We all want to maintain sharp memories; however, as we age, our cognitive skills inevitably decline. Fortunately, you can boost your ability to retain new information by employing three simple and somewhat bizarre memory-building strategies.
Research suggests that we may be able to enhance our abilities to retain new information by chewing gum while we learn it. One particular study out of the University of Northumbria in Newcastle, UK found that gum-chewing subjects outperformed non-chewers by 24 percent on memory recall tests which demanded immediate responses. They also scored 36 percent higher on delayed recall tests and were far more accurate on tests that assessed spatial working memory.
A growing body of research is demonstrating that sleep plays an integral role in how well we remember. Researchers at Michigan State University found a “significant” positive correlation between better memory retention and sleep. In the study, subjects who learned new information immediately before sleeping demonstrated better retention when compared to subjects who learned new information prior to long stints of wakefulness.
Another study, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, found that age-related memory loss may stem from structural changes within the brain that make it difficult for older people to sleep. According to Dr. Kevin Berry, this latter study is especially important, because it further demonstrates how inadequate sleep can harm cognitive function.
“Numerous studies have already linked insufficient sleep with short-term memory problems, as well as serious long-term conditions, such as dementia,” he said. “While we may not be able to stop age-related changes from causing sleep problems; we can change bad habits that keep us from sleeping. We can also get treatment for any underlying sleep disorder that may be promoting sleep difficulties.”
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Researchers out of the University of Toronto recently performed a study that found that older adults tend to retain information better when they’re somewhat distracted. Published in the journal Psychological Science, the study found that age-related changes make it hard for older people to learn by fixating on information the way they did when they were younger.
Instead, researchers found that aging adults tend to retain information better when they receive it in a format marked by distractions. Taking this revelation further, another group of researchers presented findings at the International Neuropsychological Society’s annual meeting that provided fascinating evidence that showed that older people trained on Facebook demonstrated 25 percent better memory retention when compared to participants who didn’t use Facebook at all.
The Mind-Body Connection
While we may be able to enhance memory function by using some simple tricks; the best way to stay mentally adept is to stay physically healthy. Studies have shown that people who commit to exercise and healthy diets tend to enjoy slower cognitive decline; so eat well and get moving if you want to stay sharp as you age.
- NewScientist: Chewing gum improves memory
- Huffington Post: Sleep May Be Linked With Memory, Study Suggests
- Salt Lake Tribune: Study links poor sleep to dulling memories
- Time: How Facebook Improves Memory