Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Memory
The human brain is like a library that stocks memories instead of books. In some ways, that makes the hippocampus, the part of the brain most involved in memory, the brain’s librarian. The hippocampus has the most responsibility in this cranial library, juggling the new releases of short-term memory while cataloging materials for the permanent collection of long-term memory. It’s not the only part at work, however, in storing these chapters of our lives. Different kinds of memory are stored in different areas of the brain. With such a large system, the brain needs a system of encoding and retrieving memories, something a bit more complex than the local library’s Dewey Decimal System.
The brain has to be able to pull information at the drop of a hat, whether it’s a fact on hold (such as a telephone number) or a dusty memory that’s been sitting in storage for years (the memory of your first kiss). No one likes a library that loses books or shelves them in the wrong place. Yet sometimes we find ourselves with a very poor librarian on our hands, one that doesn’t allow us to retrieve memories when we need them. Sometimes it’s trivial, like when we tear apart our homes looking for glasses perched innocuously atop our heads, and sometimes these lapses in memories are more embarrassing, such as when we call a colleague “sport” because we simply can’t remember his name.
Whether you’re a college student studying for an important test or an aging baby boomer concerned about forgetting a recent doctor’s appointment, there are a few things everyone can do to optimize the storage and checkouts in our private libraries of memories. Alert the librarian and head to the next page for the first tip.
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.