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10 (Surprising) Memory Improvement Tips

Healthy Seniors

There are sev­er­al brain fit­ness top­ics where we still see a large dis­con­nect between research and pop­u­lar knowl­edge, and a major one is the rela­tion­ship between mem­o­ry and stress. Car­o­line and I col­lab­o­rat­ed on this post to bring you some con­text and tips.

Our soci­ety has changed faster than our genes. Instead of being faced with phys­i­cal, imme­di­ate­ly life-threat­en­ing crises that demand instant action, these days we deal with events and ill­ness­es that gnaw away at us slow­ly, that stress us out and that, believe it or not, end up hurt­ing our mem­o­ry and brain.

Dr. Robert Sapol­sky, in an inter­view about his book Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, points out that humans unique­ly “can get stressed sim­ply with thought, turn­ing on the same stress response as does the zebra.” But, the zebra releas­es the stress hor­mones through life-pre­serv­ing action, while we usu­al­ly just keep mud­dling along, get­ting more anx­ious by the moment.

What is the rela­tion­ship between stress and mem­o­ry? We all know chron­ic stress is bad for our heart, our weight, and our mood, but how about our mem­o­ry? Inter­est­ing­ly, acute stress can help us focus and remem­ber things more vivid­ly. Chron­ic stress, on the oth­er hand, reduce our abil­i­ty to focus and can specif­i­cal­ly dam­age cells in the hip­pocam­pus, a brain struc­ture crit­i­cal to encod­ing short term mem­o­ry.

When is stress chron­ic? When one feels Read the rest of this entry »

Top Ten Tips for Women Who Lead Men

Thinking menEllen recent­ly wrote a nice post titled Top Ten Tips for Men Who Lead Women, and asked for vol­un­teers to offer a com­ple­men­tary per­spec­tive. I hope you enjoy!

  1. We men know we are hard to lead, and that can be stress­ful for you and for us. You should know that stress affects short term mem­o­ry, so it is impor­tant to be able to man­age stress well, with med­i­ta­tion or oth­er meth­ods. Check here your lev­el of stress to see how much this point applies to you. Please remem­ber, laugh­ing is good for your brain.
  2. Don’t think too much-we don’t. If we do, we try to find ways to self-talk us out of that uncom­fort­able state.
  3. Please remem­ber our hum­ble ori­gins. We are tool-using ani­mals, which is why we like play­ing with all kinds of toys, from a car to that black­ber­ry.
  4. When we are stub­born, you are enti­tled to remind us that even apes can learn-if you help us see the point. Show us that change is pos­si­ble at any age. Believe it or not, we can lis­ten.
  5. Espe­cial­ly if we can find com­mon ground: what about chat­ting about sports psy­chol­o­gy?.
  6. Please moti­vate us to lis­ten and be open mind­ed to learn with wise words. If that doesn’t work, please per­se­vere with nice words. Please don’t ever say that we are worse than pink dol­phins-if we feel attacked, we’ll just dis­en­gage.
  7. Some­times we don’t coop­er­ate enough?. Please give us time for our brains to ful­ly evolve, we have been try­ing for a while!
  8. You can help us grow. For the next lead­er­ship work­shop, buy us copies of the Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain book. You may think we don’t need this… but at our core we real­ly want to get bet­ter at Grat­i­tude and Altru­ism. We want to be able to play with the ulti­mate toy: our genes!
  9. If that book is sold out, we could also ben­e­fit from read­ing Damasio’s Descartes Error and dis­cov­er how emo­tions are impor­tant for good deci­sion-mak­ing. Or help us improve our abil­i­ty to read emo­tion­al mes­sages. As long as we believe we can some­how ben­e­fit from it, we’ll try!
  10. If you lead some­one with Bill Gates-like Frontal Lobes, con­grat­u­late him for his brain. If you don’t, encour­age him to fol­low track. Please be patient

Now, any tak­ers for Top Ten Tips for Women Who Lead Women or Men Who Lead Men?

Stress and Short Term Memory

We all know chron­ic stress is bad for our heart, our weight, and our mood, but how about our mem­o­ry? Inter­est­ing­ly, acute stress can help you focus and remem­ber things more vivid­ly. Chron­ic stress, on the oth­er hand, reduces your abil­i­ty to focus and can specif­i­cal­ly dam­age cells in the hip­pocam­pus, a brain struc­ture crit­i­cal to encod­ing short term mem­o­ry.

When is stress chron­ic? When you feel out of con­trol of your life. You may feel irri­ta­ble or anx­ious. While every indi­vid­ual varies in their response the type and quan­ti­ty of stress, there are some things you can do to feel more in con­trol of your envi­ron­ment. This sense of empow­er­ment can low­er your stress, and as a result, help your mem­o­ry.

What are some ways to feel in con­trol and less stressed?

  1. Use a cal­en­dar to sched­ule impor­tant things. Give items a date and a pri­or­i­ty.
  2. Make a list of things that need to be done. Even if it’s a long list, it can be reward­ing to cross off items as you com­plete them.
  3. Use a con­tem­pla­tive prac­tice like yoga or med­i­ta­tion to calm your mind and body or try using a heart rate vari­abil­i­ty sen­sor to learn to relax and focus your mind and body.
  4. Ask your­self how impor­tant some­thing tru­ly is to you. Maybe you’re stress­ing over some­thing that you are bet­ter off just let­ting go.
  5. Del­e­gate what you can.
  6. Get reg­u­lar exer­cise to burn off those excess stress hor­mones.
  7. Get enough sleep so that you can recharge your bat­ter­ies.
  8. Eat well and reduce your caf­feine and sug­ar intake which can add to your sense of jit­ter­i­ness.
  9. Main­tain your social net­work. Shar­ing con­cerns with friends and fam­i­ly can help you feel less over­whelmed.
  10. Give your­self 10 min­utes just to relax every day.

Fur­ther Read­ing on Stress and Mem­o­ry
Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert M. Sapol­sky, Ph.D.
A Primer on Mul­ti­task­ing
Sim­ple Stress Test
Quick Stress Buster
Is there such thing as GOOD stress?
Brain Yoga: Stress — Killing You Soft­ly

MindFit, Posit Science, Happy Neuron

The Seat­tle Times has a good brief arti­cle today on Posit Sci­ence, Hap­py Neu­ron Games and us (they men­tion Mind­Fit Brain Work­out to “work on short-term mem­o­ry, nam­ing, divid­ed atten­tion, plan­ning, hand-eye coor­di­na­tion and oth­er cog­ni­tive mea­sures.”).

Check Is your brain ready for the chal­lenge?

———

For the record (giv­en a reader’s com­ment below I changed the word “focus” with “men­tion”), we think Posit Sci­ence offers a great and inten­sive pro­gram most­ly focused on audi­to­ry pro­cess­ing, that Hap­pyNeu­ron offers a wider vari­ety of games online so it is a less struc­tured “pro­gram”, and Mind­Fit is a com­bi­na­tion of both approach­es (struc­tured pro­gram, wide vari­ety). Each of them are use­ful tools-it depends on what you may want to accom­plish. Sharp­Brains does not pro­duce any of them.

Enhancing Cognition and Emotions for Learning — Learning & The Brain Conference

Alvaro and I had the good for­tune to attend a great con­fer­ence last week called Learn­ing & The Brain: Enhanc­ing Cog­ni­tion and Emo­tions for Learn­ing. It was a fas­ci­nat­ing mix of neu­ro­sci­en­tists and edu­ca­tors talk­ing with and lis­ten­ing to each oth­er. Some top­ics were meant to be applied today, but many were food for thought — insight on where sci­ence and edu­ca­tion are head­ed and how they influ­ence each oth­er.

Using dra­mat­ic new imag­ing tech­niques, such as fMRIs, PET, and SPECT, neu­ro­sci­en­tists are gain­ing valu­able infor­ma­tion about learn­ing. This pio­neer­ing knowl­edge is lead­ing not only to new ped­a­go­gies, but also to new med­ica­tions, brain enhance­ment tech­nolo­gies, and ther­a­pies.… The Con­fer­ence cre­ates an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary forum — a meet­ing place for neu­ro­sci­en­tists, edu­ca­tors, psy­chol­o­gists, clin­i­cians, and par­ents — to exam­ine these new research find­ings with respect to their applic­a­bil­i­ty in the class­room and clin­i­cal prac­tice.

Take-aways

  • Humans are a mix­ture of cog­ni­tion and emo­tion, and both ele­ments are essen­tial to func­tion and learn prop­er­ly
  • Edu­ca­tors and pub­lic pol­i­cy mak­ers need to learn more about the brain, how it grows, and how to cul­ti­vate it
  • Stu­dents of all ages need to be both chal­lenged and nur­tured in order to suc­ceed
  • Peo­ple learn dif­fer­ent­ly — try to teach and learn through as many dif­fer­ent modal­i­ties as pos­si­ble (engage lan­guage, motor skills, artis­tic cre­ation, social inter­ac­tion, sen­so­ry input, etc.)
  • While short-term stress can height­en your cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties, long term stress kills you — you need to find bal­ance and release
  • Test anx­i­ety and sub­se­quent poor test results can be improved with behav­ioral train­ing with feed­back based on heart rate vari­abil­i­ty
  • Dr. Robert Sapol­sky is a very very enlight­en­ing and fun speak­er
  • Allow time for rest and con­sol­i­da­tion of learned mate­r­i­al
  • Emo­tion­al mem­o­ries are eas­i­er to remem­ber
  • Con­fer­ences like these per­form a real ser­vice in fos­ter­ing dia­logues between sci­en­tists and edu­ca­tors

Read the rest of this entry »

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