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Last Updated on March 12, 2020

10 Scientific Ways to Improve Your Long Term Memory

10 Scientific Ways to Improve Your Long Term Memory

Wouldn’t it make sense to invent a device that could help you improve your long-term memory?

Unfortunately, it may not be realistic now. Despite several innovations, R&D and technologies that have made living simpler, it would be appealing to believe a device like a chip, no matter the price, would help you improve your long term memory.

Instead of wasting time looking for that device, why not familiarize yourself with these scientific ways to improve your long term memory?

Where Is Long Term Memory and Why Is It Important?

The hippocampus is the passage through which information passes from the short-term memory to the long-term memory. The hippocampus ( ‘hippokampos’ in Greek) is a part of the cortex so named as it takes the shape of a bent tail of a seahorse.

Every information that is decoded in different sensory regions of the cortex links up in the hippocampus, which later redirects them to their origins. It could also be described as an information-sorting center where new information is juxtaposed with the initially recorded ones.

Any time you relive an event, recall new information or repeat those using mnemonic techniques, you are directing them repeatedly through the hippocampus. The hippocampus is capable of strengthening the connections among all the new constituents until there is no need to reinforce them. By then, the cortex would have developed the ability to associate these elements independently to form what is known as ‘memory.’

Nevertheless, the cortex and the hippocampus are not the only components that facilitate long-term memory and its different capabilities in the brain.

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Long-term memories are not default. While long-term memory possesses a boundless duration and capacity, the memories could be delicate and prone to change, distraction, and misinformation. Elizabeth Loftus, a Memory expert, did a great job on this by showing how false memories can be easily be triggered. She made 25 percent of her respondents to accept a false memory that they were once missing in a shopping mall as a kid.[1]

Why is long-term memory prone to inaccuracies? Most times, people retain the visual aspects of an event but forget the details. What the brain does is to curate details that are reasonable to fill in this gap. In other cases, old information can hinder the formation of new ones, which makes it tedious to remember the actual event. This is why, sometimes, it is better to unlearn before learning further information.

So, how do you improve your long term memory?

Here, you will learn 10 scientific ways to improve your long term memory.

1. Be Very Focused

Forgetfulness is a by-product of distraction or lack of concentration. It takes focus to learn anything. In a world where we presently things that could easily take our attention off what we are learning, focusing is not going to be an easy-pie, but it is nevertheless crucial.

In case you keep losing your umbrella, to develop your cognitive ability, begin to note every time you set it down consciously. If you researched a topic before a presentation, invest additional time to digest the juicy aspects so they can stick.

2. Practice to Be Perfect

When you were in kindergarten, did you recite the ‘A, B, C..? If you did and you still remember them now, it means you will need to process and practice any information to have it installed in your long term memory.

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It does not matter what you wish to learn- football, piano, or remembering your friend’s birthday. You can only remember by rehearsing over the information we already have repeatedly. You are repeating when you sing a song over and over again, when you sit in front of the piano and run some keys, or when you play an object on your way home even when there is no ball.

Any information that you process and practice will be logged into your long term memory as exercise strengthens the neural pathways located in your brain.

3. Reminisce and Recall Details Every Now and Then

Scientists were able to discover the exact cells where some specific memories are stored using a mouse brain as the specimen. Before this research, the notion was that the short-term memory was formed in the hippocampus while the long term memory is formed later. However, the new mouse research indicated that both forms of memories are formed simultaneously.

Although the formation of the long-term memory happens in the prefrontal cortex and starts with what is called silent engrams though not yet accessible immediately, it matures within a few weeks. You can strengthen this process by reminiscing the event or recalling the details through practice.[2]

4. Practice Journaling

This has been proven to be another means of solidifying information and facts in long-term memory. You can relive daily events or exciting events and milestones in your career, business or relationship by writing and drawing them in your journal.

Sketch it, write it, read it, draw it, and share it. The variety of experiences helps us to recall that moment in the future.

Take a look at this article and learn how to start journaling: Writing Journal for a Better and More Productive Self (The How-To Guide)

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5. Schedule Time to Sleep

The physical functioning of memory storage hinges on sleep. Quality sleep optimizes the neural process in the brain. A 2016 report in Nature Communications indicated that when the subjects under study went without retiring to bed, the neural processes in their brains became noisier.

Heightened activities have been found to hinder the formation and consolidation of long-term memories. You will become less productive the next day when you skimp on a night of good sleep.[3]

6. Exercise Regularly

Any activity that activates your muscles and keeps your heart working will impact your brainpower positively. There is empirical evidence that exercise enhances the chemical that empowers the brain to grasp concepts and learn. A recent study has discovered that aerobic exercise is capable of increasing the size of the hippocampus. This increase enhances your memory in totality.[4]

Another research also pinpointed the significance of moving while learning. Those who walked while studying foreign language vocabulary recalled what was learned better compared to those who were stationary.[5]

7. Guard Your Mental Wellbeing

Anxiety, stress, and depression have been found to cause memory problems. They can affect your focus while learning.

There’s no way you can learn when you are depressed, anxious or stressed. It does not matter if forgetfulness is an outcome of a mental ailment or a contributing factor; you must go for medical treatment if you discover you have anxiety or depression.

You can try these 6 Mental Exercises For Busy People To Calm the Hectic Mind.

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8. Use Smart Devices Wisely

Smart gadgets can be an exciting way to enhance our memory. You can utilize reminders, sticky notes, and alarms to free up space in your mental faculty.

If you are always thinking of not forgetting to rehearse for a music presentation, then you are not maximizing your brainpower. You could leave that for your reminder or alarm to handle.

Also, taking pictures of events or information is a great way to retain information in long term memory. Nevertheless, there is a need to take precautions here as a study recently discovered that subjects who focused so much on the visual aspects failed to recall the actual information that was shared.[6]

9. Quiz Yourself

An examination is proof of learning. The best means of checking if you have learned is to quiz yourself.

Evaluation helps you to test your knowledge to discover the aspects you need to dwell on. It also helps you to recall what you have learned.

10. Mind Your Medications

Some drugs like tranquilizers, antidepressants, and blood pressure drugs have been found to cause forgetfulness by Harvard Health Blog.[7] If the drugs you are taking is making you sedated or confused, quickly consult your primary care doctor. You will be surprised to be prescribed some better alternatives to those medications.

Not only that, a study published in 2015 discovered evidence that continuous usage of anticholinergic medications like Benadryl can obstruct the functioning of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine that is linked to dementia. Aside from that, most of those drugs contain bladder-control drugs and antidepressants. You can consider drinking a lot of water instead of taking drugs.

Bottom Line

Long-term memory performs a crucial role in our lives. It helps us construct a firm foundation of memory and information that enables us to live a productive life. While it can be compared to files on a computer, studies have shown that long-term memory is not only enduring but prone to error if you don’t improve it.

More Tips for Improving Memory

Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

How to Tap into Your Right Brain’s Potential

How to Tap into Your Right Brain’s Potential

You may have heard someone say they are “totally right brained” or that they’re “a left brained person.”

There is a pervasive myth that’s been making its rounds for over a century: people have two hemispheres of their brains, and if they have a dominant left brain, they’re more analytical; and if they have a dominant right brain, they are more creative.

Before we go debunking this theory and then giving some tips for how people can access their creative brain centers, let’s first take a look at where the left brain/right brain lateralization theory comes from.

The Left Brain/Right Brain Lateralization Theory

In the 1800s, scientists discovered that when patients injured one side of their brains, certain skills were lost.[1] Scientists linked those different skills to one side of the brain or the other. Thus began the left brain/right brain myth that continues to this day.

Then, in the 1960s and 70s, Roger W. Sperry led 16 operations that cut the corpus callosum (the largest region that connects both brain hemispheres together) in order to try to treat patients’ epilepsy. Sperry wrote about the differences in the two hemispheres as a result of those surgeries.[2]

Sperry’s work was popularized in 1973 with a New York Times article about his lateralization theory—that people were either right brained (read: logical) or left brained (read: creative). From here, Sperry won the Nobel Prize for his work and numerous other publications spread the right brain/left brain myth.

Debunking the Right Brain/Left Brain Myth

If anything, the lateralization theory of the brain is a gross exaggeration. It is true that people have two hemispheres of their brains. It is also true that there are differences in the composition of those two hemispheres.

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However, the hemispheres are actually much more interconnected than Sperry’s work initially made it seem.

In a 2013 study,[3] scientists scanned over 1000 people’s brains, checking for lateralization. They confirmed that certain brain functions occur predominately in one hemisphere or the other but that, in reality, the brain is actually much more interconnected and complex than the right brain/left brain lateralization theory makes it seem.[4][5]

A New Metaphor for Right Brain/Left Brain

How do we get past this right brain/left brain myth?

First, let’s look at what contemporary cognitive science says about brain regions, and creative and logical modes of thinking.

My background is as an improviser and improv researcher. I wrote Theatrical Improvisation, Consciousness, and Cognition and think looking at improvisation and the brain can shed light on a new model for talking about unlocking the brain’s creative potential.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans have shown that while trained improvisers improvise (musically on a keyboard, rapping, and comedic improvisation) an interesting shift happens in their brain activity. [6]

A region called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex decreases in activity and creative language centers such as the medial prefrontal cortex increase in activity. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is linked with conscious thoughts—that inner voice that tells you not to say something or criticizes you when you do.

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The medial prefrontal cortex is among the brain regions linked with creativity. So, instead of thinking about right brain and left brain, perhaps it’s more current and correct to think about more specific brain regions instead of hemispheres. Perhaps, it’s more useful to think about which activities and strategies will allow us to inhibit our dorsolateral prefrontal cortexes and allow our medial prefrontal cortexes to flourish.

How to Enhance Your “Right Brain” — Creativity

Whether we’re talking about right brain versus left brain, creative versus logical, or medial prefrontal cortex versus dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, we still know enough to talk about strategies to tap into your creative brain’s full potential.

So, now that we’ve dispelled the right brain/left brain myth and looked at a more contemporary, cognitive neuroscience theory of brain regions and creativity centers, let’s look at how to tap into the potential of your creative brain.

1. Performing Arts

One way to tap into your creative brain centers is to participate in the performing arts. Whether you improvise, act, or dance, the performing arts allow you an embodied experience that will help you snap out of your habitual, logical thoughts.

Another benefit of the performing arts is that it changes your attention. Attention and creativity are inextricably linked. When we improvise, act, or dance, we have to focus intently on our fellow performers. This means we are forced to focus less on our conscious, logical thoughts. This frees us up for more creative thinking and expression.[7]

One of the conclusions of my research on improvisation is that focusing intensely on fellow improvisers and the task at hand makes it more likely that we experience a flow state. Dr. Csikszentmihalyi,[8] a Professor of Psychology and Management defines flow as an optimal psychological state when our skills match the difficulty of the task at hand. Our perception of time is altered as we get into the zone and become more present and in the moment during our chosen activity.[9]

A flow state is a creative state. It’s the opposite of crunching numbers and forcing ourselves to work out a problem with the conscious regions of our brain. So, get up, improvise, act, or dance to access your creativity.

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2. Visual Art

Art teacher Betty Edwards[10] wrote a book called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Here again, we see that a shift in our attention can lead us to an increase in our creative thinking.

Edwards’ book gives art students tricks to shift the way they see the world. For example, one exercise encourages students to literally flip whatever it is they’re drawing upside down before they draw it. This forces budding artists to literally see the object in a new way. This shift allows them to focus more on the individual components and patterns of the object, which allows them to draw it better.

Shifting how we see things is another way we can access our creative brain centers. Take an art class to shut off your conscious, critical thoughts and start seeing things from a new, more creative perspective.

3. Zone Out

If there’s one thing creativity doesn’t like, it’s being coerced.

I think we’ve all felt that awful feeling of trying to force ourselves to be creative. When we force it, we’re really trying to force our logical brain regions to be creative. It’s like asking your gardener to perform your appendix surgery. It’s just not what she does.

Instead, stop forcing it. Take a break. Take a long walk or a relaxing bath or shower. Let your mind wander.

Whatever you do, stop forcing it. This break lets your creative centers rise to the surface of your attention and get heard.

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4. Practice Mindfulness

The final trick to start accessing your so-called right brain is to practice mindfulness.

Now, there’s a lot of different ways to go about mindfulness. You can take a more physical approach with a yoga class. Or you can try meditating to become more aware and in tune with your thoughts and feelings: Meditation for Beginners: How to Meditate Deeply and Quickly

You could also try to incorporate fun mindfulness exercises[11] into your everyday routine like forcing yourself to go on detours or pretending you’re a detective who needs to examine people and places closely.

Any way you do it, mindfulness exercises and training can help you become better versed in how your brain works and what your normal thought process is like on a day-to-day basis. If we’re ever going to reach our optimal creativity, we have to become an expert in how our individual brain functions. Mindfulness is one way to become your very own brain expert.

Mindfulness also has added benefits like calming us, slowing our breathing, and helping us become more observant, which are also great ways to start tapping into our creative potential.

Final Thoughts

So, it may not be correct to say that our right brain is our creative brain, but it is still a valid pursuit to try to optimize our creative brain centers.

The key to do so is to relax, become observant, shift your perspective, move your body, try something new, and, whatever you do, don’t force it.

Creativity can feel slippery. It can abandon us when we need it most, but by slowing down and looking at things from a new perspective, we can give ourselves a better chance of tapping into our ultimate creativity, even if that doesn’t exactly mean our “right brain.”

More Tips on Boosting Creativity

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

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