Advertising
Advertising

Published on December 10, 2019

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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)

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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 About Improving Memory

Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

10 Good Habits To Have in Life To Be More Successful What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It Easily Distracted? Here’s How to Regain Your Focus How to Stay Focused at Work by Using Deep Work What are Goals? Achieve More By Changing Your Perspectives

Trending in Brain

1 5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory 2 Are You Right-Brain Dominant? (7 Right Brain Characteristics) 3 17 Ways To Develop a Growth Mindset 4 7 Simple Brain Training Habits to Boost Your Brain Power 5 How to Increase Brain Power, Boost Memory and Become 10X Smarter

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on January 21, 2020

5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory

5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory

Do you forget stuff every now and then? Are you trying to enhance your memory but not sure how?

All you need is the right memorization techniques to make the most of your memory.

The human brain is fascinating. More specifically, the vast interconnections within our mind. Mendel Kaelen compares the human brain to a hill covered in snow,

“Think of the brain as a hill covered in snow, and thoughts as sleds gliding down that hill. As one sled after another goes down the hill a small number of main trails will appear in the snow. And every time a new sled goes down, it will be drawn into preexisting trails, almost like a magnet. In time it becomes more and more difficulty to glide down the hill on any other path or in a different direction.”

The intent of Kaelen’s discussion is to think of new ways to temporarily flatten the snow. Kaelen remarked,

“The deeply worn trails disappear, and suddenly the sled can go in other directions, exploring new landscapes and, literally, creating new pathways.”

The idea here is to temporarily rewire your brain, or as Michael Pollan remarked in How to Change Your Mind,

“The power to shake the snow globe, disrupting unhealthy patterns of thought and creating a space of flexibility-entropy-in which more salubrious patterns and narratives have an opportunity to coalesce as the snow slowly settles.”

So, how can we rewire our brain allowing deeply worn connections to disappear and new connections to form? The answer is quite simple. We must change the way we store information in our mind.

    Let’s examine 5 specific memorization techniques that will change the way you think and remember information.

    1. Build a Memory Palace

      What is it?

      The method of loci[1] (aka memory palace) is a method of memory enhancement using visualizations with the use of spatial memory. It uses familiar information about your environment to quickly recall information. It is a method that was discussed by Cicero in an ancient dialogue called De Oratore.

      How to use it?

      Ron White discusses in How to Memorize Fast and Easily: Build a Memory Palace, that it’s essentially a room or building that you have memorized and you use locations in the room to store data. Ron informs us,

      “You memorize locations in a room and then you later go back to those locations to retrieve the data that you want to remember.”

      Example

      An easy 5-step example, in the form of a Wiki, can be found at Artofmemory.com. Let’s examine the the steps:

      • Step 1. Choose a place that you know well. For example, your house or office.
      • Step 2. Plan the route and pick specific locations in your route. For example, your front door, bathroom kitchen, etc.
      • Step 3. Decide what you want to memorize. For example, geography, list of items, answers for a test, etc.
      • Step 4. Place one or two items, with a mental image, and place them in your memory palace. Exaggerate your images. For example, use nudity or crazy images forcing it to stick in your mind.
      • Step 5. Make the image into a mnemonic.

      You can learn more about this technique here: How to Build a Memory Palace to Remember More of Everything

      2. Mnemonic

        What is it?

        A mnemonic is a memory device that aids in retention and/or retrieval of information. Mnemonic systems are techniques consciously used to improve memory by helping us use information already stored in long-term memory to make memorization easier.[2]

        How to use it?

        Mnemonics make use of retrieval cues to encode information in our brain allowing for efficient storage and retrieval of the information. The trick is to learn how to easily create mnemonics. If you find that you struggle with creating your own, try the following website: Mnemonic Generator.

        Example

        I recently came across a video using mnemonics to memorize countries. Memorizing Countries using Mnemonics is a video created as an introduction to a class for using memory techniques to learn the names of countries on maps.

        I actively search for videos that provide enormous educational value, yet receive very little exposure. At the time of this writing, this video has received less than 4k views. Let’s examine the video.

        Goal: Create a mnemonic to memorize the countries in the Caribbean (just the countries you need to learn).

        Step 1. Looking at a map – write out each country (for which five were chosen).

        Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico.

        Step 2. Write the first letter of each country vertically.

        C

        J

        H

        D

        Advertising

        P

        Step 3. Create a sentence or phrase.

        Cubs

        Just

        Hate

        Doing

        Push-ups

        Cubs just hate doing push-ups. (Cuba Jamaica Haiti Dominican Republic Puerto Rico)

        3. Mnemonic Peg System

          What is it?

          According to Artofmemory.com, a mnemonic peg system is a technique for memorizing lists and it works by memorizing a list of words that are easy to associate with the numbers they represent.[3] These objects are the pegs of the system.

          How to use it?

          The trick is to create a Number Rhyme System with each number having a rhyming mnemonic keyword.

          Example

          Let’s look at an example of a Number Rhyme System:[4]

          0 = hero

          1 = gun

          2 = shoe

          Advertising

          3 = tree

          4 = door

          5 = hive

          6 = sticks

          7 = heaven

          8 = gate

          9 = line

          Another technique like the Peg system is the Number Shape System.[5] Here you are assigning mnemonic images based on the shape of the number. Watch the following video for an example of this system: Number Shape System for Memorizing Numbers.

          4. Chunking

            What is it?

            Chunking is a way to remember large bits of information by chunking them into smaller pieces of information. We are more likely to then remember the information when we put the small pieces back together to see the entire picture.

            How to use it?

            In the video Chunking – A Learning Technique, we can see that there are several ways to chunk information.

            Example

            Let’s examine a simple example using a nine-digit number.

            Step 1. What is the number you are trying to remember?

            081127882

            Step 2. Cut the number into smaller pieces through chunking.

            Advertising

            081 – 127 – 882

            Let’s look at one more example from the same video.

            “Piano teachers will first demonstrate an entire song to students. They will then ask their students to practice one measure at a time. Once the part has been learned and the neural connections in the brain have been built, then students go on to the next measure. After all chunks have been played separately, they are combined until the entire piece is connected.”

            5. Transfer of Learning

              What is it?

              Transfer of learning is a way to learn something in one area and apply it in another. Authors of Thinking at Every Desk, Derek and Laura Cabrera inform us about the transfer of learning,

              “If a student has a high transfer skills, she can learn one thing and then teach herself 10, 50, or 100 additional things.”

              How to use it?

              There are two specific ways to use it:

              1. Vertical Transfer (aka Far Transfer). Think of learning something in grade school and applying it another grade or later in life.
              2. Horizontal Transfer (aka Near Transfer). Think of learning a concept in history and applying it in math.

              Example

              I provide a detailed step-by-step example for this technique in this article:

              Learn How to Learn: How to Understand and Connect Difficult Ideas Easily

              The Bottom Line

              The key to using the techniques discussed here is to remember that we must actively think about information.

              We cannot simply drill information into our brain through rote memorization. We must change the way we think about memorization. We must find a way to “shake the snow-globe” in our mind or flatten the snow so that we can create new learning paths.

              Or as Derek and Laura Cabrera point out, we must insert “Thinking” into the equation,

              “Information X Thinking = Knowledge”

              More About Enhancing Memories

              Featured photo credit: Nong Vang via unsplash.com

              Reference

              [1] Remember Everything: Memory Palaces and the Method of Loci
              [2] The Learning Center Exchange: 9 Types of Mnemonics for Better Memory
              [3] Art of Memory: Mnemonic Peg System
              [4] Art of Memory: Number Rhyme System
              [5] Art of Memory: Number Shape System

              Read Next