Think fast: What did you have for dinner last night? If you
can’t remember right away—or at all—take heart. Recently, scientists have
identified some surprisingly simple ways to give your memory a boost.
Close Your Eyes, Rest
If you’re looking for an easy way to improve your memory,
this is it: Just close your eyes and sit quietly for a few minutes.
Researchers led by Michaela Dewar at the University of
Edinburgh in Scotland showed just how effective this strategy can be. In a new study in Psychological Science, older adults
were told two stories and asked to remember as many details they could. After
each story, they took a 10-minute break. During one break, they were asked to
rest quietly with their eyes closed in a darkened room while the experimenter
left, supposedly to prepare for the next task. During the other break, they
played a spot-the-difference game on the computer.
Older adults in the study recalled the stories better after
resting, and they maintained this edge when retested a week later. It seems
that what you do right after learning verbal information affects how securely
it’s fixed in memory—and not doing much at all for a little while may be the
best way to insure it’s remembered.
You’ve probably heard that eating fish is good for your
brain. Now this old saw has new research evidence to back it up.
Fish contains DHA, a healthful omega-3 fatty acid. In a study from the University of
Alberta, lab mice fed a DHA-enriched diet had 30% higher levels of DHA in
the hippocampus, compared to mice on a regular diet. The hippocampus is an area
of the brain that plays a key role in memory, not only in mice, but also in
humans. The study showed that cells in this area were able to communicate
better when more DHA was present.
Sure, smoking is bad for your whole body, including your
brain. But a few cigarettes when out with your friends won’t do any harm,
Based on a study
from Northumbria University in England, “social smokers” who only smoke on the
weekend may do as much harm to their memories as those who light up every day.
For the study, volunteers were asked to remember a series of actions at set
locations while watching a short video clip of a busy street. For example, they
were asked to remember to text a friend when passing a particular store. Both
groups of smokers did about equally poorly on this memory test, compared to a
group of nonsmokers. Past research suggests a likely explanation: Smoking has
been linked to premature brain aging and shrinkage.
The good news is that tossing out your cigarettes may help
your memory bounce back. A similar
study from the same research team showed that ex-smokers did about as well
on the memory test as those who had never smoked.