Most of us want better memories. If only we did not come to the store, we would know that we have to buy three things, but only two. If only we had not gone upstairs just to forget why we went up there. If only we could read information and just record instead of quickly disappearing from our heads.
There are many proven and familiar memory technologies, some of which have been available for decades – such as the use of mnemonics and memory locations. But what are scientists looking for now? Before we can be sure of how to best implement them, we still need to do some research, but what can the latest research tell us about the types of techniques that we will see more in the future?
We can think of time and space as very different things, but even in the way we talk, there are more crossovers than we could assume. We set events "behind us". We are looking forward to the weekend. The exact way we do it varies with culture, but in the Western world, most of us think that the future in front of us expands in space as the past expands behind us.
Researchers at the University of Roehampton decided to use this connection between time and space to find a way to better remember events.
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They showed people a list of words, a series of words pictures or a staged video in which a woman's handbag is stolen. People were told to walk 1
It was as if going backwards in space would stimulate their minds to lag behind in time and the result was that they could more easily access their memories.
It even worked if they only imagined walking backwards instead of doing it physically. This research from 2018 fits in with some interesting research done in 2006 on rats. When rats learn to move in a labyrinth, neurons, called place cells, are detonated at each location. The researchers found that the rats pause in a labyrinth and the neurons, which are connected to each other in each place they have learned along the route, are triggered in reverse order. If you move backwards in your head, it will help you to remember the right path.
And now, a brand new research has shown that when we remember past events, we reconstruct experience in our minds in reverse order. When we see an object for the first time, we first notice the patterns and colors and then find out what it is. When we try to remember an object, it is the other way round. We first remember the object and then, if we're lucky, the details.
Draw a drawing
How about drawing your shopping list instead of writing down the articles? In 2018, a group of younger and older people received a list of words to learn. Half were asked to make a drawing of each of the words, while the other half were instructed to write down the words while they were learning them. Later, people were tested to see how many words they remembered. Although some words, such as "isotopes," were very difficult to draw, drawing made such a difference that the older people were as good as the younger ones to remember the words. Drawing has made a difference even in people with dementia.
It has long been known that aerobic exercise such as running can improve your memory.
When we draw something, we are forced to think in more detail, and it is this deeper processing that makes us more likely to remember it. Writing a list also helps a bit. So, if you come to your store and find out that you've left your grocery list at home, you'll still be able to remember more items than if you had not written a list at all. Making a drawing goes one step further.
And if those of you who are well-versed with Pictionary think that this technique works even better for you, you will be disappointed. The quality of the drawing made no difference.
Practice but set the right timing
It has been known for some time that aerobic exercise such as running can improve your memory. Regular exercise has little overall effect, but if you want to learn something special, a one-time effort seems to help, at least in the short term.
But research suggests that memory expansion may be even stronger if we have the right timing. People who had completed 35 minutes of interval training for four hours, after learning a list of pictures along with places, remembered the couples better than those who immediately completed the interval training.
In the future, researchers will find out exactly when exercise is most useful, which may vary depending on the things you are trying to remember.
4) Do Nothing
When people who suffered amnesia as a result of a stroke were given a list of 15 words they should memorize, and then had to do another task, Ten minutes later they could remember only 14% of the original word list. However, if they sat in a dark room instead and did nothing for 15 minutes, their score was an impressive 49%.
The same technique has been used for several years by Michaela Dewar at Herriot Watt University. She found that in healthy people, a short break immediately after learning something even made a difference in how much they remembered a full week later. Now you may be thinking, but how do we know that people have not spent those ten minutes in a dark room repeating the words smartly so they will not forget it. To prevent this, Dewar had to make people hard to pronounce words from a foreign language that they might not be able to repeat for themselves.
If you go backwards, draw, move, or even pause, that sounds like hard work. How about a short nap?
These studies show us how fragile new memories are, so fragile that even a short break can make a difference, whether they hang around or disappear.
Take a nap
Walking backwards, drawing, doing sports or even taking a break sounds like hard work, how about a short nap? Sleep is designed to help consolidate our memories by replaying or reactivating the information we just learned, and that sleep does not have to take place at night. Researchers in Germany found that when they were given memorization words, people could remember more than 90 minutes of sleep when watching a movie.
However, recent research suggests that this technique is best for people accustomed to taking a regular afternoon nap. This led Elizabeth McDevitt and her team from the University of California Riverside to wonder if it was possible to train people for a nap. So the non-napers went to bed for four weeks if they could.
Unfortunately, the nap has still not revalued their memories. Maybe a longer workout time is needed, or maybe there are people just going backwards, drawing, running or doing nothing.
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