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Memory Improvement Techniques and Brain Exercises

Fitness TrainerA reader (thanks Mike!) sends us this fun article, titled A matter of training, on how to train our memory. Some quotes:

“It’s a skill, not a talent. It’s something anyone could have picked up … I’m not born with this. It’s about training and technique, he says, explaining his unusual ability. Anant holds the Limca Record  the Indian equivalent of the Guinness Record œ for memorising 75 telephone numbers, along with the names of their owners, in less than an hour. He is recognised as “the man with the most phenomenal memory in India.

“Unfortunately, most people think that memorising is very difficult. The moment they see someone demonstrate something like this, they think it’s out of this world.

If you want to remember something, you have to link it to something you already know. Association is the natural principal. For example, if you need directions to a place, a landmark is often used as a point of reference. And if you derive pleasure from something you do, there’s a good chance you’ll remember it. Since the brain already works in this manner, why don’t we take control of it?

“To me, an intelligent person is someone who is able to put together more of his skills to solve a problem. Intelligence is about using strategies.

The key concept here is that memory, as well as other cognitive skills, can be trained through directed exercise. Which means we can improve our peak capacity, and also delay potential decline. Now, there are not magic pills, but “brain fitness” exercises, in the same way we go to the gym to train some muscles. You can read about a very powerful memory technique, called loci method or memory palace, that requires training and has been used since classic Greece. Maybe the Oldest Brain Fitness Program?

In the related post Neuroplasticity and Lifelong Learning we talked about other types of “brain exercises”:

Just today we found out that Sharp sums in the head aim to blunt impact of TV, on a topic we have been discussing for a few weeks with several of our scientific advisors. We quote:

“Gilles de Robien, the Education Minister (in France), has ordered children to carry out between 15 and 20 minutes of calcul mental (mental arithmetics) every day from the age of 5. Mr de Robien moved after a report from the French Science Academy said that children who practiced sums in their heads had better memories and quicker brains.

Questions for the final year of French primary school

Calculate in your head

  1. Half of 48, 72, 414, 826 and 1,040
  2. Three times 41, 52, 109, 212 and 503
  3. A third of 12, 66, 93, 309, 636 and 3,024
  4. 76-9, 987-9, 456-19, 497-19 and 564-29
  5. 154, 254, 30×4, 354, 404 and 454

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