, I'm too fat, or My health isnt good enough. Its never too late to start building your strength and physical fitness, even if youre a senior or a self-confessed couch potato who has never exercised before. And exercise is a proven treatment for many diseasesfrom diabetes to arthritis. Very few health or weight problems make exercise out of the question, so talk to your doctor about a safe routine for you. Im not athletic. Do you hide your head when the tennis ball approaches? Are you stumped at the difference between a foul ball and a free throw? Join the ranks. Dont worry if youre not sporty or ultracoordinated. Instead, find an activity like walking, jogging, or yoga that makes you feel good to be in your body. Exercise is boring. Sure, pounding on a treadmill for an hour may not be everyones idea of a good time. But not all exercise has to be boring; just about everyone can find a physical activity they enjoy. Try playing ping-pong (table tennis) or activity-based video games with your kids. So-called exergames that are played standing up and moving aroundsimulating dancing, skateboarding, soccer, or tennis, for examplecan burn at least as many calories as walking on a treadmill; some substantially more. Once you build up your confidence, try getting away from the TV screen and playing the real thing outside. Reaping the benefits of exercise is easier than you think To reap the benefits of exercise, you dont need to devote hours out your busy day, train at the gym, sweat buckets, or run mile after monotonous mile. You can reap all the physical and mental health benefits of exercise with 30-minutes of moderate exercise five times a week. Two 15-minute exercise sessions can also work just as well. If that still seems intimidating, dont despair. Even just a few minutes of physical activity are better than none at all. If you dont have time for 15 or 30 minutes of exercise, or if your body tells you to take a break after 5 or 10 minutes, for example, thats okay, too. Start with 5- or 10-minute sessions and slowly increase your time. The more you exercise, the more energy youll have, so eventually youll feel ready for a little more. The key is to commit to do some moderate physical activityhowever littleon most days. As exercising becomes habit, you can slowly add extra minutes or try different types of activities. If you keep at it, the benefits of exercise will begin to pay off. Moderate exercise means two things:

That you breathe a little heavier than normal, but are not out of breath. For example, you should be able to chat with your walking partner, but not easily sing a song. That your body feels warmer as you move, but not overheated or very sweaty.

Do I need different types of exercise? While any kind of exercise offers tremendous health benefits, different types of exercise focus more on certain aspects of your health. You can concentrate on one type of exercise or mix them up to add variety to your workouts and broaden the health benefits.

Aerobic activities like running, cycling, and swimming strengthen your heart and increase your endurance. Strength training like weight lifting or resistance training builds muscle and bone mass, improves balance and prevents falls. Its one of the best counters to frailty in old age. Flexibility exercises like stretching and yoga help prevent injury, enhance range of motion, reduce stiffness, and limit aches and pains.

Easy exercise tip 1: Move more in your daily life Even if you dont have a 15 or 30 minute window to dedicate to yoga or a bike ride, that doesnt mean you cant add physical activity to your day. If you're not ready to commit to a structured exercise program, think about physical activity as a lifestyle choice rather than a single task to check off your to-do list. Look at your daily routine and consider ways to sneak in activity here and there. Even very small activities can add up over the course of a day.

In and around your home. Clean the house, wash the car, tend to the yard and garden, mow the lawn with a push mower, sweep the sidewalk or patio with a broom. At work and on the go. Look for ways to walk or cycle more. For example, bike or walk to an appointment rather than drive, banish all elevators and use the stairs, briskly walk to the bus stop then get off one stop early, park at the back of the lot and walk into the store or office, take a vigorous walk during your coffee break. Walk while youre talking on your cell phone. With friends or family. Walk or jog around the soccer field during your kids practice, make a neighborhood bike ride part of weekend routine, play tag with your children in the yard or play exercise video games. Walk the dog together as a family, or if you dont have your own dog, volunteer to walk a dog from a shelter. Organize an office bowling team, take a class in martial arts, dance, or yoga with a friend or spouse.

While watching TV. Gently stretch while watching your favorite show, do push-ups, situps or lift light weights during the commercial breaksyou'll be amazed at how many repetitions you can fit in during the commercials of a half hour show! Better still, once a week turn off the TV and take a walk outside instead.

Easy exercise tip 2: Start slowlya little is better than nothing When we decide to begin exercising, many of us will rush out and join a gym or buy costly exercise equipment with a vow to working out every day. We may go to the gym once or twice, use the equipment a couple of times and then quickly lose motivation. The gym membership gathers dust and the exercise equipment is confined to the back of a closet. Exercise doesnt need to be such an all or nothing commitment. If you havent exercised before or youve tried an exercise program in the past and been unable to stick with it, its important not to set unrealistic goals. Committing to exercise for an hour a day in a gym may be too challenging at first, whereas committing to 10 minutes just three or four times a week is more manageable. Once these short windows of activity become a habit and you start experiencing the benefits, its easier to progress to the next level. Tips for getting started in an exercise program

Focus on activities you enjoy. If you hate jogging, you wont be able to maintain a jogging program no matter how good it is for you. On the other hand, if you love to swim, dance, or play tennis youll find it easier to sick with an exercise program thats built around those activities. Take it slow. Start with an activity you feel comfortable doing, go at your own pace, and keep your expectations realistic. For example, training for a marathon when youve never run before may be a bit daunting, but you could give yourself the goal of participating in an upcoming 5k walk for charity. Focus on shortterm goals, such as improving your mood and energy levels and reducing stress, rather than goals such as weight loss or increased muscle size, as these can take longer to achieve. Make exercise a priority. Its one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health and by making exercise a priority in your life, youll be more likely to stick with it over the long-term. If you have trouble fitting exercise into your schedule, consider it an important appointment with yourself and mark it on your daily agenda. Commit to an exercise schedule for at least 3 or 4 weeks so that it becomes habit, and

force yourself to stick with it. Even the busiest amongst us can find a 10-minute slot to pace up and down an office staircase or take the dog for a walk.

Go easy on yourself. Do you feel bad about your body? Instead of being your own worst critic, try a new way of thinking about your body. No matter what your weight, age, or fitness level, there are others like you with the same goal of exercising more. Try surrounding yourself with people in your shoes. Take a class with others of a similar fitness level. Set easy goals for yourself to start with. Accomplishing even the smallest fitness goals will help you gain body confidence. Expect ups and downs. Dont be discouraged if you skip a few days or even a few weeks. It happens. Just get started again and slowly build up to your old momentum.

Safety tips for beginning exercisers If youve never exercised before, or its been a significant amount of time since youve attempted any strenuous physical activity, keep in mind the following general health precautions:

Get medical clearance. If you have special health issues such as an existing heart condition or high blood pressure, talk with your doctor or health practitioner and let him or her know your plans. Stretch. No matter what form of exercise you choose, youll benefit from adding stretching exercises to gain flexibility and range of motion. Stretching gently to warm up and cool down is the best form of injury-prevention for new exercisers. Drink plenty of water. Your body performs best when its properly hydrated. Failing to drink enough water when you are exerting yourself over a prolonged period of time, especially in hot conditions, can be dangerous.

Easy exercise tip 3: Make exercise fun You are more likely to exercise if you find enjoyable, convenient activities. Give some thought to your likes and dislikes, and remember that preferences can change over time. Pair an activity you enjoy with your exercise

There are numerous activities that qualify as exercise. The trick is to find something you enjoy that forces you to be active. Pairing exercise with another activity makes it easier and more fun. Simple examples include:

Take a dance or yoga class. Blast some favorite music and dance with your kids. Make a deal with yourself to watch your favorite TV shows while on the treadmill or stationary bike. Workout with a buddy, and afterwards enjoy coffee or a movie. Enjoy outdoor activities such as golf, playing Frisbee, or even yard work or gardening.

Make exercise a social activity Exercise can be a fun time to socialize with friends and working out with others can help keep you motivated. For those who enjoy company but dislike competition, a running club, water aerobics, or dance class may be the perfect thing. Others may find that a little healthy competition keeps the workout fun and exciting. You might seek out tennis partners, join an adult soccer league, find a regular pickup basketball game, or join a volleyball team. For many, a workout partner can be a great motivator. For example, if you wont get out of bed to swim yourself, but you would never cancel on a friend, find a swim buddy. Easy exercise tip 4: Stay motivated Making lifestyle and behavior changes is not easy. It takes time and effort and youll likely suffer some setbacks along the way. But over time, as you continue to exercise, youll start to reap the physical and mental health benefits and improve your physical performance. Youll be able to exercise longer and harder and have the confidence to try new activities. Of course, no matter how much you enjoy an exercise routine, you may find that you eventually lose interest in it. Thats the time to shake things up and try something new, add

other activities to your exercise program, or alter the way you pursue the exercises that have worked so far. Set yourself goals and rewards Rewarding yourself for reaching an exercise goal is one of the best ways to stay motivated. Set an achievable goal regarding your participation and effort, not necessarily how much weight you can lift, miles you can bike, or pounds you can lose lost. If you stumble in your efforts, regroup and begin again. Reward yourself when you reach your goalsa new pair of shoes, a dinner out, whatever works to motivate you. Other ways to keep your exercise program going

Be consistent. Make your workouts habitual by exercising at the same time every day, if possible. Eventually you will get to the point where you feel worse if you dont exercise. That dull, sluggish feeling fitness buffs get when they dont work out is a strong incentive to get up and go. Record your progress. Try keeping an exercise journal of your workouts. In a matter of months, it will be fun to look back at where you began. Keeping a log also holds you accountable to your routine. Keep it interesting. Think of your exercise session as time dedicated to you. Enjoy that time by listening to music, chatting with friends, and varying locations. Exercise around natural beauty, new neighborhoods, and special parks. Above all, avoid workout boredom by mixing it up and trying new routines. Spread the word. Talking to others about your fitness routines will help keep motivation strong and hold you accountable to your exercise program. Youll be delighted and inspired hearing ways your friends and colleagues stay active and on track. Who knows, you might even convince someone else to try to be more active. Get inspired. Read a health and fitness magazine or visit an exercise website and get inspired with photos of people being active. Sometimes reading about and looking at images of people who are healthy and fit can motivate you to move your body

TOP 10 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR MEMORY 10. Drink in Moderation Before you settle in to read this article, you may want to get yourself a glass of wine. Surprised that such debauchery begins our list of memory improvers? Well, hear us out. Memory and alcohol have an interesting relationship. First off, you'll notice we didn't advocate bringing the entire bottle back with you. Too much drinking handicaps the memory, as anyone who's ever woken after a binge with a fuzzy recollection of the night before can attest. And one component of a DUI test shows how overconsumption of alcohol can immediately affect the brain: Even simple mental tasks like counting backward and reciting the alphabet can become tricky under the influence. Alcohol abuse will have a negative effect on the cells of the brain related to memory. But as long as you're not pregnant and able to maintain control of how much you drink, there's evidence that light to moderate alcohol consumption can improve memory and cognition. Though more research needs to be done, some studies have found that moderate drinkers do better on certain tests of memory and cognition than nondrinkers and heavy drinkers [sources: Victoroff, Minerd]. There may be some long-term effects as well. A French study that followed almost 4,000 people over the age of 65 found that light drinkers, who consumed up to two glasses of wine a day, were 45 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than nondrinkers [source: Victoroff]. But as we said, don't start tipping back beverages if you have certain risk factors, such as a family history of alcoholism. No one is recommending that teetotalers start drinking, either. Resveratrol, one of the flavonoids in red wine that's believed to have special benefits for blood vessels, is also in red grape juice. If you tend to drink when you're sad, head to the next page for some information on how your blues affect your brain. 9. Seek Treatment for Depression Anything that causes major stress in life, including anxiety or anger, will eventually eat away at the parts of the brain that are responsible for memory. Chief among these stressors is major depression. Depression is often misidentified as a memory problem since one of the main symptoms of the condition is an inability to concentrate. If you can't concentrate on schoolwork or the information needed to complete a task on the job, then you may feel as if

you're constantly forgetting things. As it is, you're not even able to concentrate long enough to learn them in the first place. Depression causes an increase of cortisol levels in the bloodstream, which in turns elevates the amount of cortisol in the brain. With the help of brain imaging devices, doctors have been able to see how that increased cortisol diminishes certain brain areas, chief among them the hippocampus [source: Tan]. One study showed that people who had been depressed, even if it was years ago, had suffered a 12 to 15 percent loss in the hippocampus [source: Victoroff]. Since the hippocampus is the clearing center for short-term memory, prolonged depression demolishes the brain's ability to remember anything new. Additionally, depression affects the types of things a person is able to remember. While everyone's brain is selective about which memories make it into long-term storage, people with depression seem only able to retain negative memories [source: Crook]. That means there's a neurological reason why a person with depression remains obsessed with the one time a loved one forgot a birthday or anniversary, even if it was remembered every other year. But happy memories needn't be lost forever to someone battling depression. Medications for depression, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), have been shown to jump-start the process of cell regeneration in the hippocampus [source: Tan]. The next item on our list can help fight depression while it improves memory as well. 8. Get Moving If you've ever taken a break from work or studying to take a quick walk around the block, you may understand the rationale for this next tip. Exercise not only exercises the body, it exercises the brain as well. Obesity is a risk factor for many diseases and conditions that eventually wreak havoc on the brain, including stroke and Alzheimer's disease. Without regular exercise, plaque builds up in the arteries and blood vessels lose the ability to pump blood effectively. While you may know how plaque buildup leads to heart attacks, you may not think about the way your brain is gasping for breath as well. The brain depends on energy received through a constant intake of oxygen and nutrients from the bloodstream, and when those nutrients don't arrive, the brain's ability to work is compromised. So to keep the blood moving to the brain, you're going to need to get up from your chair (after you finish reading this article, of course) and get the blood pumping. It doesn't matter what you do -- a brisk walk, a swim and even a dance move or two can all

provide a good mental workout. Studies show that the more physically active a person is, the greater his or her cognitive performance [source: Victoroff]. Keep a lookout on your brisk walk for interesting images -- you'll need them for the memory tip on the next page. 7. Visualization and Association A picture's worth a thousand words, as the saying goes, so turning a list of random words into images may help you remember the words better. Explaining this method works best by example, so let's say that you need to remember that a parent-teacher conference is taking place at three in the afternoon. Take a moment and think of a visual image for three -- let's say that you and your son just love reading the story of the "Three Little Pigs." Visualize those three little pigs. To remember what exactly you have to do at three, picture your son's teacher cavorting with the pigs out in a meadow. Sometimes, the more unique the image, the easier it will be to remember. Here's another example: say you place your eyeglasses on the kitchen table. When you do so, imagine your eyeglasses eating all the food on the table. Later, when you're wondering where your glasses are, your brain has this image in the bank. You can use visualization to remember an entire list of things if you associate the images together. Say that you need to remember to take the following things to your SAT exam: a No. 2 pencil, a calculator, your ID and a snack for the break. You can create a visualization that links all of the images together in a ridiculous story. Picture your pencil as a snake, curving itself into the number two. That snake just loves calculators, so it winds itself around the calculator, using its hissing tongue to press the buttons. When the snake pushes one of the calculator buttons, the calculator turns into a camera and snaps the snake's picture for an ID photo. All of this calculating and picture-taking has worn the snake out, so it wants a snack of pretzels. Sure, it sounds bizarre, but you can't deny that it also sounds fun. Visualization is at the root of many of the memory tips left to go on our list, so go ahead and practice by visualizing yourself heading to the next page for another memory tip. 6. Pay Attention Eight seconds is more than just a length of time that bull riders try to stay atop a bucking bronco, it's the amount of time you need to completely focus your attention upon something to effectively transfer it from short- to long-term memory [source: Crook]. No matter how wonderfully you can conjure up entertaining and useful visualizations for incoming

information, the skill will be useless if you're not paying attention to what you need to remember in the first place. Sometimes we can't remember things because we never got the information into the memory bank to begin with. Like an absent-minded professor, we all have moments where we put down keys or an important book without noticing. Or we scribble phone numbers or one-word reminders on Post-It notes, thinking that's all the information we'll need later. However, without paying attention to why you need the information and its value to you, that Post-It is useless. Try to stay in the present and really pay attention to the task at hand, whether it's learning new information for a job or meeting new people. Minimize distractions such as music, television or cell phones to focus fully. One way to stay mindful of even the smallest actions is to repeat aloud what you're doing; as you take off your eyeglasses, say aloud "I am putting my glasses on the kitchen counter." While talking to yourself may feel awkward, you'll be grateful to find your glasses easily later. When meeting new people, we can often be more obsessed with how we look and the impression we're making than truly paying attention to the other person. Simply staying focused will boost your ability to remember the names of new people. But we're not done with faces and names yet. Since that area is troublesome for so many people, the next tip is all about using some of these techniques to attend parties with ease. 5. The Name Game This memory tip builds upon many of the tips we've learned so far. When you meet a new person, it's important to pay attention to the name and the face. As soon as you learn the name, repeat it back to the person by saying, "Nice to meet you, so-and-so." It's not a cheap trick; researchers have found that people have a 30 percent better chance of remembering a name when they repeat it as soon as they learn it [source: Herold]. Then it's time to put those visualization and association skills to work. Let's say you're meeting a person named Katie Lambert, who just happens to be this humble writer's editor. First, you want to repeat the name, but you also want to start looking for identifying features that will help you with the visualization and association. Check out the person's hair, nose, mouth, cheeks and eyes. Katie has chin-length blond hair, so you might take that feature and combine it with her last name, Lambert. Suddenly you're picturing little lambs with blond hair frolicking about. You name one of those lambs Katie to help you with your image, but you also take the "kat" from her first name and imagine little cats running around as well.

If you wanted another way to remember "Lambert," you could picture Katie on the "lam" with "Bert" from "Sesame Street." You could also use rhymes or a celebrity she resembles to make the association. If all else fails, you could just focus on how you would describe her later to a police sketch artist if you were to hear that a girl named Katie Lambert had committed a crime. Whatever it takes to remember her name and face together. But enough about a HowStuffWorks editor committing crimes! Let's head to the next page for another valuable memory tip. 4. Chunking Maybe you have no problems remembering your grocery list or names and faces but you repeatedly stumble over your PIN number, Social Security Number or license plate number. Chunking may be just the memory method for you. You've used chunking if you've ever read off a phone number as three sets of numbers as opposed to one long 10-digit number. Chunking puts a large amount of information into more manageable chunks so that you have less to remember. Let's tease out the phone number example even further. Say you use this phone number every day but can never remember it: 404-760-4729 (for the record, that's the main line at HowStuffWorks). First, the area code -- do you love golf? Picture hitting a golf ball twice; you might yell, "Fore! Oh! Fore!" Then let's say you have seven children and you were born in 1960. By great coincidence, your soccer jersey number was 47, and you'll never be able to forget that the Great Depression started in 1929. To remember how to call HowStuffWorks, you just need to think, "golf, kids, year born, soccer jersey, Great Depression." Make a fun story out of it: Golfing with the kids in the year I was born while wearing my soccer jersey was more fun than the Great Depression. You'll never forget how to call us again. OK, maybe that's not the handiest way to remember our phone number. The associations made with certain numbers will be different for everyone. What's important is to look for patterns and numbers associated with memorable things for you. Then you can break a long list into more manageable chunks. Chunking's not limited to remembering numbers, though. Anything can be reduced to smaller chunks. Say that you need to send an e-mail to George, William, Greg, Jim and Jane. If you remember to invite the 2 G's, the 2 J's and one W, then you're set. If you have a long shopping list, try grouping it according to sections of the store, so that when you get to the dairy section, you'll know you have a few items to look out for.

Do you know your way around the local grocery store by heart? You may be able to put that knowledge to use with our next tip. 3. Method of Loci The earliest recorded mnemonic device comes from Ancient Greece. One night, a poet named Simonides was called upon to recite a poem at a banquet. By some stroke of luck, Simonides briefly left the banquet hall, right when the entire building collapsed. Because the bodies of those that remained inside were so badly mangled, Simonides identified the dead for their families by recalling where people were sitting at the time of the accident. This memory device of associating things with a place or location became known as the method of loci, and it was all the rage for teaching in Ancient Greece. If you've ever said, "in the first place" or "in the second place" when rattling off a list, then you're using a modern derivative of the method of loci. In using the method of loci, you're essentially piggybacking the information you need to remember on top of information that would be near impossible for you to forget. For example, it would be hard for you to forget a bus or subway route you use every day, or the setup of your own house. If you select between five to seven locations on these routes or in these places, you can use the landmarks to remember a list of errands by using the visualization methods we discussed earlier. For example, let's say that you've selected places you pass daily on your commute to the office. You drive by a large yellow house, a fast food chicken restaurant and a tire shop. You need to remember to stop by the store to get detergent, bread and orange juice. For each familiar place, visualize an association with an item on the list. You could envision the detergent dripping down the sides of the yellow house, making the yellow even brighter. You picture the chickens eating pieces of bread thrown to them in their chicken coops, and you could imagine tires trying to move through a rising river of orange juice. You can expand the list with more landmarks as needed, and then when you arrive at the store, you just pull up this route information and think of your visualizations. For another tip that uses familiar spaces with a twist, go on to the next page. 2. Use Your Environment Tying a string around your finger to remember something has become a bit of punchline, but the reasoning for it makes sense. By putting something in your environment slightly askew, you create a visual reminder for yourself. The key, as with other methods, is to take the time

to create a strong visualization for why there's a string around your finger before you mindlessly tie it on. You can use other things in your environment as well. If you don't want to invest in string just yet, you could switch a ring, bracelet or watch from one hand to the other as needed to remember things. For example, if you needed to remember a doctor's appointment, you could visualize a large wristwatch wrapped around your doctor. If it bothers you too much to switch hands, try just turning the watch upside down or switching a ring so the stone points downward. There are other things you can manipulate in your environment as well. If you wake up in the middle of the night with a thought you don't want to forget, make an association with something on your nightstand, like an alarm clock or a book. Then place the object on the floor. The next morning, when you trip over the item on your floor, you can bring up the visualization. You can also move furniture slightly if that helps. If you have trouble remembering to take morning medications, place your toaster on its side. When you stand it back up again, you can take your medications, enjoy some toaster waffles and then return the appliance back to its sideways position in preparation for the next morning. Move your telephone from one side of the desk to the other, depending on whether you have phone calls to return. You could also place things that need to leave the house on the floor in front of the door to serve as an obvious reminder, or you could make use of the doorknob itself by hanging things on it. For example, if you return from home day after day without the dry cleaning you meant to pick up, place an empty hanger on the door. Put it on the front seat of the car, and it will serve as a daylong reminder of an errand you need to run. Practice using your environment right now: Click "next page" to see our last tip for memory. 1. Practice Makes Perfect Maybe you're thinking that some of the tips in this article sound a bit too easy. And that's the beauty of them -- but to get the full benefit, you're going to have to practice. Not everyone immediately begins creating helpful visualizations or using the method of loci to remember things, but when your brain becomes trained to think that way, it will become easier. You can look at almost anything as a chance to practice these memory tips. If you're out to eat at a restaurant, randomly assign the people around you a name. Introduce yourself to them in your head and give them identifying features. Enjoy your appetizer, then look back around to see how many names you remember. It can also make the time fly by when you're standing in

line at the bank or waiting in a doctor's office. You can do the same things with people in newspapers or magazines. Speaking of newspapers and magazines, you can practice your ability to pay attention by reading an article and then explaining the article to someone else. Do you have all the details down, or do you need to pay better attention when you're reading? After enjoying your favorite television program, see if you can remember the outfits that various characters wore throughout the show. If you can remember the small details, then your memory is getting good exercise. One of the simplest ways to practice these methods is to teach them to someone else. By explaining with examples, you'll be reinforcing them in your brain. If you want to practice your ability to pay attention to what you're reading, there are plenty of great articles on memory and the brain for you to use on the next page.


Convince yourself that you do have a good memory that will improve. Too many people get stuck here and convince themselves their memory is bad, that they are just not good with names, that numbers just slip out of their minds for some reason. Erase those thoughts and vow to improve your memory. Celebrate even little achievements to keep yourself motivated. 2. Memory is best practiced through association.[1] The reason that most of us can't remember our friend's phone number is because 535-3473 is just a string of numbers that have no obvious connection to your friend. In order to use your memory efficiently, the best way is to actively create an association for things you're trying to remember. For example, write out your friend's phone number: five three five three four seven three. Now try to create a clever phrase that starts with the first letter of those words: fairy tales feel true for some time. You're now much more likely to remember that phone number.

Alternatively, you could create a story that involves 5 characters buying 3 things and doing 5 more things with them... Use your imagination. The point is that you want to connect the phone number to something else. Throwing your best friend as a character in the story would be a good idea too.

3. 3 Association also works if you created vivid, memorable images. You remember information more easily if you can visualize it. If you want to associate a child with a book, try not to

visualize the child reading the book -- that's too simple and forgettable. Instead, come up with something more jarring, something that sticks, like the book chasing the child, or the child eating the book. It's your mind - make the images as shocking and emotional as possible to keep the associations strong. 4. 4 Group information together to help you remember them; this is called chunking. Random lists of things (a shopping list, for example) can be especially difficult to remember. To make it easier, try categorizing the individual things from the list. If you can remember that, among other things, you wanted to buy four different kinds of vegetables, youll find it easier to remember all four.

Another example: you probably won't remember 17761812184818651898, but try putting a space after every fourth number. Now you can see that those numbers are years, and you can pick key events from each year to help you remember the string of numbers (e.g., Revolutionary War, War of 1812, MexicanAmerican War, Civil War, Spanish-American War).

5. 5 Repeat information you're trying to memorize to yourself every few days or so. This is called spaced repetition learning. We are more likely to remember more recent things and things that we've experienced with greater frequency[2], so repeating associations and mnemonics to yourself is a good idea. Start practicing every day, and you can gradually decrease the frequency until you remember it naturally.

Flash cards are especially useful for studying. It's essentially a card with a question on one side and the answer on the other. (You can also put two things you want to associate on opposite sides of a flashcard.) In the course of learning a topic, you would have a stack of cards and would go through them testing yourself. Those that you got right you would put to one side and review a few days later. The more difficult ones might take several days to fix in the brain. However, how do you determine the ideal time to review the cards that you have temporarily remembered? Leave it too long and, like all memories, it may have faded and we forget the answer. If we review it too soon then we waste time looking at it. We need some system to know exactly when to review each card. This is where "Spaced Repetition Software" comes in. This software automatically works out the

most efficient time to test you on each card for optimum memory retention. There are a number of free bits of software out there for you to use.

Cramming only works to put information in your short-term memory. You may remember the information for your exam the next day, but you will barely recall the unit when it's time to take the final. Spacing out your studying is important because it gives your brain time to encode the information and store it in your long-term memory.

6. 6 Organize your life. Keep items that you frequently need, such as keys and eyeglasses, in the same place every time. Use an electronic organizer or daily planner to keep track of appointments, due dates for bills, and other tasks. Keep phone numbers and addresses in an address book or enter them into your computer or cell phone. Improved organization can help free up your powers of concentration so that you can remember less routine things. Even if being organized doesnt improve your memory, youll receive a lot of the same benefits (i.e. you wont have to search for your keys anymore). 7. 7 When it's time to study or remember something new, switch your breathing pattern to be slower and deeper. Deeper and slower breathing actually changes the way your brain works, by inducing the brain's electrical pulses to switch to Theta waves. Theta waves normally occur in your brain in hypnogogic sleep. This is the stage of sleep when outside noises like an alarm clock can influence dreaming. It turns out being in this stage also can aid memory. A good example is the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon, when information you've been trying to think of all day suddenly comes back to you after napping or waking up from sleep. To activate your Theta waves, switch your breathing to your lower abdomen - in other words, start breathing deeply from your stomach. Consciously slow your rate of breathing too. After a few moments, you should feel calmer, the Theta waves should be flowing in your brain, and you should be more receptive to remembering new information. 8. 8 If the above advice does not work you may consider using nootropic supplements. Nootropics are generally well-tolerated and can help aid in improving overall memory. Racetam supplements like Piracetam are very popular for improving memory but there are also strong herbal nootropics like Bacopa and Huperzine A.

General Advice 1. 1 Exercise your brain. Regularly "exercising" the brain keeps it growing and spurs the development of new nerve connections that can help improve memory. By developing new mental skills -- especially complex ones such as learning a new language or learning to play a new musical instrument -- and challenging your brain with puzzles and games, you can keep your brain active and improve its physiological functioning. Try some fun puzzle exercises everyday such as crosswords, Sudoku, and other games which are easy enough to for anyone. 2. 2 Exercise daily. Regular aerobic exercise improves circulation and efficiency throughout the body -- including the brain -- and can help ward off the memory loss that comes with aging. Exercise also makes you more alert and relaxed, and can thereby improve your memory uptake, allowing you to take better mental "pictures". 3. 3 Reduce stress. Chronic stress does in fact physically damage the brain, it can make remembering much more difficult. After prolonged stress, the brain will start to become affected and deteriorate.

Stressful situations are recognized by the hypothalamus, which in turn signals the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland then secretes adrenocorticotropic hormones (ACTH) which influences the adrenal glands to secrete adrenaline and later, cortisol (corticosteroids). The corticosteroids can weaken the blood-brain barrier and damage the hippocampus (the memory center). Ironically, the hippocampus controls the secretion of the hormone released by the hypothalamus through a process of negative feedback. After chronic stress, it will begin to deteriorate and will not be as efficient in regulating the degenerative corticosteroids, impairing memory. Neurogenesis (formation of new neurons) indeed exists in the hippocampus, but stress inhibits it. Realistically speaking, stress may never be completely eliminated from one's life, but it definitely can be controlled. Even temporary stresses can make it more difficult to effectively focus on concepts and observe things. Try to relax, regularly practice yoga or other stretching exercises, and see a doctor if you have severe chronic stress as soon as possible.

4. 4 Eat well and eat right. There are a lot of herbal supplements on the market that claim to improve memory, but none have yet been shown to be effective in clinical tests (although small studies have shown some promising results for ginkgo biloba and phosphatidylserine). A healthy diet, however, contributes to a healthy brain, and foods containing antioxidants -broccoli, blueberries, spinach, and berries, for example -- and Omega-3 fatty acids appear to promote healthy brain functioning.
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Feed your brain with such supplements as Thiamine, Niacin and Vitamin B-6. Grazing, or eating 5 or 6 small meals throughout the day instead of 3 large meals, also seems to improve mental functioning (including memory) by limiting dips in blood sugar, which may negatively affect the brain. Make sure it's healthy stuff.

5. 5 Take better pictures. Often we forget things not because our memory is bad, but rather because our observational skills need work. One common situation where this occurs (and which almost everyone can relate to) is meeting new people. Often we dont really learn peoples names at first because we arent really concentrating on remembering them. Youll find that if you make a conscious effort to remember such things, youll do much better.

One way to train yourself to be more observant is to look at an unfamiliar photograph for a few seconds and then turn the photograph over and describe or write down as many details as you can about the photograph. Try closing your eyes and picturing the photo in your mind. Use a new photograph each time you try this exercise, and with regular practice you will find youre able to remember more details with even shorter glimpses of the photos.

6. 6 Give yourself time to form a memory. Memories are very fragile in the short-term, and distractions can make you quickly forget something as simple as a phone number. The key to avoid losing memories before you can even form them is to be able to focus on the thing to be remembered for a while without thinking about other things, so when youre trying to remember something, avoid distractions and complicated tasks for a few minutes. 7. 7

Sleep well. The amount of sleep we get affects the brain's ability to recall recently learned information. Getting a good night's sleep -- a minimum of seven hours a night -- may improve your short-term memory and long-term relational memory, according to recent studies conducted at the Harvard Medical School. 8. 8 Build your memorization arsenal. Memory pegs, memory palaces, and the Dominic System are just some techniques which form the foundation for mnemonic techniques, and which can visibly improve your memory. Memory pegs involve visualization methods in which you make use of various familiar landmarks, associating the to be learnt information to these various popular landmarks. This helps to trigger and enhance the memory process. 9. 9 Use Online Resources. Visit and participate in collaborative mnemonic websites to remember words and concepts. 10.10 Venture out and learn from your mistakes. Go ahead and take a stab at memorizing the first one hundred digits of pi, or, if you've done that already, the first one thousand.

HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR MEMORY WHILE STUDYING With age comes wisdom, and you can use your acquired wisdom to help combat memory problems in new and creative ways. You can improve your memory. You can make the decision today to get better at remembering things, whether it's the name of that new business associate or where you parked your car. Whether you only occasionally forget a name or you can't seem to stop forgetting your keys, your purse, or your meeting notes, you can do something about it. Your memory can be honed and sharpened with the right lifestyle choices and a basic knowledge of memory-enhancing strategies. Scientists agree that, in the absence of brain disease, it is possible to improve your memory, although there are varied ideas about the best way to go about it. Many experts agree that one of the most important ways to keep your memory sharp, or to improve it if it's starting to falter, is to engage in plenty of mental exercise throughout life. We've all heard that getting regular physical activity can keep the heart muscle strong and functioning at its best. Even though the brain is not a muscle, it, too, needs regular exercise in the form of mental calisthenics to stay sharp and perform well. While the heart's job is to pump blood to the body's cells, what the brain does best is communicate with its own cells. The more

numerous and healthy the brain-cell connections and the faster the signals can go back and forth, the better the mind and the memory will work. Keeping the brain nimble through puzzles, riddles, and other brain-challenging exercises and activities helps build new connections between brain cells and strengthen those that already exist. Pretty much any activity that actively engages the brain, such as jigsaw and crossword puzzles, board games such as chess, and even watching programs that test your knowledge or expose you to new ideas and concepts, can help. The more interesting and enjoyable the activity is to you, the more likely you are to engage in it consistently and in the long-term. Stimulating your senses, facing new physical challenges, learning to play a musical instrument or speak a foreign language -- all of these can help build more cellular bridges within the brain and improve overall brain function. We'll start off by touching on memory exercises. Learn more about these fun and useful exercises that keep your memory in tip top shape. MEMORY EXERCISES One of the most popular methods for getting brain cells working is to solve puzzles or riddles, which force you to think in unusual or creative ways. Puzzles and riddles help exercise your mind because they involve a host of mental tasks, including mathematics, logical reasoning, pattern recognition, and nonlinear thinking. While puzzles and games are obvious choices for keeping memory sharp, it also helps to expose yourself to new and interesting environments. Research with animals has clearly shown that novel, stimulating environments can stop the brain from shrinking with age and actually improve brain-cell connections and boost memory skills. Get out and see new places, do new things, take up a new sport, or start a hobby. Visit museums or places of interest in your town you've never taken the time to explore before. If you stay active, interested in life, and engaged in the world around you, your memory doesn't have to deteriorate as you grow older. Even if you can't get out much, try to ensure that your home environment and daily life are stimulating and enriched, with lots of colors, sounds, smells, and things to do. Here are some ideas:

Make sure you have music playing for at least a little while every day; while any music is good, research has found that classical music is especially stimulating to the intellect. Keep lots of books on hand, and make time to read them. If you can't block out specific reading times, keep a paperback in your purse or briefcase so you can squeeze in some reading while you're riding a train or bus or waiting for an appointment. Add a fish tank to your home or office with lots of colorful fish and interesting tank toys. Paint the walls of your home interesting, unusual colors or add some wallpaper. Select interesting art, knickknacks, rugs, and curtains. Try to include a variety of textures with things like pillows, blankets, and furniture fabrics.

If you have the space, put a birdhouse and a bird feeder or birdbath outside your window, and keep a pair of binoculars handy. Add some brightly colored flowers to your yard or place planters or window boxes outside your windows. Don't forget the flowers indoors, too; the colors and smells will be an added sensory boost. Set out a jigsaw puzzle or chessboard and regularly engage visitors in a game. Plug in a computer and use it to surf the Internet or play a challenging game; computer games can improve memory in such fun ways you'll hardly notice the effort. Try cooking food from a different culture, or visit restaurants with cuisines that are not usually on your menu. Include others in your life. Some research indicates that strong social connections can help stave off depression and Alzheimer's disease and keep you alert and interested in life. Make an effort to spend time with other people, especially if you do not have relatives or close friends nearby. Join a book club, a bowling league, or a study group at your place of worship or check into local volunteer activities that can bring you in touch with a variety of new people. Write letters or make phone calls to distant relatives and long-lost friends or try going online and finding out about people from all over the world through e-mail, message boards, discussion groups, and chat rooms.

Remember, anything that engages the senses will help to stimulate your mind and strengthen your memory. So touch, feel, smell, and experience new things as often as you can. Visualization is another good exercise for your brain. As you sit in your car in a traffic jam, wait for a doctor's appointment, or lie in bed before you fall asleep, try to visualize something from your childhood: your bedroom in the house where you grew up, your first-grade classroom, the inside of your parents' car when you were a teenager. Visualization helps stimulate the mind and can also serve as a relaxation tool by distracting you from worries and stresses. It is possible, however, to actually get better at remembering those things you tend to forget. On the next page, get tips on how to actually improve your memory. GENERAL MEMORY BOOSTERS There are some general memory boosters you can use right now to improve your memory. Not all aspects of memory slow down as you age, and it is important to know that you can compensate for most problems by using memory strategies and tricks. Some people excel at remembering names. Other people are good at remembering small details. It is unrealistic to expect to remember everything. But you can get better at remembering those things you're not so good at remembering. Everyday forgetting is linked to the fact that when you've done something so many times in the past, it can be hard to remember if on this particular day you've turned off the stove or unplugged the iron. Indeed, some people go through entire routines of "checking" in the

morning because they know they have problems remembering if they've actually turned off appliances and closed windows before leaving for the day. If you really want to cure such absentmindedness, you need to become acutely aware of what you're doing. When you don't pay attention, you're not likely to register information in the first place. The likely result: forgetting. Paying attention takes effort. There may be times when your attention strays -- think of the times you've rushed out the door because you were running behind schedule, only to discover later that you left behind something important. Instead, you need to slow down and pause. It is important to pay attention to and concentrate on what you are doing, especially when it comes to things you're not usually good at remembering. For example, have you ever been driving to work and tried to remember whether or not you unplugged the iron before you left the house? To improve your ability to remember such everyday occurrences, you need to pause and pay attention as you turn off or unplug an appliance so that it will register in your memory. This helps to turn an automatic act into a conscious one. Here are the steps: 1. Before going out the door, stop. Breathe deeply. Take the time to think. If you're locking your back door, think about what you're doing. 2. Focus your concentration. Speak out loud to force yourself to pay attention. If you often forget to turn off the stove, go into the kitchen and force yourself to slowly survey the appliances. As you look at each one, say "The oven is turned off. The toaster is unplugged." When you're driving down the freeway and you ask yourself if the oven is off, you'll know that it is. 3. Go over everything. If you tend to leave important things behind, line them all up before you leave. Go through each item, saying it out loud. Check your calendar to assure yourself that everything you need is lined up and ready. 4. Take immediate action. Do you need to take back that library book? Do it now, while you're thinking about it. At least put the book by the front door; lean it right up against the door if you have to. If you're plagued with general absentmindedness, it could mean that your life is simply a bit out of control. Excess stress, lots of responsibilities, and plenty of distractions are interfering with your ability to pay attention, which then interferes with your ability to remember. You're most likely to be absentminded when you're preoccupied. Those who are easily distracted or who tend to be daydreamers are particularly vulnerable to interference. Here's a quick list of ways to regain some control over your daily life and your memory: 1. Get organized. Develop a routine and stick to it. If you're organized, you can often make up for not remembering certain things by keeping information and various possessions in easily accessible places.

2. Enlist a list. Keep a daily to-do list, and cross off items once they've been done. Always keep the list in the same place, and organize the list into categories. Make your list easy to find: Put it on a large, colored sheet of paper. 3. Keep a calendar handy to keep track of important dates. Check the calendar at the same time every day so it becomes a habit. When you buy a new calendar at the beginning of the year, transfer all important dates from the old calendar. 4. Have a place for everything, and put everything in its place. If you have a key rack right inside your door, you'll be more likely to hang your keys there and remember where they are. 5. If you need to remember to take certain things to work or school, keep a tote bag or backpack right by the front door. Keep all papers and items that need to go with you in that bag or backpack. 6. Focus on one thing at a time, and try to pay active attention each time you put something down. 7. Make visual cues: Place a colored sticky note on your steering wheel, protruding up from your briefcase or purse, on your office chair, or on your bathroom mirror, your shoes, or your wallet. Don't assume you'll remember; leave plenty of reminders. 8. Keep important numbers in one place, so you can locate them even if you're under a lot of stress. Be sure to keep these numbers in your wallet: phone numbers for doctors, emergency contacts, neighbors, medical insurance and social security numbers, licenseplate number and automobile-insurance information. 9. Write things down as they occur -- use lists, schedules, and so on. 10.Return frequently used items to the same spot each time, and rely on placement to trigger your memory (for example, leave an umbrella on the doorknob). 11.Repeat yourself. If someone tells you information that you need to remember, repeat it over and over again to yourself. 12.Keep a positive attitude about memory lapses as you get older. Remember, memory decline is not inevitable. Be sensitive to the many things that can make you prone to forget. You can take action to overcome or mitigate most of them. The more harried you are, the harder it can be to remember the everyday details of your life. You need a system, which is why so many people rely on calendars, electronic organizers, appointment books, computerized reminders, and other memory aids. There are also certain strategies that you can employ to handle specific types of memory problems. On the next page learn how to improve your memory when it comes to remembering daily tasks and habits. REMEMBERING HABITUAL TASKS If you have trouble remembering habitual tasks such as turning off the coffee pot each morning or feeding the cat, the key to solving this problem is to relate the activity to something that you don't generally forget to do every day. For example, if you often forget to take your vitamin pill in the morning, tell yourself each day that you won't eat your breakfast until you have taken your vitamin. Make swallowing that vitamin pill a prerequisite to taking your first bite of food.

By incorporating a task into an outline of things that you don't forget to do, you will be less likely to forget that task. You can even make the connection a physical one, say by storing your bottle of vitamins right in front of your cereal box in the cabinet. Recalling Where You Put Things There is hope for those who can't remember where they left their car keys or their purse. The main reason why you forget where you put these items is that you weren't paying attention when you dropped them on the hall table, the bedside table, or the kitchen counter. Because you weren't paying attention in the first place, when it comes time to retrieve the memory of where you left the object, you can't. It was never properly absorbed into your short-term memory in the first place. This problem is compounded by the fact that you have probably dropped your keys or glasses down in many different places many different times, so when you do recall leaving them somewhere, you may not be recalling the most recent place you put them. Once again, the solution is really quite simple: Pay attention. And if you can't pay attention, be consistent. Make a concerted effort to pay attention to where you are placing the keys. Stop yourself in the middle of dropping them on the desk and take a deep breath. Stare at the desk and say out loud, "I am putting my keys on the desk." If you force yourself to pay attention, you're less likely to forget when it comes time to retrieve that particular memory. This may feel a bit silly at first, but it's a sure bet you'll remember where you left them. The other sure-fire way to remember particular items is to put them back in exactly the same place, every single time. Find specific places to keep all the items that are often misplaced:

glasses keys medications coupons TV remote cell phone cordless phone

In addition, you can take steps to minimize the number of less significant things you have to remember in the first place. If you never seem to be able to find small, often-used items, such as tape dispensers, scissors, or pens, stop torturing yourself: Simply buy extras and keep them all over the house. To end the frustration of tracking down the TV remote, consider attaching one of the commercially available "homing devices" -- the kind that beeps when you clap your hands -- to the remote. You may be able to find a key chain that works in a similar fashion to help you locate your keys.

Cordless phones are a real boon to our busy, modern lives but not if the last person to use the phone simply left it on the sofa instead of back on the base unit. If you find yourself wasting time searching high and low for the handset of the cordless phone each time that you want to use it, check to see if your unit has an "intercom" button on the base unit; pressing this button makes the handset ring, making it faster and easier for you to find it. Remembering Your Schedule It won't matter much if you can remember to do something in the future if you don't remember to do it at the right time. For example, you may remember that you need to mail in your IRS payment a week before the deadline, but if you forget all about the task on the day you intended to do it and the deadline passes, you haven't solved your problem. In fact, a problem with remembering dates is one of the most common memory failures. A combination of mental strategies and mechanical reminders should help get this problem under control. One way to solve the problem of forgetting dates is to cue your attention. For example, you could take your IRS payment and tape it to the front door, or tape a dollar bill to the front door to remind yourself. Here are some tried-and-true cues:

Attach a safety pin to your sleeve. Put a rubber band around your wrist. Move your watch to the opposite arm. Leave a note to yourself (a brightly colored sticky note is ideal) in a prominent place.

Using a calendar is an excellent mechanical method of remembering dates. The key is not to use two calendars -- one at home and one at work. If you do, you're asking for trouble when you forget to transfer an important date and then inadvertently schedule two things for the same day. Get one calendar that's convenient to carry with you. Or, if you can access your computer both at home and at work, try using your software's calendar program to keep track of appointments and important dates electronically. Whatever calendar you ultimately choose, all important days should be marked down. Every morning, consult the calendar and cross off items as they occur. On the first day of the new year, get out a new calendar and transfer all of the important dates from the old calendar so you don't forget anything. Remembering What You're Doing We've all gone into a room and totally forgotten what we're doing there. If you've done this, you're not alone; experts suggest that more than half of all Americans experience this problem. It's not incipient dementia, it's just a lack of attention. Each time you have a thought about going into a room to get something, simply stop for a moment and tell yourself out loud what you are going to get. If you're already in the other room and can't remember what you're doing there, try retracing your steps to where you were standing when you had the thought to leave the room. This form of association will often help jog the memory of your errand.

Studies show that it's not unusual for people of all ages to forget places, names, and dates. On the next page, learn memory tricks and other strategies to remember these basics. REMEMBERING PLACES, NAMES AND DATES It's not unusual to forget where you've parked the car. Here's how to remember where you parked it: After you park your car in a big parking lot, don't just get out of the car and head straight for your destination. Stop. Look around and make a mental note of where you are. Find something that will help you remember: Did you park next to a tall lamp post? Is there a parking number or letter posted to help you find your way? Check to see if there's a sign on the store or in the store window that aligns with the row you parked in, and repeat what the sign says to yourself as you enter the store. Better yet, write a description of the location on the parking garage ticket or other paper and put it with your keys. Don't rely on a description of the cars parked around you; they could very well be gone when you come back for your car. If you tend to lose your way as you walk, ride your bike, or travel in a car, you need to better register the way as you go:

As you travel, try to take mental snapshots along the route. Flash back to them in your mind once in a while. Record visual "cues" from both directions if you can (things might look different from the opposite direction). Look for that big red barn, the funny sign, the crooked tree. Use all your senses. Pay attention to unusual smells or noises; the more senses you involve, the stronger the memory trace will be. Use maps. And if you're not good at reading maps, write down directions, and study them thoroughly before you leave.

Remembering Quantities If you've ever been in the midst of baking brownies and suddenly realized you have no idea how much flour you've dumped in the bowl, you need help in paying attention to amounts. Try visualizing the amount of flour in the measure. Pour it in while saying out loud the amount you're using, "One cup, two cups..." You'll find that when you comment out loud on how many cups you've put in, you're less likely to forget or get sidetracked. You may want to resort to a backup strategy. For every cup of flour you pour, set aside an object to represent that cup: a coffee bean, a raisin, a spoon. Each time you add another cup of flour, set aside another bean or raisin. This way you can visually check exactly how much you've added, even if you're continually interrupted. Remembering Names There you are at a business party, chatting with someone whose name you've forgotten. A third person comes up and you're expected to make an introduction, but you can't remember the name.

This is certainly not unusual. Most of us can remember faces quite easily, even if we've only seen them once or twice. But when it comes to attaching a name to that face, that's another matter entirely. We tend to remember faces more readily because it involves the process of recognition, whereas attaching a name to the face requires a process called recall. What's the distinction? Recognition is much easier for the brain to accomplish, because recognition simply requires you to choose among a limited number of alternatives that are present in front of your eyes -- sort of like a multiple-choice question. But to recall a name, the brain has to go digging for it, which is a much more complex process. Recall, then, is more like a fill-in-the-blank question. The process of recall is generally easier if we have some retrieval cues -- or hints -- that give the brain some direction as it searches through our memory banks for a name. One way to do this is to associate an individual's name with another piece of information that you already know. For example, when you first meet a person and hear their name, you might tell yourself that this person has the same name as your mother-in-law or the same name as your favorite baseball player. You can also use the verbal technique to help implant a person's name in your memory when you first meet them. To do this, simply: 1. 2. 3. 4. Register the person's name: Pay attention to it as it is said! Repeat the person's name to yourself. Comment on the name. Use the person's name out loud as soon as possible.

Another strategy for remembering names is to use the visual technique. There are three simple steps to get the name right every time using this technique: 1. Associate the name with something meaningful. That's easy with a name like "Bales" (picture two bales of hay). If it's something more difficult, like Sokoloff, think of "Soak it all off" and picture a giant sponge sopping up spilled milk. 2. Note distinctive features of the person's face. 3. Form a visual association between the face and the name. If you've just met Jill Brown, and she has very dark eyes, picture those brown eyes as you say the name to yourself. After you've done all you can to remember the name, you need to rehearse the name if you're going to remember it. Repeat the name to yourself again in about 15 seconds. If you've met several people, repeat the names to yourself while picturing the faces before the end of the event. The more often you can repeat the names early on, the more likely they will stick in your head. Remembering names can be an important social skill; we all like to think that other people remember us. The ability to remember names of even slight acquaintances is highly regarded. Mnemonic Strategies

If you're interested in greatly sharpening your memory, there is a range of more sophisticated methods called mnemonic strategies that have been proven to aid memory. Some of them are fairly complex and take practice to learn, but they do work. On the next page, learn about linking and chaining strategies, which involve making associations, to improve your memory. LINKING AND CHAINING STRATEGIES The most basic strategy for remembering is called the link method (or "chaining"), which is particularly good for memorizing short lists. It's a form of visualizing, but with this system you must link the items together by thinking of images that connect them. Here's how it works: 1. First, form a visual image for each item on the list. 2. Associate the image for the first item with the image for the second, and then link the second with the third, and so on. 3. To recall the list, begin with the first item, and then proceed in order as each item leads to the next one. When using the link system, don't try to associate every item with every other item on the list; just associate the items two at a time. While a grocery list does not necessarily have to be remembered in order (although it sometimes helps you to find things faster), let's use it as an example:

cabbage pickles potatoes orange juice bread

1. Form a visual association between the cabbage and the pickles. You might, for example, imagine a pickle trying to roll a giant head of cabbage up a steep hill. 2. Next, create a link between the pickles and the potatoes: Imagine one giant dill pickle in a bow tie and tails dancing with a potato dressed in an evening gown. 3. Then, link the potatoes with the orange juice, perhaps by imagining the potato in a jogging suit swigging down a frosty glass of orange juice. 4. Finally, tie the orange juice to the bread, say, by visualizing a slice of bread with a sail, battling waves in a vast sea of orange juice. Why such zany visuals? Well, we tend to notice and more easily remember things that are out of the ordinary. When you're creating images, the more vivid they are, the more likely they will

stick in your head. It's also important to use the first association that pops into your mind, since this, too, will make it easier for you to remember the same association when you are trying to recall the list. Here's a bigger list of words to try to chain:

shoe piano tree pencil bird bus book dog pizza flower basketball door rabbit spoon eye chair house computer rock

One problem with this strategy is that, while each link is associated with the one before it, you have to be able to remember the first item on your own. And if you have a really bad memory for lists, you may find that quite difficult to do. To solve this problem, you should cue the first item in some way, preferably in a way that is related to the purpose of the list. If you're trying to remember a grocery list, for example, link the first item with the front door of the store. Using our previous shopping list, you could imagine a big green cabbage handing out sales fliers at the front door of the grocery store or perhaps sitting in a grocery cart and waving at you. If you have a really bad memory, it's still possible that if you forget one item on the linked list, it may drag the item that it's linked to into oblivion as well. For you, another mnemonic strategy, such as the method of loci, may be a better choice. The method of loci, discussed later in this article, has an advantage over the link method because all of the items are linked to a place, not to each other. On the other hand, one nice thing about the link system is that once you are good at using it to remember a few items, you can move on to remember 20 or 30 items. Don't think so? Take this test and find out:

Have a friend give you a list of 20 items (the words should be nouns, not verbs or adjectives, and they should be concrete objects rather than abstract concepts). Write down the first word, and associate it visually with your partner (for example, if the first noun is CHAIR, imagine your partner balancing a chair on their nose). As you write down each consecutive noun, create a mental image that links it to the previous noun in the list. Then give the list back to your partner, and try to recall the list using the mental images you created. You are likely to be amazed at how many items you can remember.

The more you practice this linking system, the more efficient you'll become at creating mental links between words in a list and the better your memory for lists will become. On the next page, learn how telling yourself a story can be an effective way to remember lists of information. STORY SYSTEM STRATEGIES A close cousin to the link method is the story system, in which you link the items you want to remember in a story. Using our previous grocery list, you could create a story like this: The cabbage picked up a jar of pickles to throw at the potato, who slipped in a puddle of orange juice and landed on a mattress made of bread. You can see that the story system, unlike the link system, links all of the items in an integrated narrative. This can make it much easier for you to remember all of the items, since the items occur in a logical framework instead of in an unrelated association of pairs. On the other hand, it takes some time and creativity to weave together a story that incorporates all the items in a list. Some people simply aren't good at making up stories, and even those who are may find it difficult if the list has more than a few items, because the story becomes rather complex quite quickly. In addition, like the link system, the story system makes it difficult to recall items out of sequence. On the next page, learn about the method of loci, one of the oldest memory aids and favorite of ancient thinkers such as Cicero. THE METHOD OF LOCI The oldest known mnemonic strategy is called the method of loci ("loci" is the plural of locus, which means location, or place). It's based on the assumption that you can best remember places that you are familiar with, so if you can link something you need to remember with a place that you know very well, the location will serve as a clue that will help you to remember. Devised during the days of the Roman Empire, the method of loci is really a sort of linking method with a twist. According to Cicero, this method was developed by the poet Simonides of Ceos, who was the only survivor of a building collapse during a dinner he attended. Simonides was able to identify the dead, who were crushed beyond recognition, by remembering where the

guests had been sitting. From this experience, he realized that it would be possible to remember anything by associating it with a mental image of a location. The loci system was used as a memory tool by both Greek and Roman orators, who took advantage of the technique to give speeches without the aid of notes. Dating back to about 500 b.c., it was the most popular mnemonic system until about the mid-1600s, when the phonetic and peg systems were introduced. This method works especially well if you're good at visualizing. Here's how it works:

Think of a place you know well, such as your own house. Visualize a series of locations in the place in logical order. For example, picture the path you normally take in your house to get from the front door to the back door. Begin at the front door, go through the hall, turn into the living room, proceed through the dining room and into the kitchen, and so on. As you enter each location, move logically and consistently in the same direction, from one side of the room to the other. Each piece of furniture could serve as an additional location. Place each item that you want to remember at one of the locations. When you want to remember the items, simply visualize your house and go through it room by room in your mind. Each item that you associated with a specific location in your house should spring to mind as you mentally make your way through your home.

Here's how it would work if you wanted to remember the following shopping list:

shaving cream peaches hot dogs ketchup ice cream

As you visualize your house, imagine spraying shaving cream all over the front door. Don't just imagine the word "shaving cream." Really see it as you depress the nozzle and spray the foam all over the front door. Try to imagine the smell of the shaving cream, as well. Now open the door, enter the hall, and imagine a giant peach rolling down the steps in the front hall and heading right for you. Now walk into the living room, and visualize a six-foot-tall hot dog in a bun wearing a cowboy hat and lounging by the fireplace. Enter the dining room and picture a bottle of ketchup, dressed in an old-fashioned maid's uniform, setting the table. Finally, go to the kitchen and picture a gallon of ice cream, melting as it slaves over a hot stove. After you've visually placed all your list items around the house, when you try to remember your shopping list, all you have to do is visualize your front door. You will instantly see the shaving cream; as you enter the hall, the peach will pop into your mind; and so on. The more outrageous and unusual you make your mental images, the easier you'll find it is to remember them.

You can use this method to remember lists of items, important points in a speech, names of people at an event or meeting, things you need to do, even a thought you want to keep in mind. This method works well because it changes the way you remember, so that you use familiar locations to cue yourself about things. Because the locations are organized in an order that you know well, one memory flows into the next very easily. You can adapt this system by adding other buildings you know very well: your office building, a mall, your friend's house, a trip through your town, your garden -- any place you know well. It doesn't matter how close or how far apart each room or location is. What is important is how distinct one place is from another. In other words, you might not want to use your town library, which is probably built with identical aisles of shelves filled with books. In addition to making each location very distinct and memorable, you'll want to be sure to have an association between an item and its location by having the item and location interact. If you were trying to remember the First Amendment and visualized a reporter just standing beside a desk in the front hall, it would not be as memorable as it would be if the reporter were busy typing the Constitution at the desk in your front hall. You can also place more than one item in any location. If you have a list of 50 grocery items to remember, you could place 5 items at each of 10 locations. Each of these five items should interact at its location. For example, you might think of your daily routine, beginning at home:

your bedroom your bathroom your kitchen your garage the driver's seat of your car

Now you must link the items that you want to remember to each of these places. Of course, first you must remember the places, but this should be easy, because they are a part of your daily routine. Then chain each item to a place; remember, the more creative and vivid your ideas, the better. Using the grocery-list example: You wake up next to a giant can of shaving cream; you find a giant peach having a bubble bath in your bathroom; a hot dog in a chef's hat is cooking you breakfast; a bottle of ketchup on wheels is parked in your spot in the garage; and a gallon of ice cream, wearing a seatbelt and sunglasses, is melting in the driver's seat. You could then picture five more items along your route to work, five more in your office, and so on. Both the linking and the loci methods allow you to remember items on a list, but neither lets you locate just one particular item. For example, if you wanted to find the tenth item using the linking system, you'd have to work your way down through the first nine items to get to it. Of course, this is true for anything we learn in a serial way: Most people wouldn't be able to name the nineteenth letter of the alphabet without counting from A to S first.

The way around this problem is to place a distinguishing mark at every fifth place. Using the loci method, at the fifth place, you could incorporate a five-dollar bill into the image. At the tenth location, you could incorporate an image of a clock with its hands pointing to ten o'clock. The same thing can be done with the linking method: Incorporate a five-dollar bill image into the link between the fourth and sixth items, for example, or a ten-dollar bill between the ninth and eleventh. Using these added touches, there is really no limit to the number of things you can remember with either of these two methods. PEG SYSTEMS Peg systems are probably the best known of all memory systems. In these systems, items to be remembered are pegged to, or associated with, certain images in a prearranged order. The idea behind the peg systems has been traced to the mid-1600s, when it was developed by Henry Herdson, who linked a digit with any one of several objects that resembled the number (for example, "1 candle"). The system gets its name from the fact that the peg words act as mental "pegs" on which you can hang the information that you need to remember. The peg method is a better memory strategy than either the link or loci method because it's not dependent on retrieving items in sequence. You can access any item on the list without having to work your way through the whole thing. It is, however, a bit more complicated to learn at first. In the peg system, you learn a standard set of peg words, and then you link the items you need to remember with the pegs. The peg method can be used to remember ideas and concepts and to organize activities as well as to remember lists for shopping and errands. The various forms of the peg system all use a concrete object to represent each number. What's different amongst them is how you choose the object that represents each number. One peg system relies on using pegs that look like the numbers they represent, another relies on pegs that rhyme with the number, one relies on meaning, and another uses alphabetic pegs. Two of the easiest peg systems to master are the rhyming and alphabet forms, which we'll discuss here. Rhyming Pegs (Visual Pegs) The best-known of the peg systems is the rhyming peg method, in which numbers from one to ten are associated with rhymes: one-bun, two-shoe, and so on. This system was introduced in England sometime around 1879 by John Sambrook. The system is easy to use, and many people already know many of the standard rhymes from the nursery rhyme "one, two, buckle my shoe." In order to use the system, you must memorize the words that rhyme with numbers one through ten (most peg systems don't include a peg word for zero, but you can make one up yourself): 1 = bun 2 = shoe 3 = tree

4 = door 5 = hive 6 = sticks 7 = heaven 8 = gate 9 = vine 10 = hen 1. Now, as you say each rhyme, visualize the item that the peg word represents. Picture it vividly -- is the bun a hot dog bun or a hot cross bun? Is the shoe an old battered sneaker or a black high-heeled pump? 2. Now draw the item. The act of drawing will help you remember the rhyme, creating a strong mental association between the numbers and the words that rhyme with them. 3. Imagine each peg word as vividly as possible. By visualizing the object that each word represents, you'll fix it securely in your mind, creating a strong mental association between the number and the word that rhymes with it. Once you've formed an association between the numbers and the words that rhyme with them, you've constructed your pegs. Practice by saying each of the peg words out loud. Then try picturing the peg words in place of the numbers as you randomly jump amongst the numbers: five, three, one, eight. Because the words rhyme with the numbers, you don't have to say the numbers to remember the words. If you want to remember a list, all you have to do is link each item with a peg: the first item with a bun, the second item with a shoe, and so on. To remember the list, call up each peg, and you'll automatically remember the mental image that is linked to each peg. Here's how it could work for a short grocery list of milk, bread, eggs, and ham. You could start out by visualizing a jug of milk balancing a bun on its lid. Then imagine a muddy sneaker squashing a loaf of French bread. Then think of a tree filled with eggs. And finally, picture a ham in a beret banging on a door to be let in. When you get to the store and you think of one -bun -- you'll think of a bottle of milk. Two -- shoe -- you'll see a shoe squashing the bread. Peg words can help you remember lists of items or errands and daily activities. This system may not work for those with memory problems caused by brain damage on one side of the brain, however, since it requires remembering in two distinct stages, one involving the right hemisphere and the other involving the left.

Alphabet Peg Systems The alphabet makes a good system, since it is naturally ordered and everyone knows it. In order to create concrete images for the letters, each image either rhymes with the letter of the alphabet it represents or has the letter as the initial sound of the word. The alphabet peg system might be: A = hay, B = bee, C = sea. Peg words can be created that rhyme with or sound similar to the letters of the alphabet that they represent: A = bay B = bee C = sea D = deep E = eve F = effect G = geology H = age I = eye J = jay K = quay L = elm M = Emma N = end O = open P = pea Q = cue R = art S = essay T = tea

U = you V = veer W = double you X = exit Y = why Z = zebra If you don't like the rhyming aspect of the alphabetic peg-word system, you can come up with a list that doesn't rhyme but that simply uses the same letter of the alphabet to begin each word. A = artichoke B = bat C = cake D = dog E = elephant F = fireman G = goat H = horse I = iron J = jelly K = kangaroo L = llama M = mouse N = napkin O = orange P = pail

Q = queen R = rat S = shoe T = tank U = umbrella V = vase W = wagon X = xylophone Y = yarn Z = zebra The only problem with using the alphabet system is that most people don't automatically know the numeric equivalent of the alphabet, so they can't be directly retrieved as easily. For example, most people don't know, without counting, that S is the nineteenth letter, so if they wanted to recall the nineteenth item out of sequence, they would have to count off the letters and then retrieve the associated image. Other Peg Systems You can also select peg words on the basis of meaning: one = me (there is only one "me"); three = pitchfork (three prongs); five = hand (five fingers on a hand). Numbers make good peg words because they have a natural order, and everyone knows them. Unfortunately, this system is limited because it's hard to find good peg words to represent numbers beyond ten. Chunking One good way of remembering information is to use chunking; that is, grouping separate bits of information into larger chunks in order to better remember them. Often, organizing them in a particular way, such as according to sound, rules of grammar, or rhythm can help you recall them. For example, if you want to remember a ten-digit phone number (9991357920), it's much easier to break it up into chunks of two, three, and four digits: 999-135-7920. That's why social security numbers are given in chunks of three, two, and four (999-99-9999) instead of as one unbroken number (999999999). Remembering things is easier when the information is grouped in smaller chunks. Acrostic Strategies

An acrostic is a phrase that uses the first letter of a word as a cue to remembering it. If you were a young medical student, one of the most familiar acrostics you would use would be: On Old Olympus' Towering Top A Famous Vocal German Viewed Some Hops. What does this mean? The first letters of each of the words in this phrase stand for the first letter of each of the cranial nerves, in order: olfactory nerve (I), optic nerve (II), oculomotor nerve (III), trochlear nerve (IV), trigeminal nerve (V), abducens nerve (VI), facial nerve (VII), vestibulocochlear nerve (VIII), glossopharyngeal nerve (IX), vagus nerve (X), spinal accessory nerve (XI), and hypoglossal nerve (XII). And if you've ever taken a beginning music class, you probably learned an acrostic phrase similar to "Every Good Boy Does Fine," which is designed to remind you that the notes that fall on the lines of the musical staff are E, G, B, D, F. And if you want to remember the order of the colors in a rainbow, just remember the name Roy G. Biv. Each letter in his name stands for a color: R= red; O = orange; Y = yellow; G = green; B = blue; I = indigo; V = violet. Now that you've learned several different memorization strategies, let's try applying them to one of the most common scenarios that requires memorization: delivering a prepared speech. How to Remember Speeches There you are at your desk, staring down at five pages of a speech that you're supposed to give to your colleagues tomorrow evening. You're struggling to memorize every last word but you're worried that, come tomorrow, your memory will fail you. What should you do? Contrary to what you might think, you should not try to memorize the speech word for word. A memorized speech doesn't sound like a spontaneous, off-the-cuff set of remarks -- it sounds canned and therefore can be rather boring and flat. Even Jay Leno would probably put viewers to sleep if he recited a memorized speech. What's worse, if you do try to memorize a speech and you forget a word or phrase, odds are you'll panic, and that will only compound your memory problems. Of course, you can sidestep this problem by reading your speech right from the paper, but that's worse than memorizing it -- it's a sure way to lose your audience. And woe to you if you lose your place -- more fumbling and panic. Ideally, what you want to do is to appear before your audience and calmly have a conversation with them, in your own words, explaining what you want to say. Sound impossible? Not at all. The best speakers do this every day, using the same techniques that you can master. There is a whole range of mnemonic strategies you can use to help you remember a speech without having to learn the whole thing word for word and without reading it from cue cards or

index cards. What's a speech, anyway, but a series of thoughts strung together in an interesting way? If you can use your own words and follow a logical sequence, you'll be home free. To do this, you'll have to write out the whole speech, to make sure you cover the important points. Next, you can simply choose one of the mnemonic techniques we discussed above.

One of the oldest ways of remembering a speech is to use the method of loci, in which you place information in imaginary locations. To remember the information, you remember the location. Here's how to remember a speech using this method: Write down the main points of your speech. Choose a familiar building to place the main points of your speech: Your own home is a good choice. Visualize the first point of your speech at your front door. Visualize the second point of your speech in your hallway. Move through your home in a logical sequence, leaving one main point in each room. When you stand up to give your speech, simply go to your front door: The main point will be waiting for you. Mentally work your way around the rooms, and you'll cover all the main points of your speech.

Of course, the loci system isn't the only way to remember a speech. You can use a different mnemonic strategy if you prefer. Some people prefer the linking system for remembering the key points in a speech. They select a key word to represent a whole thought, and they link each of the representative words together. How to Improve Your Memory While Studying Kara doesn't much like American history, and she's put off studying for the final exam on Friday. On Thursday night, she stays up and reads over each chapter from beginning to end. But when she sits down to take the test the next day, she can't seem to remember a thing that she read. What happened? Kara went about studying for the test in the wrong way. Simply sitting down the night before and reading through the entire chapter, without questioning, commenting, or categorizing, with the vague hope that she'd remember what she read, is pretty much like throwing a batch of file cards into a box and hoping to remember what's on them later. Unfortunately, Kara's study methods are pretty common among students. Studying for a test just by reading over the information one time will give you a retention rate of only about 20 percent, no matter how smart you are. Fortunately, by learning some simple retention strategies, you can boost your recall to more than 80 percent. Memory strategies can help you learn spelling, vocabulary, a foreign language, names of historical figures, states and capitals, scientific terms, cities and primary products, U.S. presidents, foreign kings, basic math -- just about everything a person needs to learn in school or on the job.

There are three main ways to boost your memory of basic facts:

by practicing active recall during learning by periodic reviews of the material by overlearning the material beyond the point of bare mastery

Involve Yourself in Reading!Instead of just reading, you need to read and think about what you're reading. Here are some suggestions for doing just that:

Think of questions for yourself before, during, and after the reading session. Ask yourself what is happening next, why it's happening, and what would happen if one event or fact was different. Note what interests you. Take a moment to make a mental comment out loud. Train yourself to summarize, a section at a time. What are the main points in the text you just read? What are the logical conclusions?

Visualize as You ReadTry to imagine yourself in the place you're reading about, or try to imagine yourself doing what you're studying. Include yourself in images that you build in your mind. If you're reading about the Civil War, picture yourself on the battlefield. Why are you there? What is the enemy doing, and why? The better you can put yourself into a scene, the better you'll remember what you are reading. Of course, it's much easier to visualize yourself in a battle than it is to link yourself to the major exports of Peru. Instead of just trying to visualize "wool, wheat, and corn," imagine you're a Peruvian farmer raising sheep and growing wheat and corn. This will work with just about anything, except perhaps for numbers and dates. Take a Note!Taking notes won't help you if you scribble down the words in class without thinking about what you're writing, which is unfortunately the way too many students take notes. The best way to take notes in class:

Take them carefully while thinking about their content. Review them as you write. Summarize whenever possible. Isolate what's important and discard the rest while you're writing. Don't take down every word your teacher says.

PQRST MethodOne of the most popular techniques for remembering written material is the PQRST method: Preview, Question, Read, State, and Test. Memory experts think this works better than simple rehearsal because it provides you with better retrieval cues.

Preview. Skim through the material briefly. Read the preface, table of contents, and chapter summaries. Preview a chapter by studying the outline and skimming the chapter

(especially headings, photographs, and charts). The object is to get an overview of the book or chapter (this shouldn't take more than a few minutes). Question. Ask important questions about the information you're reading. If the chapter includes review questions at the end, read them before you begin reading the chapter and try to keep them in mind as you go. What are the main points in the text? How does the action occur? Read over the paragraph headings and ask yourself questions about them. Read. Now read the material completely, without taking notes. Underlining text can help you remember the information, provided you do it properly. The first time you read a chapter, don't underline anything (it's hard to pick out the main points the first time through). Most people tend to underline way too many things, which isn't helpful when you want to be able to go back later and review important points. Instead, read over one section and then go back and, as you work your way through each paragraph, underline the important points. Think about the points you're underlining. State. State the answers to key questions out loud. Reread the chapter and ask yourself questions and answer them out loud. Read what you've underlined out loud, and think about what you're saying. You should spend about half your studying time stating information out loud. Test. Test yourself to make sure you remembered the information. Go through the chapter again and ask questions. Space out your self-testing so you're doing it during a study session, after a study session, and right before a test. If you'd like, enlist the help of a friend to quiz you.

Make the Most of StudyingWhen you study is almost as important as how you study. It's better to schedule several shorter study sessions rather than one marathon all-nighter. This is probably because you can only concentrate for a certain period of time. If you try to study in one long session, you won't be able to maintain your concentration throughout. Breaks help you consolidate what you've learned. On the other hand, you can overdo the short sessions as well -- scheduling too many short study sessions can be worse than cramming all of your studying into one marathon session. The trick is to determine the optimum length of a study session and how many sessions work best for you and for the material. Research suggests that difficult information or inexperienced students require shorter sessions for best results. If you have several subjects to study, it's better to separate them and spread them out over several days. You should also vary your learning methods: Take notes one day, make an outline the next, recite information out loud during the third study session. You'll also want to avoid interference when you study. If you're boning up for a math test, don't close the math book and then read magazines, watch TV, and listen to music before going to bed. Study, then go to bed, so nothing else can interfere with what you've learned. Studies have also shown that sleeping between studying and testing is the best way to do well on a test. A person who sleeps right after studying will remember more than someone who stays awake. It's also true that other activities between studying and the test will influence how well you remember. If you've spent several hours studying French, you shouldn't then study Latin before

going to bed. In fact, if you have two very similar subjects to study, it's best not to study them in the same location. First-Letter Cuing (Acronyms)The use of the first letter of a word as a cue to remembering the word itself can be helpful in remembering material. This cueing usually employs acronyms - making a word out of the first letters of the words to be remembered. For example, it's possible to remember the Great Lakes using the acronym HOMES (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior). Another related type of first-letter cueing is the acrostic, discussed previously, in which the first letters in a series of words form a word or phrase. For example, names of the strings of the viola (CGDA) can be remembered by the acrostic: Cats Go Down Alleys. Because the acronym system is so effective, most organizations and governmental bodies make use of first-letter cueing: NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) or AA (Alcoholics Anonymous). Some acronyms are so well known that the original full name has been all but forgotten, as in "scuba" (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) gear. The only problem with first-letter cueing is the propensity to forget what the strategy has been used for. Therefore, it's a good idea to make the association remind you of the information to be remembered. Imagine HOMES floating on the Great Lakes, so that when you want to think of the names of all the lakes, the image of HOMES will return to you and with it, the first letter of each of the lakes. Peg and LinkBoth the peg and linking systems that we discussed earlier also work well with studying school subjects. Review those methods and try practicing with them, especially for rote learning and memorization (such as a list of U.S. Presidents or the amendments to the Constitution). ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Richard C. Mohs, Ph.D., has been vice chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and associate chief of staff for research at the Bronx Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The author or co-author of more than 300 scientific papers, Dr. Mohs has conducted numerous research studies on aging, Alzheimer's disease, and cognitive function. HELPFUL WAYS TO BOOST YOUR MEMORY Can't find your keys ... again? Whether your momentary memory loss is linked to doing too many things at once or just a bad case of menopausal brain fog, you don't have to put up with it.

Research suggests exercise even once a week may help you maintain cognitive function as you age.

In fact, experts say you can instantly boost your chances of remembering where you put your keys--and everything else you keep forgetting--if you start treating your brain right (no matter your age). Our simple lifestyle changes will help you stay sharp as the years go by. The 30s Floss every day: What do loving licorice and hating the idea of flossing have in common? Both can contribute to plaque on your teeth, which is surprisingly bad for your brain. "The plaque between teeth can cause an immune reaction that attacks arteries, which then can't deliver vital nutrients to brain cells," says Dr. Michael Roizen, co-author of "YOU--The Owner's Manual: An Insider's Guide to the Body that Will Make You Healthier and Younger." Solution? Floss every day. Can't remember? Keep the floss where you store your morning makeup. Multitask at the gym: Just as working out can keep your body in good shape as you age, stretching your brain can keep it in top form, too. And doing them together is double the fun: Do a crossword puzzle while riding a stationary bike or listen to language lessons on your iPod while running. Scientists say that working the body and mind at the same time revitalizes brain cells. Don't like multitasking? Hit the crossword right after the gym, when your brain is energized. Go fish: Look to the sea for healthy ways to feed your brain. DHA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid found in salmon, trout, and some fortified foods such as yogurt, is a super saver for your memory. How yoga can help you remember Health Library Memory loss -- 7 tips to improve your memory

"DHA decreases arterial inflammation and improves repair of the protective sheath around nerves," Roizen says. "The result is less age-related memory loss, less Alzheimer's disease, less depression, and a quicker mind." The 40s Steal your kids' toys: There's a new version of that Rubik's Cube that you loved as kid. It's the 3-D-like Rubik's 360, and it's probably good for brains of any age, because it sharpens flexible problem-solving skills, says neuropsychologist Karen Spangenberg Postal, Ph.D., president of the Massachusetts Psychological Association. The key: As you play, you're working on your memory, strategy, and spatial skills--all required for improving brain health--at the same time. What if you always found the Cube endlessly frustrating? No worries: Any game that stretches your thinking is helpful. Why you can't concentrate Just do it: Elevating your heart rate three times a week for 20 minutes--even just by walking-bathes your brain in oxygen and helps it grow new cells. "Aerobic exercise is two to three times as effective as any known brain-training activity," says Sam Wang, Ph.D., associate professor of neuroscience at Princeton University and co-author of "Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys but Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life." If you have no time for the gym during the week, that's OK: Recent research shows moderate to vigorous exercise even just once a week (say, a weekend jog) makes you 30 percent more likely to maintain your cognitive function as you age. Start a bridge club: If book clubs bore you and dinner parties leave you exhausted, then maybe a brisk game of bridge is just what the doctor ordered. The combination of strategy and memory in bridge challenges the brain to learn new information and exercises cells so they don't die, Postal says. How to pick the right supplement Plus, socializing while playing cards adds a level of unpredictability that gives your brain a charge--something solo games don't offer. Bridge is definitely on the comeback, so you can learn to play through a community college or continuing education program, or hire a private instructor for lessons. The 50s Plus

Use chopsticks: "Studies show that engaging the concentrated areas of nerve cells in your fingertips directly stimulates your brain," says Maoshing Ni, Ph.D., author of "Second Spring: Dr. Mao's Hundreds of Natural Secrets for Women to Revitalize and Regenerate at Any Age." Truth is, any fingertip activity--using chopsticks, knitting, or even rolling a pen or pencil between your fingers--also helps your brain by boosting your circulation. And good circulation helps eliminate waste products that can prevent nutrients from reaching your brain. Play electronic games: No, you're not too old for a Wii or one of the new handheld brainexercise games. And it may even be good for you, since simply trying something new gets your brain juiced, says neuropsychologist Reon Baird, Ph.D., of the Long Beach Memorial Medical Center. More tricks to improve your memory "When that something new is a video game, you'll stimulate different parts of the brain that you don't normally use on a day-to-day basis," she says. Try "Brain Challenge" for the Wii or "Brain Age" for the Nintendo DS. If that's too techy for you, play along with "Wheel of Fortune" or "Jeopardy!" on TV, Baird says. Challenge your know-it-all spouse to make it more fun. Be careful with meds: If you ache every time you work out and never sleep well due to night sweats, there's a pill for that. But be careful: Research in Clinical Interventions in Aging reveals that nonprescription sleep aids may cause some "cognitive impairment"--like confusion-- in older adults. How much is unknown, but you're probably familiar with the next-day grogginess. And the medicine known as diphenhydramine (found in many allergy medications and nighttime pain pills) has an "anticholinergic" effect; it blocks communication between nerve cells. Talk with your doctor about other remedies like relaxation or cognitive therapy for sleep problems. 10 WAYS TO BOOST YOUR MEMORY The brain never actually loses a memory. It records each one like a computer. However, problems with recall begin when we don't practise retrieving this information and so the memories we had become lost. The brain, like other parts of the body, needs physical and mental exercise, together with particular nutrients, to increase the power of memory. Here we present ten things to remember to do in order never to forget anything . . . SOYA

According to Professor Sandra File, head of the psychopharmacology research unit at Guy's Hospital in London, isoflavones, the natural plant oestrogens in soya foods, might act on oestrogen receptors in the human brain, particularly those in the hippocampus, a crucial area for memory. As a result, new nerve connections form more readily. Medical trials revealed that those fed a high soya diet showed improvements in verbal and nonverbal memory and in mental flexibility, all of which is controlled by the brain's frontal lobes. Soya can be added to the diet through natural products such as soya milk or through a recommended daily 50mg soy isoflavone supplement. MEMORY MINERALS Studies at Kings College, London, and the University of Rochester in New York showed that a reduced iron intake can have a detrimental effect on IQ levels and cognitive function. This is because lack of iron causes low haemoglobin levels, which affect the supply of oxygen to the brain. Iron also plays an important role in the transmission of signals in the Boost your brain power with some mental exercises brain. If you are concerned about children's memory at exam time, give them an iron-rich drink like Spatone, which can replace iron missing from the diet. Deficiency of zinc, found in oysters, red meat and peanuts, can also interfere with memory. Take a supplement of 7-9mg daily. COFFEE Caffeine can improve mental and memory performance because it stimulates many regions of the brain that regulate wakefulness, arousal, mood and concentration. Researchers at the University of Arizona found that older adults who drank half a pint of coffee just before a memory test saw a significant improvement in performance compared to those who drank decaffeinated coffee. However, the benefits might be confined to regular coffee drinkers. Others could suffer sideeffects such as shakiness, anxiety or impaired concentration.

It is still best to drink no more than six cups of coffee a day - those with heart problems should drink less. Too much brewed or percolated coffee can raise blood cholesterol - instant or filter coffee are better choices. MENTAL EXERCISE Research has shown that mental stimulation keeps the brain healthy and increases the strength of memory. People with excellent memories tend to have various interests and tackle challenging mental tasks. As we age, it is normal to have changes in memory, but keeping the mind active does diminish weaknesses. Clinical psychologist Ron Bracey suggests using techniques such as puzzles, crosswords and widening cultural and social interests, all of which creates different pathways in the brain. PHYSICAL EXERCISE Half-an-hour of activity three times a week is enough to bring about significant increase in brain power, says a study at the Duke University Medical Centre in North Carolina. Exercise improves the heart's ability to pump blood more effectively. Memory benefits from improved blood flow to specific regions at the front of the brain whose functions include planning, organisation and the ability to juggle different intellectual tasks. Exercise may also speed glucose metabolism, which improves recall as well as reducing stress, which can interfere with memory. CHEWING GUM Japanese researchers found that activity in the hippocampus, an area of the brain important for memory, increases while people chew. Recent research also suggests that insulin receptors in the brain may be involved, too, as chewing releases insulin because the body is expecting food. But, says Dr Andrew Scholey of the University of Northumbria, the simplest reason could be that chewing increases the heart rate, thus improving the delivery of oxygen to the brain and enhancing its cognitive powers. GINKGO BILOBA

Ginkgo is the world's oldest living tree and first appeared around 300 million years ago. It has been used for memory enhancement in Eastern cultures for thousands of years. Dr George Lewith, complementary health consultant to Boots, says ginkgo improves blood circulation to the brain by dilating blood vessels and increasing its oxygen supply. Ginkgo also mops up harmful compounds known as free radicals, which are thought to damage brain cells. Recommended supplement dose is 120 mg a day. OILY FISH Omega 3 fatty acids, found in oily fish, are essential componentsof brain cell membranes, and their role in cell structure is thought to improve the powers of memory. High concentrations of Omega 3 in the brain and nervous system not only boost learning powers and age-related memory, but also greatly enhance mood. Omega 3 is particularly important during foetal development, so pregnant women should have a regular supply. Good sources include fish such as sardines, salmon, herring and mackerel. Sardines are also a rich source of the nutrient choline, which is a key brain chemical associated with memory. Try to eat three portions of oily fish a week or take a supplement of 330mg three times a week. ROSEMARY AND SAGE Essential oil made from rosemary and sage can stimulate the memory, strengthen clarity and awareness, and help to relieve mental fatigue. Psychologists at the University of Northumbria tested essential oils from rosemary on memory attention and mood and discovered it made volunteers feel more alert and enhanced their long-term memory by around 15 per cent. Volatile molecules from essential oils can also stimulate the olfactory nerve in the nose, which could affect brain functioning. Some studies have found that volunteers' ability to remember lists of words improved by more than 10 per cent if they had taken a capsule of sage oil. Lemon balm, a member of the sage family, also appears to improve attention span. VITAMIN B B vitamins deliver oxygen to the brain and provide protection against free radicals.

They help to sharpen senses and boost memory. Niacin or B3 is particularly good for brain enhancement, while B6 is essential for the manufacture of neurotransmitters, especially mood-enhancing serotonin. B12 is important for overall health of brain cells. B vitamins are also needed to help the body form acetylcholine, a key brain chemical needed for memory. 8 TIPS FOR IMPROVING YOUR MEMORY

Improving your memory is easier than it sounds. Most of think of our memory as something static and unchanging. But its not you can improve your memory just as you can improve your math or foreign language skills, simply by practicing a few tried and true memory building exercises. There are two kinds of memory short-term and long-term. Short-term memory is the kind of memory our brain uses to store small pieces of information needed right away, like someones name when you meet for the first time. Research has demonstrated that shortterm memorys capacity is about seven pieces of information. After that, something has to go. Long-term memory is for things you dont need to remember this instant. When you study for a test or exam, thats long-term memory at work. A memorably moment in your life, events with family or friends, and other similar kinds of situations also get stored in long-term memory. So how do you go about improving your memory? Read on to find out. Your Memory is in Your Brain Although it may seem obvious, memory is formed within your brain. So anything that generally improves your brain health may also have a positive impact on your memory. Physical exercise and engaging in novel brain-stimulating activities such as the crossword puzzle or Sudoku are two proven methods for helping keep your brain healthy. Remember, a healthy body is a healthy brain. Eating right and keeping stress at bay helps not only your mind focus on new information, but also is good for your body too. Getting a good nights sleep every night is important as well. Vitamin supplements and herbal extracts arent the same thing as getting vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids naturally, through the food you eat.

Improve Your Memory So you want to improve your memory? You need to focus on what youre doing and the information youre looking to encode more strongly in your brain. These tips will help you do just that: 1. Focus on it. So many people get caught up in multi-tasking, that we often fail to do the one thing that will almost always improve your memory paying attention to the task at hand. This is important, because your brain needs time to encode the information properly. If it never makes it into your memory, you wont be able to recall it later. If you need to memorize something, quit multitasking. 2. Smell, touch, taste, hear and see it. The more senses you involve when you need to encode memory, usually the more strong a memory it becomes. Thats why the smell of moms home-baked cookies can still be recalled as fresh as though she were downstairs making them just now. Need to remember someones name you met for the first time? It may help to look them in the eye when you repeat their name, and offer a handshake. By doing so, youve engaged 4 out of your 5 senses. 3. Repeat it. One reason people who want to memorize something repeat it over and over again is because repetition (what psychologists sometimes refer to as over learning) seems to work for most people. It helps not to cram, though. Instead, repeat the information spaced out over a longer period of time. 4. Chunk it. Americans remember their long 10-digit telephone numbers despite being able to hold only 7 pieces of information in their brain at one time. They do because weve taught ourselves to chunk the information. Instead of seeing 10 separate pieces of information, we see 3 pieces of information a 3 digit area code, a 3 digit prefix, and a 4 digit number. Because weve been taught since birth to chunk the telephone number in this way, most people dont have a problem remembering a telephone number. This technique works for virtually any piece of information. Divide the large amount of information into smaller chunks, and then focus on memorizing those chunks as individual pieces. 5. Organize it. Our brains like organization of information. Thats why books have chapters, and outlines are recommended as a studying method in school. By carefully organizing what it is you have to memorize, youre helping your brain better encode the information in the first place.

6. Use mnemonic devices. There are a lot of these, but they all share one thing in common they help us remember more complicated pieces of information through imagery, acronyms, rhyme or song. For instance, in medical school, students will often turn memorization of the bones in the body or symptoms of specific illnesses into sentences, where the first letter of each word corresponds with a specific bone or symptom. Learn about more mnemonic devices and memory here. 7. Learn it the way that works for you. People often get caught up in thinking theres a one size fits all learning style for memorizing new material. Thats simply not the case different people prefer different methods for taking in new information. Use the style that works for you, even if its not the way most people study or try and learn new information. For instance, some people like to write things down when theyre learning something new. Others may benefit more from recording what theyre hearing, and going back to take more detailed notes later on at their own leisure. 8. Connect the dots. When we learn, we often forget to try and make associations until later on. However, research has shown that memory can be stronger when you try and make the associations when you first take in the information. For instance, think about how two things are related, and the memory for both will be enhanced. Connect new information to existing information or experiences in your mind. As we age, our memory sometimes seems to get worse. But it doesnt have to. By following these eight tips, you can keep your memory sharp at any age, and improve it any time. CLENCHING YOUR FIST COULD HELP BOOST MEMORY If you find yourself straining to remember the details of a dinner you attended last week, perhaps you should try making a fist with your right hand. A new study published in the journal PLOS ONE shows that clenching your hands into fists could help form memories -- when the right hand is clenched -- and remember the memory later on -- when the left hand is clenched. "The findings suggest that some simple body movements -- by temporarily changing the way the brain functions -- can improve memory," study researcher Ruth Propper, of Montclair State University, said in a statement. "Future research will examine whether hand clenching can also improve other forms of cognition, for example verbal or spatial abilities." For the study, researchers split participants into different groups as they did an activity that involved memorizing and then recalling 72 words. One group clenched their right hands into

fists for 90 seconds before they were given the list of words to memorize, and then clenched their right hands again after they had recalled the words. Another group was asked to do the same thing, but with their left hands. One group didn't clench their hands at all. Another group clenched their left hand before the memorizing task, and then their right hand right before they were asked to recall the words. One last group did the same, but with opposite hands. Of all the hand-clenching combinations, the group that performed the best on the memorization and recalling of words was the one that clenched their right hand in a fist first, and then their left hand in a fist second MEMORY IMPROVEMENT TECHNIQUES It's a classic situation - you meet someone new, and then moments later you've forgotten their name! Names, passwords, pin and telephone numbers... the list is endless - with so much to memorize is it really possible to improve how much you can remember? The good news is "yes"! Just like every muscle in your body, the adage "use it or lose it" applies, so the more you exercise your brain, the more you will remember. Mnemonics Mnemonic is another word for memory tool. Mnemonics are techniques for remembering information that is otherwise quite difficult to recall: A very simple example is the 30 days hath September rhyme for remembering the number of days in each calendar month. The idea behind using mnemonics is to encode difficult-to-remember information in a way that is much easier to remember. Our brains evolved to code and interpret complex stimuli such as images, colors, structures, sounds, smells, tastes, touch, positions, emotions and language. We use these to make sophisticated models of the world we live in. Our memories store all of these very effectively. Unfortunately, a lot of the information we have to remember in modern life is presented differently as words printed on a page. While writing is a rich and sophisticated medium for conveying complex arguments, our brains do not easily encode written information, making it difficult to remember. Using Your Whole Mind to Remember The key idea is that by coding information using vivid mental images, you can reliably code both information and the structure of information. And because the images are vivid, they are easy to recall when you need them.

The techniques explained later on in this section show you how to code information vividly, using stories, strong mental images, familiar journeys, and so on. You can do the following things to make your mnemonics more memorable:

Use positive, pleasant images. Your brain often blocks out unpleasant ones. Use vivid, colorful, sense-laden images these are easier to remember than drab ones. Use all your senses to code information or dress up an image. Remember that your mnemonic can contain sounds, smells, tastes, touch, movements and feelings as well as pictures. Give your image three dimensions, movement and space to make it more vivid. You can use movement either to maintain the flow of association, or to help you to remember actions. Exaggerate the size of important parts of the image. Use humor! Funny or peculiar things are easier to remember than normal ones. Similarly, rude rhymes are very difficult to forget! Symbols (red traffic lights, pointing fingers, road signs, etc.) can code quite complex messages quickly and effectively.

Designing Mnemonics: Imagination, Association and Location The three fundamental principles underlying the use of mnemonics are imagination, association and location. Working together, you can use these principles to generate powerful mnemonic systems. Imagination: is what you use to create and strengthen the associations needed to create effective mnemonics. Your imagination is what you use to create mnemonics that are potent for you. The more strongly you imagine and visualize a situation, the more effectively it will stick in your mind for later recall. The imagery you use in your mnemonics can be as violent, vivid, or sensual as you like, as long as it helps you to remember. Association: this is the method by which you link a thing to be remembered to a way of remembering it. You can create associations by:

Placing things on top of each other. Crashing things together.

Merging images together. Wrapping them around each other. Rotating them around each other or having them dancing together. Linking them using the same color, smell, shape, or feeling.

As an example, you might link the number 1 with a goldfish by visualizing a 1-shaped spear being used to spear it. Location: gives you two things: a coherent context into which you can place information so that it hangs together, and a way of separating one mnemonic from another. By setting one mnemonic in a particular town, I can separate it from a similar mnemonic set in a city. For example, by setting one in Wimbledon and another similar mnemonic with images of Manhattan, we can separate them with no danger of confusion. You can build the flavors and atmosphere of these places into your mnemonics to strengthen the feeling of location. For a detailed explanation of how to use imagination, association and location mnemonics, try these articles:

The Link Method and Story Method Remembering a Simple List The Number/Rhyme Mnemonic Remembering Ordered Lists The Number/Shape Mnemonic Remembering Ordered Lists The Alphabet Technique Remembering Middle Length Lists The Journey System Remembering Long Lists The Roman Room System Remembering Grouped Information The Major System Remembering Very Long Numbers Using Concept Maps to Remember Structured Information How to... Remember People's Names Memory Games Have Fun While You Improve Your Memory

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR BRAIN AND BOOST YOUR MEMORY LIKE A USA MEMORY CHAMPION Here's a little secret you might never have guessed: The people who can accomplish incredible mnemonic feats like memorizing the order of a shuffled deck of cards or hundreds of random

numbers in minutes don't have photographic memories. They have normal brains like you and, yes, me. This past weekend I competed in the 15th annual USA Memory Championshipan olympiad of sorts where "mental athletes" test their power of recall. Lucky for me, I learned a few tricks from the reigning champ for the second year in a row, Nelson Dellis. Here are the techniques Nelson taught me that you can start incorporating into your everyday life to make your memory stronger. Memory Techniques Anyone Can Learn Although my memory is fine in general, I have to admit, I'm horrible with names. I am so bad that I forget a person's name before he even finishes saying itit's like I don't even want to hear it. After one conversation/training session with Nelson, however, I was able to remember dozens of strangers' names in a couple of minutes. Nelson, a 28-year-old former software developer turned "mnemonic mountaineer," was an average student in school with, he says, an average memory. When his grandmother Josephine started losing her memoryand memory of himto Alzheimer's disease, he was prompted to learn more about improving memory. Now he has two national memory competition wins under his belt and the record for memorizing 303 random numbers in five minutes (beating his record last year of 248 numbers). His message is that anyone can do it. It's all in the training and technique. My Memory Training Boot Camp My boot camp for this event started two weeks before the competition. I received two bottles of brainstrong DHA supplements (from the event's sponsors), a t-shirt, a training manual, and a list of the events, which included: a 15-minute memorization of 117 names and faces, 5minute memorization of 500 numbers, 15-minute memorization of a 50-line unpublished poem, and 5-minute memorization of a shuffled deck of cards. I seriously had no idea what I was getting into. "How's your memory?" Nelson asked, at the start of our training conversation. Um, ok. I guess? When I flipped to this frightening grid of the 500 random digits (there are 25 rows of 20 numbers), which I was supposed to be able to memorize in 5 minutes, I nearly fell off my chair:

Expand Make a Picture and Anchor It Somewhere

That grid of numbers was the most intimidating part, but in my training session with Nelson he taught me how to look at it so it was slightly less intimidating. (I have to admit, I only decided to do the numbers event at the last minute, on a whim.) There are two steps, basically, for all memory challenges, whether you're in a strange mental sport/hobby or trying to remember where you parked your car: 1. Turn abstract, boring things that the brain doesn't like to remember and can't really latch onto (like names and numbers) into more visual ones. 2. Find a place to store or anchor mental images where you're more likely to remember themin your "memory palace," a.k.a., in the journey method. So, for example, for remembering names and faces, he said to take a name like Nelson and try to turn it into a picture by associating it with a famous person like Nelson Mandela (step 1). Then for step 2, find a prominent place on that person to anchor it, for example on his biggish noseso imagine Nelson Mandela crawled up inside his nose. The more vivid, grotesque, sexual, or unusual, the better. For the name, don't look at how the name is spelled, but how it sounds. Break it up into syllables and turn it into pictures. (If you didn't know a Nelson, you could think Nel is like kneeling and son is like the sun, so someone kneeling or a knee pointing at the sun.) A prominent place (or peg or anchor) could be a piece of clothing, an eye, mustache, or whatever stands out to you on that person. During the competition, one of the photos had a guy named Neil with sunglasses on and I thought of Neil Gaiman, the science fiction/fantasy/graphic artist, so I drew skulls on his sunglasses, which helped me remember his name. In another photo there was a girl named Laurie, like the snotty-nosed one I knew in grade school, so I imagined a tissue box underneath her nose. I think I got those two names right, at least. My brainstrong Boot Camp manual suggests Joe might be Sloppy Joe for the image and if the person Joe's anchor is a mole on his face you could imagine licking a Sloppy Joe off of Joe's mole. Gross. In truth, the more exaggerated and absurd the better (I had to tap into my inner, secret, lurid side sometimes.) And the more personal the associations, the better, too. In sum: When you meet someone: Catch and say her name, make a picture out of the syllables of her name and place that picture onto whatever anchor/feature you've chosen for that person. The next time you see that person, you'll see that image in that feature and remember

her name, instantly. (Just don't blurt out what prominent feature you've chosen to remember her by or the image you've made up, and try not to stare at the feature!) Kevin Spacey Fencing Doughnuts with a Sneaker on My Couch For remembering lots of digits and random cards, the same fundamental techniques (make abstract things more visual and anchor it somewhere) still apply, but stronger techniques and systems are also needed. The technique everyone used is the Dominic System, invented by memory champ Dominic O'Brien, which basically translates numbers to letters. We turn digits into two-letter initials for people and associated actions and objects, so we can better visualize them. So, for example, the number 0, because it is round, is an O, and since it's at the start gets the two-letter translation OO. Many people use Ozzy Osbourne as their person for that number 0, the action could be biting the head off a bat, and the object a bat. It's easier to remember Ozzy Osbourne biting the head off a bat than a 0 in a sea of numbers. But for the system to work, you have to make it personal, so for memorizing the deck of cards, for each of the 52 cards I had to create a person with an action and object. The Jack of Hearts became my husband frying eggs and the object was eggs in a pan. The King of Spades (KS) was Kevin Spacey in The Usual Suspects (which I thought worked out well initials-wise), lighting a gold lighter, and the object was a gold lighter. Edward Scissorhands (ES) was trimming hedges, and the object was hedges. And then you need to find a familiar place to store the information. We've noted how previous memory champions have built a memory palace to peg information in familiar places or loci. It's the same technique Nelson taught me. In my memory palace, I walked through my house, starting at my front door, and placed these familiar people or numbers on my furniture. The system enables you to memorize three cards at a time quickly. Imagine the person of the first card doing the action of the person on the second card with the object of the person on the third card. Flipping three cards up, I saw Audrey Hepburn (Queen of Diamonds) taking a bath (5 of Hearts) with a pirate sword (Jack of Spades) on my couch. Scooby Doo (Six of Diamonds) playing the cello (6 of Spades) with a dumbbell (Ace of Spades) on my kitchen counter. And Nicholas Cage (9 of Clubs) yodeling (3 of Diamonds) with Batman's grapple gun (4 of Clubs) on my entertainment center. Ok, that's not so weird. It takes a heck of a time to set up and practice, but it also stretches your brain and when you practice putting the cards together, it really does make you think creatively (Kevin Spacey trimming hedges with Edward Scissorhands knife-hands and a hobbit ring?). I was impressed

with how fast the memory champs could go through a deck of cards (Nelson has the record for remembering the order of a deck in a minute and three seconds.) Your Memory Training Boot Camp For everyday use, the memory palace is helpful for remembering a list or sequence of things. Start a journey beginning at a place you're very familiar with, say, your home, starting with your doorstep. So for a grocery list, the example goes, imagine a container of milk overflowing on your doorstep, and when you get inside, perhaps two giant steaks attacking you in your foyer. Continue to your living room to find pretzels dancing on your rug. Again, the more animation, exaggerations, and senses you can put into your memory palace or journey, the better for your memorization. And the more you strengthen your memory and keep practicing to sharpen your brain, the better your chances of fighting off Alzheimer's disease. If you don't think you're a visual person, incorporate other senses: sounds, smells, touch. In everyday life, pay more attention to how things look and sound and feel, which might improve your visualization skills. Start looking more at things and paying more attention. (I confess, pure lack of attention is probably why I always forgot people's names and faces!) If you really want to train like a memory champ, try this great name remembering game, download Memoriad (Windows) competition training software (it's pretty serious), and lurk in the Mnemotechnics forums. And perhaps we will see you at the memory championship next year! (Updated to add: Nelson and the other mental athletes, including a team of kickass high school kids from Hershey, PA, make it look easy, but becoming a memory champ takes serious training and practice. Most of my hours training were spent just developing the cards system and working out the numbers system, which in the end wasn't a great one (because I was short on time, instead of coming up with 100 people to memorize for each digit, like I was supposed to, I used 10 characters, from They Might Be Giant's Here Come The 123's videos. Bad idea. On each number, I was stuck in a video loop singing in my head for too long). At home I could do about half a deck of cards in five minutes, but at the competition, dazed and distracted, I only got about half that. I did name about a third of the faces right, thanks to practicing with that fun name game I mentioned above obsessively. In the end, I ranked 36 out of 46 of all the mental athletes who had come to competeperhaps not bad for someone who would never have dreamed of entering such a thing before and who had only trained for

a few hours over a week. As Joshua Foer's training-to-champ story suggests too, there's hopeif you train like a world-class mental athlete.) HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR MEMORY Memory lapses can be both embarrassing (whats my neighbors kids name again?) and troubling (is senility coming on?). But a few slipups dont necessarily doom you to a future of utter forgetfulness. A memory is made by linking two or more of the 100 billion nerve cells in your brain, called neurons, then solidifying the connection so you can use it later, says Neal Barnard, an adjunct associate professor of medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine, in Washington, D.C. And your brain continues to develop neurons and build new connections to strengthen memory as you age, a phenomenon called neuroplasticity, says Brianne Bettcher, a neuropsychology fellow at the University of California, San Francisco, Memory and Aging Center. So its never too late to improve your powers of recall. Thats where these nine strategies come in. Theyll help you hone your memory today and keep it robust for years to come. 1. Get More Sleep Experts agree that if you do only one thing to improve your memory, getting more sleep should be it. Sleep is key time for your brain to solidify the connections between neurons, says Barnard. In a study published in the journal Sleep Medicine, researchers asked subjects to perform some memory tasks and then either take a nap or stay awake. The people who napped remembered more of the tasks they had performed than did those who stayed up. Rule of thumb: Get seven to nine hours of sleep total each day. And, yes, naps count. 2. Jog Your Memory Literally. Runningor biking or swimming or doing any other type of cardiovascular activity for 20 to 30 minutes three times a week has been proven to help you remember things better. Raising your heart rate gets blood flowing to your brain, enlarges the hippocampus (the most vital part of the brain for memory), and increases the secretion of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a protein necessary for long-term memory. Also, cardiovascular exercise can actually cause new connections to sprout between neurons in the hippocampus, says Peter J. Snyder, a professor of neurology at Brown Universitys Alpert Medical School. 3. Have Some Food (and Drink) for Thought Your brain cant function properly without essential nutrients and chemical compounds. Blueberries are the top source of substances called anthocyanins, which are brain-boosting

antioxidants, says Joy Bauer, a registered dietitian based in New York City and the author of The Joy Fit Club ($28, Studies have shown that anthocyanins shield the brain against inflammation and oxidation, both of which can damage neurons and make them less effective at communicating with one another. Bauer also recommends fitting in leafy green vegetables as often as possible. Long-term studies have shown that people who eat large amounts of spinach, kale, and other leafy greens have less age-related memory decline, thanks to phytonutrients like vitamin C, she says. You might also want to start enjoying a drink with dinner. Research published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that women who had one drink a day were 20 percent less likely than teetotalers or heavier drinkers to experience a decline in their cognitive function, including the ability to remember points of a paragraph that had been read to them 15 minutes earlier. The researchers believe this may be because moderate alcohol consumption elevates levels of HDL cholesterol (the good kind) and improves the condition of the blood that reaches the brain. 4. Choose Smart Supplements Forget about ginkgo biloba. A recent study found that this herbal supplement has no positive impact on memory. However, a few supplements are known to encourage the growth of new neurons and decrease substances that can inhibit cognitive function. The gold standard is fish oil, according to Lori Daiello, an assistant professor of neurology (research) at the Alpert Medical School. Fish oil has been associated with lowering the risk of dementia because it contains DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid that decreases the production of memory-inhibiting substances in the brain and that may be involved in the formation of new neurons, says Daiello. Increasing your consumption of fatty fish, like salmon, helps; or you can take a daily supplement containing at least 180 milligrams of DHA. Vitamin D may also work, since it stimulates the growth of new neurons and helps clear protein abnormalities associated with diseases that affect memory, such as dementia, says David J. Llewellyn, a research fellow in epidemiology and public health at the University of Exeter, in England. (The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends women take at least 600 international units [IU] daily.) You might also consider a folic acid, B6, and B12 complex. All three of these B vitamins are needed to remove the amino acid homocysteine from your blood, says Barnard. Homocysteine is produced during normal processes in the body, but if too much of it builds up, it can result in poor brain function. 5. Get Still Meditation improves your concentration and focus, which benefits memory, says Dharma Singh Khalsa, the medical director and the president of the Alzheimers Research & Prevention

Foundation, in Tucson. In addition, meditation has been shown to reduce stress, which can do a number on memory. When were under stress, our body and brain release hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline, and CRH [corticotropin-releasing hormone], which in short bursts can help us fight or flee danger, says Tallie Z. Baram, a professor of neurological sciences at the University of California, Irvine. But when youre stressed-out over long periods of time, these hormones change the structure of the hippocampus, destroying nerve endings involved in information flow. A study released last year showed that subjects who performed a 12-minute chanting meditation once a day for eight weeks saw marked improvement in their memory and increased blood flow in the areas of the brain used in a variety of memory tasks. (Find instructions on how to start a meditation practice at 6. Do Something Out of the Ordinary New experiences, such as taking a different route to work, can also improve recall. Our brains are constantly deciding whats important enough to remember and what can be tossed away, says R. Douglas Fields, a senior investigator in neuroscience at the National Institutes of Health, in Bethesda, Maryland. When youre in a novel situation, your brain assumes that information is going to be important and holds on to it. Also, youll better retain things that happen immediately after a novel experience, he says. The cellular machinery of consolidating short-term memories into long-term ones has been activated, so it keeps working. Which means that after your new commute, you may be better able to remember what happens at the morning meeting. 7. Check Your Medicine Cabinet A number of medications can affect memory, says Barnard, including antihistamines; antidepressants, like Prozac; antianxiety drugs, like Xanax; and sleep aids, like Ambien. Each has its own way of working in the brain. For instance, Barnard says, antihistamines block acetylcholine, a brain transmitter necessary for short-term memory, while Xanax and Ambien knock out episodic memory, so anything that happens when youre on the medication may not stick around in your brain. Dont stop taking any prescription drug without talking to your doctor, but bring up the subject at your next visit. An alternative medicine or treatment may be available.

8. Get Checked Out Two more-serious (but less common) issues could cause memory lapses: gluten sensitivity and thyroid disease. If you have an undiagnosed sensitivity to gluten, a protein found in wheat,

barley, and rye, and youre eating foods like bread and crackers, your memory could suffer, says Stefano Guandalini, the medical director of the Celiac Disease Center at the University of Chicago Comer Childrens Hospital. Many people describe the feeling as a brain foga slightly out-of-it, fuzzy sensation. Your doctor can screen for gluten sensitivity, and dietary modifications can keep the condition in check. Thyroid disorders can also wreak havoc on recall. If you notice increasing forgetfulness, along with depression or a change in weight or your periods, see your doctor. Medication often gets the condition under control. 9. Challenge Your Head We know that people who are cognitively active have better memory as they age, says Michael Kahana, the director of the Computational Memory Lab at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of Foundations of Human Memory ($60, So how can you keep your brain going strong? Staying engaged in the world around you reinforces the connections between neurons, says Bettcher. So do some fun activities that make you think. Go to a museum once a month, learn words in a new language, watch a documentary on a subject that fascinates you, oryesdo a crossword or sudoku puzzle. Another strategy: Quiz yourself. For example, if you want to remember new people you met at an event, picture each of their faces and try to remember their names on the ride home, says Henry L. Roediger III, a professor of psychology at Washington University, in St. Louis. When you flex your brain this way, youll be able to pull up their names at the next gathering. Fred from accounting (remember him?) will be impressed. The Best Vitamins for Memory Improvement What are the best vitamins for memory? While there is no miracle cure for a bad memory, the vitamins listed below may be able to help. A word of caution: Everyone has heard there are vitamins and supplements that can improve your memory and other brain functions. Research indicates this may be true. However, success in using vitamins for memory improvement varies. Some products work better for some people than others. Each of us have different genetics, health and diet, and natural memory ability, which may partially explain this. And don't forget: what you eat and drink and the quality of your sleep have a powerful effect on your memory, too. Taking vitamin pills won't offset an unbalanced lifestyle.

So do your own research before trying any vitamins or supplements. Read the labels and product reviews. Evaluate the advice and tips from people who have used the products. Consult your physician as appropriate for your situation. This is common sense. Below is a list of vitamins for memory, followed by a longer list of supplements that may have a positive effect on memory and brain function. A brief description and background information are included for each one. All are legal in the U.S. and readily available from health food stores, nutrition shops, and online stores such as List of Top Memory Vitamins Back to top

Below are three types of vitamins for memory improvement you may wish to consider taking. Studies indicate these vitamins are essential for the brain and memory to operate at its best. For many people, vitamin pills are an easy way to help them get enough of these vitamins in their daily diet. Here are the main types of vitamins that can affect memory and brain power:

1. B VITAMINS. Research shows that B vitamins improve memory by creating a protective shield for the neurons in the brain. B vitamins break down homocysteine, which is an amino acid that is a toxic poison to nerve cells. These vitamins also aid in the production of red blood cells, which carry oxygen, an important brain nutrient. The most important B vitamins for memory include B6, B12, and Folic Acid (B9). You can increase the B vitamins in your diet by taking vitamin supplements and by consuming healthly, natural foods such as spinach and other dark, leafy greens; broccoli, asparagus, strawberries, melons, black beans, leeks, and other legumes, citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit, and soybeans.


ANTIOXIDANTS. Vitamins C, E, and beta carotene are antioxidants and are also important vitamins for memory. Antioxidants protect brain tissue by breaking down free radicals, which are toxic forms of the oxygen molecule natually found in the bloodstream. Antioxidant vitamins and memory are linked because the damage free radicals do can impare the functioning of the neurons in your brain. Like the B vitamins, in other words, the antioxidant vitamins prevent damage to the basic brain structures. Supplementing with antioxidant vitamins daily is recommended. In addition, these vitamins can be found in naturally occurring foods such as blueberries, strawberries, and other berries; sweet potatoes; red tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, green tea and other types of tea, nuts and seeds, and citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruits. Note that with some of these foods, you get both the B vitamins and the antioxidants - a double dose of vitamins for memory improvement!

3. OMEGA FATTY ACIDS. Omega-3 fatty acids are not really "vitamins" as such, but important fat molecules that enhance memory and brain function. So much is said about so-called bad fats, but the Omega-3 fatty acids are actually a class of good fats. These fats help protect the brain against inflammation and high cholesterol. That's what makes these fatty acids good vitamins for memory improvement. Read about the benefits of fish oil supplements Good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids include cold-water fish such as salmon, herring, tuna, halibut, and mackerel; walnuts; and flaxseed/flaxseed oil. Other Brain & Memory Supplements Back to top

In addition to taking regular vitamins for memory improvement, you might also want to try memory and brain enhancing supplements. These supplements are similar to vitamins, and may even contain vitamins, but are generally available in pill form only and not necessarily in food. See the examples below - you'll understand what I mean! I've included references to published research studies for most of these supplements. However, the few references listed here are examples only and not meant to be comprehensive. Also keep in mind that scientific research is an ongoing process with new developments and discoveries happening all the time. These supplements are listed in alphabetical order. I don't advocate any of them in particular. It's up to you and your physician to determine which supplements (if any) are right for your situation.

1. ACETYL L-CARNITINE. Known for its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, this amino acid (also known as ALCAR) helps with energy production necessary for optimal brain function. This supplement is a powerful antioxidant that protects brain cells. Bodybuilders like acetyl l-carnitine too, as it can help muscles grow stronger during exercise. Research suggesting that acetyl l-carnitine may protect brain cells: (1) Barhwal K, Hota SK, et. al. (June 2009). "Acetyl-l-carnitine (ALCAR) prevents hypobaric hypoxia-induced spatial memory impairment through extracellular related kinase-mediated nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 phosphorylation". Neuroscience 161 (2): 501-14. doi:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2009.02.086.

2. ALPHA GPC. The long name for this supplement is alpha glycerophospocholine. Alpha GPC is a form of choline that boosts basic life processes including growth and revitalization. It is the precursor of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Alpha GPC is thought to support increased attention span, mental focus, recall, and other brain functions. Supplementation with Alpha GPC can also help with therapeutic recovery from strokes, Alzheimer's disease, and other vascular brain conditions. Research suggesting that Alpha GPC assists cognitive disorder recovery: (1) Barbagallo Sangiorgi G, et al. "Alpha-Glycerophosphocholine in the mental recovery of cerebral ischemic attacks." An Italian multicenter clinical trial. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1994; 717:253-69.

3. BACOPA MONNIERI. This Asian herb has been used by Ayurvedic doctors in India for centuries as one of the natural vitamins for memory improvement and concentration. Research appears to support this. Studies indicate bacosides (the natural phytonutrients in this herb) may support brain transmitters during memorization, among other effects. Research suggesting that bacopa monnieri may improve memory: (1) Morgan A, Stevens J. "Does Bacopa monnieri improve memory performance in older persons? Results of a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial." Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine 2010 Jul;16(7):753-9. Research suggesting that bacopa monnieri may enhance intellectual activity:

(1) C. Stough, J. Lloyd, et. al. (2001). "The chronic effects of an extract of Bacopa monniera (Brahmi) on cognitive function in healthy human subjects". Psychopharmacology (Berl) 156 (4): 481-4. doi:10.1007/s002130100815. (2) S. Roodenrys, D. Booth, et. al. (2002). "Chronic effects of Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) on human memory". Neuropsychopharmacology (Wollongong) 27 (2): 279-81. doi:10.1016/S0893-133X(01)00419-5. (3) Stough C, Downey LA, Lloyd J, et al. (2008). "Examining the nootropic effects of a special extract of Bacopa Monniera on human cognitive functioning: 90 day double-blind placebocontrolled randomized trial." Phytotherapy Research 22:1629-1634.

4. L-CARNOSINE. This is a general-purpose supplement that helps protect cells and tissues against negative effects of aging. As a broad-spectrum anti-oxidant, Carnosine helps defend against age-related decline of mental and immune function. Its antioxidant effects appear to protect the brain from strokes. Note: Don't confuse l-carnosine with the supplement l-carnotine. Research suggesting that carnosine may provide anti-aging protection: (1) Aruoma OI, Laughton MJ, Halliwell B (December 1989). "Carnosine, homocarnosine and anserine: could they act as antioxidants in vivo?". The Biochemical Journal 264 (3): 863-9. (2) Choi SY, Kwon HY, Kwon OB, Kang JH (November 1999). "Hydrogen peroxide-mediated Cu,Zn-superoxide dismutase fragmentation: protection by carnosine, homocarnosine and anserine". Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 1472 (3): 651-7. doi:10.1016/S0304-4165(99)00189-0 (3) Klebanov GI, Teselkin YuO, Babenkova IV, et al. (1998). "Effect of carnosine and its components on free-radical reactions". Membrane & Cell Biology 12 (1): 89-99.

(4) Reddy VP, Garrett MR, Perry G, Smith MA (May 2005). "Carnosine: a versatile antioxidant and antiglycating agent". Science of Aging Knowledge Environment 2005 (18): pe12. doi:10.1126/sageke.2005.18.pe12 Research suggesting that carnosine may protect against strokes: (1) Min J, Senut MC, Rajanikant K, et al. (October 2008). "Differential Neuroprotective Effects of Carnosine, Anserine, and N-Acetyl Carnosine against Permanent Focal Ischemia". Journal of Neuroscience Research 86 (13): 2984-91. doi:10.1002/jnr.21744

5. CITICOLINE. This supplement is a type of B vitamin nootropic that has been refined to produce targeted action for phospholipid creation. As phospholipids make up brain cell membranes, this supplement helps enhance production of vital neurotransmitters. It is also known as cytidine diphosphate-choline (CDP-Choline). Studies have shown that citicoline can improve memory and verbal learning. It can help increase mental energy and improve focus. For these reasons, it may one day be useful for treatment of attention deficit disorder. Research suggesting that citicoline may improve focus and mental energy: (1) "Supplement naturally boosts ageing brain power". Sydney Morning Herald 2008-02-25. Retrieved 2009-07-28. (2) Silveri MM, Dikan J, Ross AJ, et al. (November 2008). "Citicoline enhances frontal lobe bioenergetics as measured by phosphorus magnetic resonance spectroscopy". NMR in Biomedicine 21 (10): 106675. doi:10.1002/nbm.1281. Research suggesting that citicoline may protect memory ability: (1) Teather LA, Wurtman RJ (2005). "Dietary CDP-choline supplementation prevents memory impairment caused by impoverished environmental conditions in rats". Learning & Memory 12 (1): 39-43. doi:10.1101/lm.83905.

6. COQ10 (Ubiquinol). Coenzyme Q10 is a chemical found naturally in the body that contributes to the production of ATP, the body's main source of energy. CoQ10 supplements help insure maximum physical energy which can help with concentration and memory. Studies indicate this supplement may help protect against age-related memory decline, including Parkinson's disease. Research suggesting that ubiquinol may protect against age-related memory loss: (1) Shults CW, Oakes D, Kieburtz K, et al. (October 2002). "Effects of coenzyme Q10 in early Parkinson disease: evidence of slowing of the functional decline". Archives of Neurology 59 (10): 1541-50. doi:10.1001/archneur.59.10.1541 (2) Cleren C, Yang L, Lorenzo B, et al. (March 2008). "Therapeutic effects of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) and reduced CoQ10 in the MPTP model of Parkinsonism". Journal of Neurochemistry 104 (6): 1613-21. doi:10.1111/j.1471-4159.2007.05097.x.

7. DMAE. Also known as dimethylethanolamine, this supplement is believed to help with mental energy, alertness, and concentration. This is another compound able to cross the blood-brain barrier to reach brain cells. It my be precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Some studies indicates DMAE may help alleviate symptoms of ADHD. Research suggesting that DMAE may enhance alertness and mood: (1) Dimpfel W, Wedekind W, Keplinger I (May 2003). "Efficacy of dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE) containing vitamin-mineral drug combination on EEG patterns in the presence of different emotional states". European Journal of Medical Research 8 (5): 183-91.

(2) Pfeiffer CC, Jenney EH, Gallagher W, et al. (September 1957). "Stimulant effect of 2dimethylaminoethanol; possible precursor of brain acetylcholine". Science 126 (3274): 610-1. doi:10.1126/science.126.3274.610.

8. GOTU KOLA. The scientific name for this herbal supplement is centella asiatica. A plant native to southeast Asia, it is claimed to help with focus and mental clarity. Gotu kola may also help improve sleep and boost mood. Research suggesting that gotu kola may help improve concentration: (1) Bradwejn, J., Zhou, Y., et al., "A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study On The Effects of Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) on Acoustic Startle Response in Healthy Subjects", Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology 2000 Dec; 20(6):680-4 (2) Cataldo, A., Gasbarro, V., et al., "Effectiveness of the Combination of Alpha Tocopherol, Rutin, Melilotus, and Centella asiatica in The Treatment of Patients With Chronic Venous Insufficiency", Minerva Cardioangiology 2001, Apr; 49(2):159-63.

9. GINKO BILOBA. This herb has been shown to improve blood flow to your organs including your brain. Research concerning its effectiveness is mixed, though some studies indicated it may improve concentration. Ginkgo isn't a miracle worker, but improving blood flow to the brain is possibly healthful. It may mean that oxygen and nutrients are delivered to your brain cells more efficiently. Research suggesting that ginko biloba may improve attention span:

(1) Elsabagh, Sarah; Hartley, David E.; et. al. (2005). "Differential cognitive effects of Ginkgo biloba after acute and chronic treatment in healthy young volunteers". Psychopharmacology 179 (2): 437-46. doi:10.1007/s00213-005-2206-6 (2) Kennedy, David O.; Scholey, Andrew B.; Wesnes, Keith A. (2000). "The dose-dependent cognitive effects of acute administration of Ginkgo biloba to healthy young volunteers". Psychopharmacology 151 (4): 416-23. doi:10.1007/s002130000501

10. HUPERZINE A. This supplement is an extract of the Chinese moss huperzia serrata. Studies indicate that Hyperzine A enhances learning and memory for students by helping the action of neurotransmitters in the brain. Indicated to fight mild age-related memory loss, including Alzheimer's disease. Also useful for a short-term memory boost, such as when preparing for an exam. Research suggesting that huperzine may enhance memory: (1) Sun, QQ; Xu, SS; Pan, JL; Guo, HM; Cao, WQ (1999). "Huperzine-A capsules enhance memory and learning performance in 34 pairs of matched adolescent students.". Zhongguo yao li xue bao (Acta pharmacologica Sinica 20 (7): 601-3. Research suggesting that huperzine may help with Alzheimer's disease: (1) Wang, Bai-Song; Wang, Hao; (2009). "Efficacy and safety of natural acetylcholinesterase inhibitor huperzine A in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease: an updated meta-analysis". Journal of Neural Transmission 116 (4): 457. doi:10.1007/s00702-009-0189-x.


LION'S MANE MUSHROOM. Used for centuries in China and Japan to enhance mental performance, this herb has been shown to contain erinacines which may assist nerve and brain cell growth. The scientific name is hericium erinaceus. Research suggesting that lion's mane mushroom may improve cognitive ability: (1) Mori, K.; Inatomi, S.; et. al. (2009). "Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial". Phytotherapy Research 23 (3): 367-372. doi:10.1002/ptr.2634.

12. MAGNESIUM L-THREONATE. Magnesium l-threonate (MgT) is one of the newest vitamins for memory. According to a study in the journal Neuron, increasing the level of magnesium in the brain can significantly improve memory and learning. However, traditional magnesium vitamins, and excess magnesium from the diet, have difficulty crossing the blood-brain barrier. Scientists developed MgT, a special magnesium compound that crosses the blood-brain barrier easily, for use in their studies. Although further research is necessary to measure its effect in humans, magnesium l-threonate is available now for those who want to try it. Note: Half the people in industrialized countries are thought to have a magnesium deficiency. Research suggesting that magnesium l-threonate may improve memory and learning: Inna Slutsky, Nashat Abumaria, Long-Jun Wu, Chao Huang, Ling Zhang, Bo Li, Xiang Zhao, Arvind Govindarajan, Ming-Gao Zhao, Min Zhuo, Susumu Tonegawa, and Guosong Liu (2010). "Enhancement of Learning and Memory by Elevating Brain Magnesium". Neuron 65 (2): 165177. DOI:10.1016/j.neuron.2009.12.026.


NADH. Reduced B-nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, or NADH, is a form of Vitamin B3 that boosts energy in cells throughout the body. It also helps with production of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. Studies indicate that NADH may be therapeutically useful in the treatment of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. Research suggesting that NADH may be useful against Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease: (1) Belenky P; Bogan KL, Brenner C (2007). "NAD+ metabolism in health and disease" (PDF). Trends in Biochemical Sciences 32 (1): 12-9. doi:10.1016/j.tibs.2006.11.006. (2) Kaneko S, Wang J, Kaneko M, et al. (2006). "Protecting axonal degeneration by increasing nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide levels in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis models". Journal of Neuroscience 26 (38): 9794-804. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2116-06.2006.

14. PHOSPHATIDYL SERINE. One of the more popular brain-improvement supplements, phosphatidyl serine (PS) is a major component of the outer membrane of brain cells. While this supplement is often promoted as helping to ward off age-related memory decline, the studies supporting this claim are mixed. However, preliminary studies exist that indicate phosphatidyl serine may be of benefit in the treatment of ADHD. Research suggesting that phosphatidyl serine may help with ADHD: (1) Hirayama S, Masuda Y, Rabeler R (September/October 2006). "Effect of phosphatidylserine administration on symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children". Agro Food 17 (5): 32-36. (2) Vaisman N, Kaysar N, et. al. (2008). "Correlation between changes in blood fatty acid composition and visual sustained attention performance in children with inattention: effect of dietary n-3 fatty acids containing phospholipids". American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 87 (5): 1170-1180.

15. L-TYROSINE. A non-essential amino acid, l-tyrosine is converted in the body to neurotransmitters that moderate stress response, mental function, and mood. Studies indicate this supplement is most effective in boosting mental performance when taken during times of stress or fatigue.

Research suggesting that l-tyrosine may help with cognitive performance: (1) Strder HK, Hollmann W, Platen P, Donike M, Gotzmann A, Weber K (1998). "Influence of paroxetine, branched-chain amino acids and tyrosine on neuroendocrine system responses and fatigue in humans". Hormone and Metabolic Research 30 (4): 188-94. doi:10.1055/s-2007978864. (2) Thomas JR, Lockwood PA, Singh A, Deuster PA (1999). "Tyrosine improves working memory in a multitasking environment". Pharmacology Biochemistry & Behavior 64 (3): 495-500. doi:10.1016/S0091-3057(99)00094-5.

16. VINPOCETINE. An extract of the periwinkle plant, this compound is an herbal aid for improving memory and concentration. It acts as a vasodilator which may increase blood flow specifically in the part of the brain used for memory storage. Research suggesting that vinpocetine may improve cerebral blood flow: (1) Szilgyi G, Nagy Z, Balkay L, et al. (2005). "Effects of vinpocetine on the redistribution of cerebral blood flow and glucose metabolism in chronic ischemic stroke patients: a PET study". Journal of the Neurological Sciences 229-230: 275-84. doi:10.1016/j.jns.2004.11.053

About the Memory Supplements List

The list of brain supplements above is not meant to be complete. There may be other vitamins for memory and related supplements not included here that do have some effectiveness. Having said that, this list should be of value if you are interested in learning about some of the memory and brain supplements that are popular and supported by research. I've attempted to focus on those which are backed up by credible studies. I have intentionally not included supplements associated with claims of enhanced memory and brain power but for which I was not able to find much scientific evidence (for example, phosphatidyl choline and l-glutamine). I've also not included every supplement that may boost your physical energy, thus possibly enhancing concentration and attention span, but which doesn't necessarily aid memory directly (for example, ATP and caffeine). Finally, I've not listed any "blends", or products in which multiple brain supplements have been mixed together 10 SUPPLEMENTS YOU CAN TAKE TODAY TO ENHANCE YOUR INTELLIGENCE One day, we may be able to make ourselves superintelligent with futuristic biotechnology. We're not there yet, but for the impatient among us there are still some things we can do to give us that little extra bit of brain power. By supplementing with so-called 'nootropics,' you may not become the next Stephen Hawking, but you may experience some noticeable improvements to your learning abilities, memory, mental clarity, and mood. Here are ten supplements you can take today to boost your intelligence. Before we get started, a disclaimer: consult with your doctor prior to taking any of these (except the dark chocolate feel free to eat that with reckless abandon). While most of the supplements listed in this article are fairly benign, you still need to make sure that you're healthy enough to take them, and that you're not susceptible to any allergic or negative reactions. Cool? Cool. Similarly, while we make some dosage recommendations, you must adhere to the dosage instructions as described on the package of your particular product.

Also, it's crucial that you not blindly go ahead and start consuming all of these supplements at once. Unless otherwise noted, all studies cited in this article assessed the cognitive benefits of these compounds in isolation. By combining two or more of these supplements, you risk creating a cocktail effect in which the benefits may not work and you might actually start to feel worse. And lastly, you'll also want to measure and track any potential benefits you glean from these supplements. We are all different, so some may not work in the way described. Keep a log and see which supplements works best for you. Alright, with that out of the way, here's the list (in no particular order): 1. Creatine

Creatine, a nitrogenous organic acid that occurs naturally in animals, is quickly becoming a popular supplement and not just because it boosts muscle power (which it does by helping to supply energy to cells in the body and assisting in the growth of muscle fibres). Physiological benefits aside, creatine has also been shown to improve memory and attention span. Scientists have discovered that it plays a pivotal role in brain energy homeostasis, acting as a buffer for cytosolic and mitochondrial pools of cellular energy. Start by taking about 5,000 mg per day, or better yet, follow the dosage instructions specified by your specific product. 2. Caffeine + L-theanine Caffeine on its own is not a great cognitive enhancer. In fact, studies show that it doesn't usually improve performance in learning and memory tasks, though its stimulant properties may occasionally have beneficial effects on cognitive performance and mood (though temporarily what is usually accompanied by jitters and a crash). Now that said, when consumed in conjunction with L-theanine, a common amino acid found in green tea, it does in fact create more long-lasting and beneficial effects, including a boost to working memory, rapid visual information processing, and especially attention switching (i.e. reduced

distractibility). The reason this works is that the L-theanine, which can cross the blood-brain barrier, counteracts the negative stimulant effects of caffeine, including anxiety and increased blood pressure. Researchers have found that this effect can be achieved with 50 mg of caffeine (that's about a cup of coffee) and 100 mg of L-theanine (green tea only contains about 5-8 mg of it, so you'll want to supplement though some people follow a 2:1 rule in which they drink two cups of green tea for every cup of coffee). 3. Dark Chocolate (Flavanols)

Dark chocolate or more accurately the cocoas found in chocolate contain flavanols, a phytochemical that has cognitive enhancing effects (as well as impacting positively on mood and cardiovascular health). It works through the action of antioxidant molecules, what stimulates brain perfusion and an array of other neurological processes in regions that involve learning and memory. Though not as powerful as some of the other supplements listed here, dark chocolate is readily accessible and a treat to eat. That said, be sure to avoid super-sweet dark chocolate, otherwise the sugar will counter many of its benefits (so start getting used to 90% cacao). Go ahead and eat about 35 to 200 grams a day, but divide it out evenly. 4. Piracetam + Choline This combination is probably the most popular stack used by nootropic buffs. Piracetam, what is also known as Nootropyl or Lucetam, works by improving the functioning of (ACh) transmitters and receptors. Though primarily prescribed by doctors for people suffering from Alzheimer's, depression, and even schizophrenia, it is used off-label by healthy adults as a way to boost acetylcholine function what is an important neurotransmitter. But in order to experience its benefits, including increased mental clarity, spatial memory, and an overall boost in brain functioning, choline needs to be ingested along with it. Choline, as a watersoluble essential nutrient, works with the Piracetam and is often used to prevent headaches that is sometimes associated with its use (see, this is why we told you to see a doctor before trying any of this stuff). An effective dose would be 300 mg of Piracetam plus 300 mg of

Choline three times per day (about every four hours or so). Those willing to step it up a bit can also try the Focus XT + Piracetam stack. And interestingly, Piracetam is a popular supplement in the subculture of lucid dreaming. 5. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are a common compound that's found in fish oil (which can be consumed directly via fish oil pills), grass-fed livestock, walnuts, flaxseed, and beans. It has been a staple brain food for quite some time now, and is increasingly being used as a dietary supplement to stave off the effects of age-related cognitive decline, including neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's. And encouragingly, a recent study published in PLOS has shown that the same brain boosting effects can also work for perfectly healthy adults. Benefits of Omega-3 DHA/EPA include an improved ability to focus and it acts as a mood enhancer. In terms of dosage, about 1,200 mg to 2,400 mg per day should suffice (about 1-2 fish oil pills). 6. Bacopa Monnieri Found primarily in northern India, Bacopa monnieri is a perennial creeping herb that's been used for centuries to enhance memory, learning, and overall cognitive performance (in addition to its use as an anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antipyretic, and sedative). The active ingredients responsible for these effects include sulfhydryl and polyphenol, compounds that lessen oxidative stress. A reasonable dose would include 150 mg of bacosides each day. And for those looking to improve their long term memory, you might want to stack this with the Piracetam + choline combo.

7. Ginkgo Biloba Extract

Ginkgo Biloba extract comes from maidenhair, an extremely unique tree native to China that has no relatives what is considered a living fossil. Extracts of Ginkgo leaves contain flavonoid glycosides and terpenoids (ginkgolides, bilobalides) which are renowned for their pharmacological benefits, including their ability to improve memory and concentration. Recently, Ginkgo biloba extract has been used to help dementia patients, although its ability to stave off Alzheimer's is contested. Recent studies have shown that it can significantly improve the speed of attention factor in healthy adults, peaking about 2.5 hours after intake. Other cognitive benefits include increased attention, faster memorization speed, and improved quality of memory. Some studies, however, suggest that Ginkgo doesn't work well as an enhancer. And dosage is critical; studies have shown that 120 mg per day is too little, so you'll want to boost it up to a single 240 mg or 360 mg dose each day. Also, Ginkgo biloba is commonly stacked with Bacopa monnieri, though its synergistic effects are contested. 8. Panax Ginseng (Asian Ginseng) Asian ginseng, what's been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years, is a remarkable supplement in that it hits virtually all the marks; it can be used to improve working memory, attention, calmness, mood, and even reduce fatigue. It's a slow-growing perennial with fleshy

roots one that can decrease fasted blood-glucose levels and modulate cognitive performance in healthy adults. Go ahead and take about 500 mg twice a day. 9. Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola rosea can certainly be used to improve cognition and memory, but its real power comes from the way it reduces feelings of fatigue and anxiety what can definitely improve your overall performance. It's a plant that thrives in colder climates, including arctic regions and it has extremely beneficial phytochemicals that northern folks in Russia and Scandinavia have been taking advantage of for years; the herb has an affect on serotonin and dopamine levels due to monoamine oxidase inhibition. Studies have shown that Rhodiola rosea can improve a person's overall level of mental and stress-induced fatigue and complex perceptive and cerebral functions (such as associative thinking, short-term memory, calculation, ability of concentration, and speed of audio-visual perception). In terms of dosage, take anywhere from 100 mg to 1,000 mg each day, but divide it into two equal doses. 10. Spanish Sage (Salvia Lavandulaefolia) Found in Spain and southern France, Salvia lavandulaefolia is an aromatic herb that boosts acetylcholine function. Studies have shown that it can enhance memory and mood in healthy young adults, as well as having benefits for those with Alzheimer's. Spanish sage has other beneficial attributes, including anxiolytic (calming), antioxidant, estrogenic, anti-depressive, and anti-inflammatory properties. A reasonable dose would be 300 mg of dried sage leaf once a day. Top image: Shutterstock/agsandrew; creatine; dark chocolate:avs/shutterstock; omega3:nikkytok/shutterstock; Ginkgo: tihis/shutterstock; rhodiola:moritorus/shutterstock. Discuss

EXPLANATIONS FOR FORGETTING REASONS WHY WE FORGET What are some of the major reasons why we forget information? One of today's best known memory researchers, Elizabeth Loftus, has identified four major reasons why people forget: retrieval failure, interference, failure to store and motivated forgetting. 1. Retrieval Failure Have you ever felt like a piece of information has just vanished from memory? Or maybe you know that it's there, you just can't seem to find it. The inability to retrieve a memory is one of the most common causes of forgetting. So why are we often unable to retrieve information from memory. One possible explanation retrieval failure is known as decay theory. According to this theory, a memory trace is created every time a new theory is formed. Decay theory suggests that over time, these memory traces begin to fade and disappear. If information is not retrieved and rehearsed, it will eventually be lost. One problem with this theory, however, is that research has demonstrated that even memories which have not been rehearsed or remembered are remarkably stable in long-term memory. 2. Interferance Another theory known as interference theory suggests that some memories compete and interfere with other memories. When information is very similar to other information that was previously stored in memory, interference is more likely to occur. There are two basic types of interference:

Proactive interference is when an old memory makes it more difficult or impossible to remember a new memory. Retroactive interference occurs when new information interferes with your ability to remember previously learned information.

3. Failure to Store Sometimes, losing information has less to do with forgetting and more to do with the fact that it never made it into long-term memory in the first place. Encoding failures sometimes prevent information from entering long-term memory.

In one well-known experiment, researchers asked participants to identify the correct U.S. penny out of a group of incorrect pennies (Nickerson & Adams). Try doing this experiment yourself by attempting to draw a penny from memory, and then compare your results to an actual penny. How well did you do? Chances are that you were able to remember the shape and color, but you probably forgot other minor details. The reason for this is that only details necessary for distinguishing pennies from other coins were encoded into your long-term memory. 4. Motivated Forgetting Sometimes, we may actively work to forget memories, especially those of traumatic or disturbing events or experiences. The two basic forms of motivated forgetting are: suppression, a conscious form of forgetting, and repression, an unconscious form of forgetting. However, the concept of repressed memories is not universally accepted by all psychologists. One of the problems with repressed memories is that it is difficult, if not impossible, to scientifically study whether or not a memory has been repressed. Also note that mental activities such as rehearsal and remembering are important ways of strengthening a memory, and memories of painful or traumatic life events are far less likely to be remembered, discussed or rehearsed. FORGETTING : WHEN MEMORY FAILS rom forgetting where you left your keys to forgetting to return a phone call, memory failures are an almost daily occurrence. Forgetting is so common that we typically rely on numerous methods to help us remember important information such as jotting down notes in a daily planner or scheduling important events on your phone's calendar. As you are frantically searching for your missing car keys, it may seem that that the information about where you left them is permanently gone from your memory. However, forgetting is generally not about actually losing or erasing this information from your longterm memory. Forgetting typically involves a failure in memory retrieval. While the information is somewhere in your long-term memory, you are not able to actually retrieve and remember it. The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve: Psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus was one of the first to scientifically study forgetting. In experiments where is used himself as the subject, Ebbinghaus tested his memory using three-

letter nonsense syllables. He relied on such nonsense words because relying on previously known words would have made use of his existing knowledge and associations in his memory. In order to test for new information, Ebbinghaus tested his memory for periods of time ranging from 20 minutes to 31 days. He then published his findings in 1885 in Memory: A Contribution to Experimental Psychology. His results, plotted in what is known as the Ebbinghaus forgetting curve, revealed a relationship between forgetting and time. Initially, information is often lost very quickly after it is learned. Factors such as how the information was learned and how frequently it was rehearsed play a role in how quickly these memories are lost. The forgetting curve also showed that forgetting does not continue to decline until all of the information is lost. At a certain point, the amount of forgetting levels off. What exactly does this mean? It indicates that information stored in long-term memory is surprisingly stable. Why We Forget: Of course, many factors can help contribute to forgetting. Sometimes you might be distracted when you learn new information, which might mean that you never truly retain the information long enough to remember it later. Well-known memory researcher Elizabeth Loftus has proposed four key explanations for why forgetting occurs. Learn more about some of the most common explanations for forgetting. WHAT IS COGNITIVE PSYCHOLOGY? Question: What Is Cognitive Psychology? Answer: Cognitive psychology is the branch of psychology that studies mental processes including how people think, perceive, remember and learn. As part of the larger field of cognitive science, this branch of psychology is related to other disciplines including neuroscience, philosophy and linguistics. The core focus of cognitive psychology is on how people acquire, process and store information. There are numerous practical applications for cognitive research, such as improving memory, increasing decision-making accuracy and structuring educational curricula to enhance learning. Until the 1950s, behaviorism was the dominant school of thought in psychology. Between 1950 and 1970, the tide began to shift against behavioral psychology to focus on topics such as attention, memory and problem-solving. Often referred to as the cognitive revolution, this

period generated considerable research on topics including processing models, cognitive research methods and the first use of the term "cognitive psychology." The term "cognitive psychology" was first used in 1967 by American psychologist Ulric Neisser in his book Cognitive Psychology. According to Neisser, cognition involves "all processes by which the sensory input is transformed, reduced, elaborated, stored, recovered, and used. It is concerned with these processes even when they operate in the absence of relevant stimulation, as in images and hallucinations... Given such a sweeping definition, it is apparent that cognition is involved in everything a human being might possibly do; that every psychological phenomenon is a cognitive phenomenon." How is Cognitive Psychology Different?

Unlike behaviorism, which focuses only on observable behaviors, cognitive psychology is concerned with internal mental states. Unlike psychoanalysis, which relies heavily on subjective perceptions, cognitive psychology uses scientific research methods to study mental processes.

Who Should Study Cognitive Psychology? Because cognitive psychology touches on many other disciplines, this branch of psychology is frequently studied by people in a number of different fields. The following are just a few of those who may benefit from studying cognitive psychology.

Students interested in behavioral neuroscience, linguistics, industrial-organizational psychology, artificial intelligence and other related areas. Teachers, educators and curriculum designers can benefit by learning more about how people process, learn, and remember information. Engineers, scientists, artists, architects and designers can all benefit from understanding internal mental states and processes.

Major Topics in Cognitive Psychology

Perception Language Attention Memory Problem-Solving Decision-Making and Judgment Intelligence TOP 10 MEMORY IMPROVEMENT TIPS

Do you find yourself forgetting where you left your keys or blanking out information on important tests? Fortunately, there are things that you can do to help improve your memory.

Before your next big exam, be sure to check out some of these tried and tested techniques for improving memory. These strategies have been established within cognitive psychology literature to improve memory, enhance recall and increase retention of information. 1. Focus your attention on the materials you are studying. Attention is one of the major components of memory. In order for information to move from short-term memory into long-term memory, you need to actively attend to this information. Try to study in a place free of distractions such as television, music and other diversions. 2. Avoid cramming by establishing regular study sessions. According to Bjork (2001), studying materials over a number of session's gives you the time you need to adequately process the information. Research has shown that students who study regularly remember the material far better than those who do all of their studying in one marathon session. 3. Structure and organize the information you are studying. Researchers have found that information is organized in memory in related clusters. You can take advantage of this by structuring and organizing the materials you are studying. Try grouping similar concepts and terms together, or make an outline of your notes and textbook readings to help group related concepts. 4. Utilize mnemonic devices to remember information. Mnemonic devices are a technique often used by students to aid in recall. A mnemonic is simply a way to remember information. For example, you might associate a term you need to remember with a common item that you are very familiar with. The best mnemonics are those that utilize positive imagery, humor or novelty. You might come up with a rhyme, song or joke to help remember a specific segment of information. 5. Elaborate and rehearse the information you are studying. In order to recall information, you need to encode what you are studying into long-term memory. One of the most effective encoding techniques is known as elaborative rehearsal. An example of this technique would be to read the definition of a key term, study the definition of that term and then read a more detailed description of what that term means. After repeating this process a few times, you'll probably notice that recalling the information is much easier. 6. Relate new information to things you already know.

When you are studying unfamiliar material, take the time to think about how this information relates to things that you already know. By establishing relationships between new ideas and previously existing memories, you can dramatically increase the likelihood of recalling the recently learned information. 7. Visualize concepts to improve memory and recall. Many people benefit greatly from visualizing the information they study. Pay attention to the photographs, charts and other graphics in your textbooks. If you do not have visual cues to help, try creating your own. Draw charts or figures in the margins of your notes or use highlighters or pens in different colors to group related ideas in your written study materials. 8. Teach new concepts to another person. Research suggests that reading materials out loud significantly improves memory of the material. Educators and psychologists have also discovered that having students actually teach new concepts to others enhances understanding and recall. You can use this approach in your own studies by teaching new concepts and information to a friend or study partner. 9. Pay extra attention to difficult information. Have you ever noticed how it's sometimes easier to remember information at the beginning or end of a chapter? Researchers have found that the order of information can play a role in recall, which is known as the serial position effect. While recalling middle information can be difficult, you can overcome this problem by spending extra time rehearsing this information. Another strategy is to try restructuring what you have learned so it will be easier to remember. When you come across an especially difficult concept, devote some extra time to memorizing the information. 10. Vary your study routine. Another great way to increase your recall is to occasionally change your study routine. If you are accustomed to studying in one specific location, try moving to a different spot during your next study session. If you study in the evening, try spending a few minutes each morning reviewing the information you studied the previous night. By adding an element of novelty to your study sessions, you can increase the effectiveness of your efforts and significantly improve your long-term recall.


1. Our memory helps make us who we are. From fondly recollecting childhood events to remembering where we left our keys, memory plays a vital role in every aspect of our lives. It provides us with a sense of self and makes up our continual experience of life. It's easy to think of memory as a mental filing cabinet, storing away bits of information until we need them. In reality, it is a remarkably complex process that involves numerous parts of the brain. Memories can be vivid and long-lasting, but they are also susceptible to inaccuracies and forgetting. Continue reading to learn more about some of the most interesting aspects of human memory. The Hippocampus Plays an Important Role In Memory The hippocampus is a horse-shoe shaped area of the brain that plays an important role in consolidating information from short-term memory into long-term memory. It is part of the limbic system, a system associated with emotions and long-term memories. The hippocampus is involved in such complex processes as forming, organizing, and storing memories. Because both sides of the brain are symmetrical, the hippocampus can be found in both hemispheres. If one side of the hippocampus is damaged or destroyed, memory function will remain nearly normal as long as the other side is undamaged. Damage to both sides of the hippocampus can impede the ability to form new memories, known as anterograde amnesia. Functioning of the hippocampus can also decline with age. By the time people reach their 80s, they may have lost as much as 20 percent of the nerve connections in the hippocampus. While not all older adults exhibit this neuron loss, those who do show decreased performance on memory tests. Most Short-Term Memories Are Quickly Forgotten The total capacity of short-term memory is fairly limited. Experts believe that you can hold approximately seven items in short-term memory for about 20 to 30 seconds. This capacity can be stretched somewhat by using memory strategies such as chunking, which involves grouping related information into smaller "chunks." In a famous paper published in 1956, psychologist George Miller suggested that the capacity of short-term memory for storing a list of items was somewhere between five and nine. Today,

many memory experts believe that the true capacity of short-term memory is probably closer to the number four. See this in action for yourself by trying out this short-term memory experiment. Spend two minutes memorizing a random list of words, then get a blank piece of paper and try to write down as many of the words that you can remember. Being Tested On Information Actually Helps You Remember It Better While it may seem like studying and rehearsing information is the best way to ensure that you will remember it, researchers have found that being tested on information is actually one of the best ways to improve recall. One experiment found that students who studied and were then tested had better long-term recall of the materials, even on information that was not covered by the tests. Students who had extra time to study but were not tested had significantly lower recall of the materials. You Can Learn to Improve Your Memory Do you ever feel like you are constantly forgetting things or misplacing objects that you use every day? Have you ever found yourself walking into a room only to realize that you can't remember why you went in there in the first place? While it might seem like you are doomed to simply tolerate these daily annoyances, researchers have found that you can learn how to improve your memory. A 2005 cover story in the Monitor on Psychology summarized research revealing a number of useful strategies to deal with mild memory loss. These techniques include:

Utilizing technology to keep track of information. Tools such as hand-held mobile devices and online reminder calendars can help people keep track of appointments and other important dates. Using a reminder app on your phone can be a handy way to stay on top of important dates and events.

Taking a "mental picture" can help. Systematically trying to make a mental note of things you often forget (such as where you left your car keys) can help you remember things better. The next time you set your keys down somewhere, take a moment to mentally note where you left them as well as the other objects that were nearby. If you think to yourself "I left my keys by my wallet on the desk," you'll probably find it easier to recall the information later.

Use memorization techniques. Rehearsing information, employing mnemonics, and other memorization strategies are perhaps the best ways to overcome minor memory problems. By learning how to use these strategies effectively, you can sidestep the faulty areas of your memory and train your brain to function in new ways.

There Are Four Major Reasons Why You Forget Things In order to combat forgetfulness, it is important to understand some of the major reasons why we forget things. Elizabeth Loftus, one of the world's most renowned experts on human memory, has identified four major reasons why forgetting occurs. One of the most common explanations is a simple failure to retrieve the information from memory. This often occurs when memories are rarely accessed, causing them to decay over time. Another common cause of forgetting is interference, which occurs when some memories compete with other memories. For example, imagine that a woman just started a new school year as an elementary school teacher. She spends some time learning the names of each of her students, but over the course of the year she finds herself constantly calling one particular girl by the wrong name. Why? Because the girl's older sister was in the same class the year before, and the two look remarkably similar. It is the memory of the older sister that makes it so difficult to recall the younger student's name. Other causes of forgetting include failing to store the information in memory in the first place, or even intentionally trying to forget things associated with a troubling or traumatic event. Depictions of Amnesia in Movies Are Usually Inaccurate Amnesia is a common plot device in the movies, but these depictions are often wildly inaccurate. For example, how often have you seen a fictional character lose their memory due to a bump on the head only to have their memories magically restored after suffering a second knock to the skull? There are two different types of amnesia:

Anterograde amnesia: Involves the loss of the ability to form new memories.

Retrograde amnesia: Involves losing the ability to recollect past memories, although the ability to create new memories may remain intact.

While most movie depictions of amnesia involve retrograde amnesia, anterograde amnesia is actually far more common. The most famous case of anterograde amnesia was a patient known in the literature as H.M. In 1953, he had brain surgery to help stop the seizures caused by his severe epilepsy. The surgery involved the removal of both hippocampi, the regions of the brain strongly associated with memory. As a result, H.M. was no longer able to form any new long-term memories. Popular movies and television programs tend to depict such memory loss as fairly common, but true cases of complete amnesia about one's past and identity are actually quite rare. Some of the most common causes of amnesia include:

Trauma: A physical trauma, such as a car accident, can cause the victim to lose specific memories of the event itself. Emotional trauma, such as being a victim of childhood sexual abuse, can cause the individual to lose memories of specific situations.

Drugs: Certain medications can be used to cause temporary amnesia, particularly during medical procedures. Once the drugs wear off, the individual's memory returns to normal functioning.

Scent Can Be a Powerful Memory Trigger Have you ever noticed that a particular scent can bring forth a rush of vivid memories? The smell of cookies baking might remind you of spending time at your grandmother's house when you were a small child. The scent of a particular perfume might remind you of a romantic partner with whom your relationship ended on a sour note. Why does smell seem to act as such a powerful memory trigger? First, the olfactory nerve is located very close to the amygdala, the area of the brain that is connected to the experience of emotion as well as emotional memory. In addition, the olfactory nerve is very close to the hippocampus, which is associated with memory as you learned earlier in this article. The actual ability to smell is highly linked to memory. Research has shown that when areas of the brain connected to memory are damaged, the ability to identify smells is actually impaired. In order to identify a scent, you must remember when you have smelled it before and then connect it to visual information that occurred at the same time. According to some research,

studying information in the presence of an odor actually increases the vividness and intensity of that remembered information when you smell that odor again. New Brain Connections Are Created Every Time You Form a Memory Researchers have long believed that changes in brain neurons are associated with the formation of memories. Today, most experts believe that memory creation is associated with the strengthening of existing connections or the growth of new connections between neurons. The connections between nerve cells are known as synapses, and they allow information carried in the form of nerve impulses to travel from one neuron to the next. In the human brain, there are trillions of synapses forming a complex and flexible network that allows us to feel, behave, and think. It is the changes in the synaptic connections in areas of the brain such as the cerebral cortex and hippocampus that is associated with the learning and retention of new information. In one study conducted at the New York School of Medicine, researchers were able to observe synapse formation in the brains of genetically engineered mice. What they discovered was that in young mice, the tiny protrusions that sometimes develop into longer spines on the receiving end of neurons grew at a rapid rate. This growth rate coincided with the rapid development of the visual cortex. While a large number of these tiny protrusions eventually faded with age, many did continue their formation into fully-fledged spines. Lead researcher Wen-Biao Gan explained in an interview with the science website, "Our idea was that you actually don't need to make many new synapses and get rid of old ones when you learn, memorize. You just need to modify the strength of the preexisting synapses for short-term learning and memory. However, it's likely that few synapses are made or eliminated to achieve long-term memory." Clearly, maintaining a healthy brain and synapses is critical. Deterioration of synapses due to diseases or neurotoxins is associated with cognitive problems, memory loss, changes in mood, and other alterations in brain function. So what can you do to strengthen your synapses?

Avoid stress: Research has found that extended exposure to stress can actually interfere with neurotransmitter function. Other studies have found that stress shrinks neurons in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus.

Avoid drugs, alcohol, and other neurotoxins: Drug use and excessive alcohol consumption have been linked to synaptic deterioration. Exposure to dangerous chemicals such as heavy metals and pesticides can also cause synaptic loss.

Get Plenty of Exercise: Regular physical activity helps improve oxygenation of the brain, which is vital for synaptic formation and growth.

Stimulate your brain: You've probably heard the old adage "Use it or lose it." Well, it turns out there's a lot of truth to that when it comes to memory. Researchers have found that elderly adults who engage in mentally stimulating activities are less likely to develop dementia and people with higher educational statuses tend to have more synaptic connections in the brain.

A Good Night's Sleep May Improve Your Memory You have probably heard about many of the reasons to get a good night's sleep. Since the 1960s, researchers have noted the important connection between sleep and memory. In one classic experiment conducted in 1994, researchers found that depriving participants of sleep impaired their ability to improve performance on a line identification task. In addition to aiding in memory, sleep also plays and essential role in learning new information. In one study, researchers found that depriving students of sleep after learning a new skill significantly decreased memory of that skill up to three days later. Researchers have found, however, that sleep's influence on procedural memory is much stronger than it is for declarative memory. Procedural memories are those that involve motor and perceptual skills, while declarative memories are those that involve the memorization of facts. "If you're going to be tested on 72 irregular French verbs tomorrow, you might as well stay up late and cram," explained Robert Stickgold, a psychiatry professor at Harvard Medical School, in an article published in the APA's Monitor on Psychology. "But if they're going to throw a curveball at you and ask you to explain the differences between the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution, you're better off having gotten some sleep."