Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Brain fitness tips to improve concentration and memory



Concentration–or atten­tion– and mem­o­ry are two cru­cial men­tal skills and are direct­ly relat­ed. In fact, many mem­o­ry com­plaints have noth­ing to do with the actu­al abil­i­ty to remem­ber things: They come from a fail­ure to focus prop­er­ly on the task at hand.

For exam­ple, when you don’t remem­ber where you parked your car at the mall. It is like­ly that you did not pay much atten­tion to where you parked the car in the first place, since you were think­ing about what you were going to buy…thus leav­ing your brain with lit­tle oppor­tu­ni­ty to process any infor­ma­tion that could be recalled lat­er to help you find your car.

Anoth­er exam­ple: Not remem­ber­ing where we put our glass­es 🙂

Focus­ing atten­tion is effort­ful. And as we age it often gets hard­er and hard­er to con­cen­trate. But focus­ing our atten­tion on the task at hand is key for bet­ter mem­o­ry performance…so what can we do to improve con­cen­tra­tion AND mem­o­ry?

The first gen­er­al solu­tion is to opti­mize our brain health and per­for­mance, by adher­ing to the main pil­lars of brain fit­ness: bal­anced diet, phys­i­cal exer­cise, cog­ni­tive stim­u­la­tion, stress man­age­ment, and social engage­ment. That will help improve a range of cog­ni­tive func­tions, includ­ing con­cen­tra­tion and mem­o­ry, and to main­tain them in good shape over time.

Addi­tion­al­ly, you can try these spe­cif­ic tips.

Tips to improve con­cen­tra­tion

  • Prac­tice med­i­ta­tion. Mul­tiImprove Concentration through Meditationple stud­ies have shown that med­i­ta­tion can be a good brain train­ing tool to improve attentional/ con­cen­tra­tion skills.
  • Be proac­tive, not pas­sive: If talk­ing with some­one: ask ques­tions. If read­ing a book, ask your­self how you would sum­ma­rize what you just read.
  • Do not mul­ti­task, since this will divide your atten­tion. Atten­tion is lim­it­ed, so when you try to do sev­er­al things at once you con­cen­trate less on each indi­vid­ual task and, worse, you waste some or your lim­it­ed atten­tion and pro­cess­ing pow­er in switch­ing from one thing to the next and then back (there is a clear “trans­ac­tion cost” when mul­ti-task­ing)

Tips to improve mem­o­ry

  • Start by improv­ing con­cen­tra­tion 🙂
  • Per­son­al­ly relate to the infor­ma­tion you are pro­cess­ing. Ask your­self where else you have heard this, whether there is some­thing in your life relat­ed to this new piece of infor­ma­tion, how it makes you feel.
  • Repeat the infor­ma­tion: Come back to it more than one time. This has been found in many stud­ies: repeat­ed infor­ma­tion is eas­i­er to recall (remem­ber that “cells that fire togeth­er wire togeth­er”). Spaced retrieval (a method with which a per­son is cued to recall a piece of infor­ma­tion at dif­fer­ent inter­vals) is one of the rare meth­ods that show results even with Alzheimer’s patients.
  • Elab­o­rate on the infor­ma­tion: think about it, build on it. Things that are con­crete and have a clear mean­ing are eas­i­er to remem­ber than abstract and vague ones. For instance, try to pic­ture the infor­ma­tion in your head, since pic­tures are eas­i­er to mem­o­rize than words.

Putting it all togeth­er: Tips to bet­ter remem­ber names

Yes, we all for­get names, and often in the few sec­onds after we hear them. Most of the time this phe­nom­e­non is due to a lack of atten­tion or con­cen­tra­tion. Also, most names have no spe­cif­ic mean­ing and are thus hard to mem­o­rize.

Say you are intro­duced to Kim today:

  • Pay atten­tion to the name: Ask Kim to repeat her name if you have not heard it very well. Make a con­scious effort of try­ing to mem­o­rize the name: Focus on it (“Her name is Kim. I want to remem­ber it.”)
  • Repeat it: Use the name sev­er­al times in the con­ver­sa­tion. (“What do you think of this, Kim?”) If rel­e­vant, use the per­son­’s busi­ness card lat­er on to read her name and reflect, just a few sec­onds, on the con­ver­sa­tion. And pic­ture her face lat­er on in the day as you repeat her name.
  • Relate and elab­o­rate on the name: Do you know some­one else named like this? (“She seems quite hap­py, like the oth­er Kim I know from the gym.”) Or relate the name to pre­vi­ous infor­ma­tion (“Kim, as in Kim Wilde I used to lis­ten to when I was a kid. Well, she sure does­n’t look like Kim Wilde!”).

Hope this helps!

Pascale-Michelon– Pas­cale Mich­e­lon, PhD is a sci­en­tist, edu­ca­tor, and con­tribut­ing author to The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness: How to Opti­mize Brain Health and Per­for­mance at Any Age.

Alvaro Fernandez SharpBrains– Alvaro Fer­nan­dez, named a Young Glob­al Leader by the World Eco­nomic Forum, runs Sharp­Brains, and co-authored The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness: How to Opti­mize Brain Health and Per­for­mance at Any Age.

–> To test your con­cen­tra­tion and mem­o­ry, you may want to try a few brain teasers such as:

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Categories: Brain Teasers, Cognitive Neuroscience, Education & Lifelong Learning, Health & Wellness

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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