8 great tips to improve short-term memory

Circulation | Memory and concentration


Owen Wiseman
@AVogel_ca


19 October 2020

What is short-term memory?

The seat of memory lies in a region of the brain known as the hippocampus, part of the diverse limbic system. This is the part of memory responsible for pieces of information we pick up throughout the day, many of them are used during the task at hand and then discarded. This is far different from our long-term memory which is responsible for recalling events from our past.

The big question becomes, is memory decline inevitable or are there ways to maintain a sharp mind? Keep reading to discover some of our favourite and clinically-supported tips.

8 tips to improve short-term memory

  1. Chewing gum. You may have grown up being told it was unseemly to chew gum (especially with an open mouth), but it may help you retain information. In a research study, scientists saw those chewing gum experience a 10% increase in levels of alertness and performance on an intellectual task. Studies have also shown that chewing gum is directly related to maintaining hippocampal function and increases activity in the prefrontal cortex.
  2. Ginkgo. While certain hobbies and activities have been shown to help improve memory, sometimes you need something a bit more targeted. Ginkgo biloba contain an active compound referred to as ginkgolides which have the ability to dilate blood vessels, specifically those of the brain. Standardized extracts of the herb have been shown to benefit memory in those suffering from cognitive decline and various forms of dementia including vascular and Alzheimer's.
  3. Doodle. We may jump to the conclusion that those who doodle aren't listening to us and can be found exploring their own little world. After listening to a tape listing various bits of information, those in the doodling group experienced a 29% increase in their ability to recall what was said.
  4. "Sit up straight". Slouching or stooping over is often associated with laziness or poor self-confidence, but it may be connected to memory too!
    In a clinical trial out of San Francisco State University and the Institute for Holistic Health Studies, 216 college students recalled positive and negative memories while erect or slouched. Those in the slouched position had an 86% easier time recalling negative memories while those in the upright position had an 87% easier time recalling positive memories. It is therefore worth considering the benefits of new ergonomic furniture while you try and study.
  5. Healthy body, healthy mind. It's no surprise that when our diet and sleep is poor and we fail to exercise, the body doesn't have the proper foundations to learn or understand new information. While multi-vitamins are an option worth considering, whole-food supplements are more in line with how humans have absorbed nutrients over millennia.
    Bio-Strath is just that, a whole-food supplement containing the full spectrum of B vitamins and essential amino acids, the building blocks of the body. Nutrient deficiencies manifest as all sorts of symptoms throughout the body, including impaired memory. Making sure you get the vitamins and minerals you need ensures a strong and healthy memory.
  6. Laughter is the best medicine. Whenever we face a stressful event, it can be hard to recall certain facts about the event because of high levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, circulating through the body. When we recall a humorous story, perhaps one that leaves our belly's aching from laughing so hard, cortisol levels drop. Older adults watching funny videos in a randomized control trial performed 38.5% better on a learning task and had a 43.6% improvement in the ability to recall information learned before the videos. When in doubt, laugh it out!
  7. Step into nature. It probably isn't hard to imagine how much better we feel stepping into nature and walking through the woods. We not only feel healthier, but our minds benefit as well. 2,593 primary schoolchildren from the second to fourth grade were followed for an entire year. The children were assessed for how much greenery they were exposed to on a daily basis, at home and school, and as part of their daily commute. The children who were surrounded by the most greenery on a daily basis showed superior working memory and improvements in inattentiveness than their peers. This was also partly explained by lower air pollution thanks to trees shouldering the burden of some pollutants.
  8. Move that body! At the heart of exercise are increases in blood flow, including to the brain. Those who exercise the most in middle-age have a 30% reduced risk of developing dementia later in life. To top this off, 2,000 men were followed and five healthy behaviours were tracked, including:
    • Regular exercise
    • No smoking
    • Moderate alcohol intake
    • Healthy body weight
    • Healthy diet
    Men who followed at least 4/5 of these habits were at least 60% less likely to develop dementia and the associated memory issues. This doesn't mean you are lost if you find yourself past middle age without exercising. Regular aerobic activities continue to benefit our brains no matter the age, helping to increase the size of our hippocampus.

Hopefully you've taken away a few helpful tips for yourself and the loved ones in your life. Don't forget (pun fully intended) to check out other helpful articles including 'Implicit and Explicit Memory Explained' and 'Exams? Keep your Brain Sharp!'.

References:
https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/risk-factors-and-prevention/physical-exercise
https://biofeedbackhealth.files.wordpress.com/2017/11/0-article-biof-45-02-36-41.pdf
https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2019.01688/full
https://molmed.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s10020-019-0125-y
http://pignottia.faculty.mjc.edu/math134/homework/doodlingCaseStudy.pdf
https://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/112/26/7937.full.pdf
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19356310/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20236235/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24682001/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31125164/

 

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