Try These Simple, Effective Strategies to Improve Memory
Updated: Mar 28
Remember the first time you finally learned the order of the colors of the rainbow? Many of us were introduced to Roy G. Biv to master this feat – among the many mnemonics we learn that, interestingly, often stay with us for life.
It’s normal to expect and experience some level of memory impairment as we age, and, of course, it is even more pronounced when Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia is a factor. Researchers are continuously striving to locate effective strategies to improve memory and cognitive functioning and have uncovered some intriguing findings on “old school” techniques such as mnemonics. Here is what they have recently discovered:
Mnemonics offers a connection to a memory through a phrase, song, abbreviation, etc. This particular strategy to improve memory revealed remarkable results in increasing activity in areas of the brain which are typically affected by dementia, leading to improved retention of information.
There are limitless mnemonic strategies that are extremely useful in improving memory. For example, try mnemonic keywords. These are a fun and creative option to memorize words in a different language. The strategy entails choosing a word that’s similar to the new word you want to learn and visualizing a picture that brings the two words together. For instance, if you’re wanting to remember that chapeau is French for the term “hat,” you could picture Charlie Chaplin along with his infamous black hat. The “Chap” section of his name can trigger the initial letters in chapeau, and the memory will stick.
Spaced Retrieval Training
This strategy involves slowly increasing the time frame between memory tests and was also found to be extremely successful for those with Alzheimer's disease. Compared to mnemonics, however, there was actually a decrease in brain activity, leading medical researchers to determine that the information was being processed more efficiently.
Spaced retrieval training is very effective in increasing independence and lowering anxiety for people with cognitive challenges. Choose a desired event or activity for the person to remember, like a lunch date with a buddy on Friday. First ask the person a question to find out if the memory is already in place. If not, remind them that they're having lunch with Sally on Friday. Wait 15 seconds, and ask the individual the question again. If the memory is in place now, increase the time to 30 seconds, and ask again, continuing to increase the time and ask again. In the event that the person does not remember after 15 seconds, keep repeating the process every 15 seconds several more times before determining that this is simply not an effective technique, at least not with this particular event or activity.
Both of these tactics are simple, drug-free techniques to incorporate into the treatment for a person during the early stages of Alzheimer's, and for anyone who is looking for strategies to improve memory.
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