Memory Enhancement

When I first think of memory enhancement, I am thinking of recalling facts as needed, getting prepared for an exam, for example.

But these days my 62 year old brain is occasionally not pulling up the perfect word for the situation it is in, perhaps a counseling situation, or a teaching situation, which is worrisome, because counseling can be very much about subtle shadings of concepts and experiences.

So while there are professional concerns, I also have small children, a boy 11, and my daughter is 5. I do not want this recent word recall issue to impact my ability to be a father to them, so of course I am researching what is out there to enhance memory, and there is a lot more than there used to be, starting with this whole notion of brain fitness, and the   pillars  of brain fitness.

Some of this memory enhancement through brain fitness material is quite exciting.

What are Neurogenesis and Neuroplasticity?

When I was an undergraduate attempting to become the next memory enhancement superstar, no one knew that we grew new brain cells every day, which is called neurogenesis, and no one could describe how plastic the brain is, or how fast the neurons in your brain could form new connections.

That plasticity can occur within minutes of the brain being presented with new data.

However, neurogenesis and neuroplasticity are not guaranteed.

Even though the brain grows new neurons daily, and those new neurons migrate to the hippocampus, which is an important part of the memory apparatus, they are killed by stress hormones and by environmental poisons like booze.

Those new connections are not kept, nor are circuits in the brain which fall into disuse kept, because the brain is a very energy efficient organ, and will not burn fuel unnecessarily.

So it turns out that the best memory enhancement is brain fitness first, and if you are looking for an overview of what brain fitness is, then by all means read an excellent e-book called Brainfit for Life by Simon Evans,Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt,Ph.D, who are neuroscientists at the University of Michigan. They have culled the neuroscientific literature for tools that you and I can use to enhance memory, and they have left the jargon in the lab.

I can understand and consume the knowledge as a layperson.

 Pillars  of Brain Fitness

Evans and Burghardt say that brain fitness and memory enhancement require taking care of the  pillars  of brain fitness, which are physical activity/exercise, nutrition including omega 3 fatty acid and antioxidants, lots of good sleep, which is very important in memory consolidation, stress management, and novel learning experience, which means to the experts the kind of learning my brain gets when I learn a new language or a new musical instrument, or perhaps the kind of learning that happens with emerging computerized brain fitness programs.

Not sure about you, but I do not have time, even though I am closing in on retirement, to learn a new language or instrument, so I am looking to the computerized brain fitness programs to help with brain fitness, and if you like to read research, then I recommend the PNAS and IMPACT studies to get you going.

There are three computerized brain fitness programs that I have tried which have made a difference in my word recall issue, and a stress management program which teaches heart rate variability biofeedback that I recommend to my clients.

The nice thing about those tools is that they are convenient, easy to implement, fit within the brain fitness parameter, and are affordable. Evans and Burghardt discuss research about the dual n back task in their book, so I first looked for a program based on the dual n back task, and found a program which is by turns frustrating and addictive, and it will very rapidly teach you how fast your attention wanders, which impacts your memory. If I can pay attention longer I can keep move short term to long term memory if I want. This dual n back practice requires 1/2 hour for 19 days with maintenance practices as needed.

There is one nice side effect, which is increased I.Q. Not sure about you but bigger is better as far as I am concerned.

The next program, researched in the IMPACT study mentioned above, works wonders for Senior Citizens. That program exercises auditory circuits and on average helps Seniors recapture about 10 years of memory ability, so just like anything if we exercise it, we get more of it.

And the last program I tried and use frequently while I am online is an internet based program which I can boot up and practice on demand, since it can be of shorter duration, so it is great to use between clients, when I need to clear the synapses, so to speak.

Just remember, the computerized brain fitness programs work best with a brain that is getting brain fitness  pillar  attention.