Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


How to improve memory skills and remember what you read: Beyond phonics and “whole language”

Horizontal Stacked BooksDespite the increasing visual media we are increasingly exposed to, reading is still an important skill. Whether it is school textbooks, online newspapers or regular books, people still read, though not as much as they used to. One reason that many people don’t read much is that they don’t read well. For them, Read the rest of this entry »

Test your Short-Term Memory: How many letters can you memorize?

Memory is more complex that we usually think. Cognitive sciences have identified different memory systems, each supported by different brain regions. One major difference is between long-term and short-term memory (also called working memory).

Long-term memory is an unlimited storage of memories dating as far back as you can remember to a few minutes ago. For instance, when you remember your first day in high-school or what you said to your colleague two minutes ago, you are using your long-term memory system. This system depends mostly on parts of the temporal (in blue here) and frontal (in green) regions of the brain.

Short-term or working memory is a limited storage used to briefly keep the information needed for the task at hand. For instance, when you keep in mind a phone number while you are dialing it or when you do some mental calculation you are using your working memory system. This system depends mostly on parts of the frontal (in green) and parietal (in yellow) regions of the brain.

Working memory is crucial for most of the tasks we perform daily. It is also quite vulnerable to the aging process. Two good reasons to try to maintain this function! Ready to test and sharpen your short-term memory?

Follow this link to memorize series of letters. The first 2 trials are very easy but the test gets quite challenging after that!

8 Tips To Remember What You Read

Horizontal Stacked BooksDespite television, cell phones, and Twitter, traditional reading is still an important skill. Whether it is school textbooks, magazines, or regular books, people still read, though not as much as they used to. One reason that many people don’t read much is that they don’t read well. For them, it is slow, hard work and they don’t remember as much as they should. Students, for example,may have to read something several times before they understand and remember what they read.

Why? You would think that schools teach kids how to read well. Schools do try. I work with middle-school teachers and they tell me that many students are 2-3 years behind grade level in reading proficiency. No doubt, television, cell phones, and the Web are major contributors to this problem, which will apparently get worse if we don’t emphasize and improve reading instruction.

Some of the blame can be placed on the fads in reading teaching, such as phonics and “whole language,” which sometimes are promoted by zealots who don’t respect the need for both approaches. Much of the blame for poor reading skills can be laid at the feet of parents who set poor examples and, of course, on the youngsters who are too lazy to learn how to read well.

For all those who missed out on good reading skills, it is not too late. I summarize below what I think it takes to read with good speed and comprehension.

  1. Read with a purpose.
  2. Skim first.
  3. Get the reading mechanics right.
  4. Be judicious in highlighting and note taking.
  5. Think in pictures.
  6. Rehearse as you go along.
  7. Stay within your attention span and work to increase that span.
  8. Rehearse again soon.

1) Know Your Purpose

Everyone should have a purpose for their reading and think about how that purpose is being fulfilled during the actual reading. The advantage for remembering is that checking continuously for how the purpose is being fulfilled helps the reader to stay on task, to focus on the more relevant parts of the text, and to rehearse continuously as one reads. This also saves time and effort because relevant items are most attended.

Identifying the purpose should be easy if you freely choose what to read. Just ask yourself, “Why am I reading this?” If it is to be entertained or pass the time, then there is not much problem. But myriad other reasons could apply, such as:

  • to understand a certain group of people, such as Muslims, Jews, Hindus, etc.
  • to crystallize your political position, such as why a given government policy should be opposed.
  • to develop an informed plan or proposal.
  • to satisfy a requirement of an academic course or other assigned reading.

Many of us have readings assigned to us, as in a school environment. Or the boss may hand us a manual and say Read the rest of this entry »

Improve Memory with Sleep, Practice, and Testing

There are whole markets (think crosswords, herbal supplements, drugs, brain fitness software) aimed at helping us improve our memory.

Now, what is “memory”? how does the process of memory sleep and memorywork?

Dr. Bill Klemm, Professor of Neuroscience at Texas A&M University, explains a very important concept below.

– Alvaro


Getting from Here to There:
Making Memory Consolidation Work

By Bill Klemm,  Ph. D.

Until consolidation has occurred, a short-term memory is very vulnerable, as all of us have experienced from looking up a phone number only to have some distraction cause us to lose the number before we can get it dialed.

What is “consolidation”?

Brain researchers use the term “consolidation” for the process whereby short-term memory gets made more permanent.

Here, I would like to discuss some aspects of consolidation that many people may not know about: why sleep is so important, why memory must be practiced, and how testing promotes consolidation. Read the rest of this entry »

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