I can remember memory exercises and assignments all the way back to second grade, and they always involved drudgery and tedium, like memorizing and reciting the Gettysburg address, and making faces at the kid reciting to try and make them lose their place.
I actually did that and feel some embarrassment at this moment as I remember that.
And now I am noticing that I am having issues with word recall, which tells me that my brain is now 62 years old, and my brain is earning its living recalling words and using them in counseling sessions, and I am worried that I am going to have to return to those tedious memory exercises from my childhood to keep my professional vocabulary.
However, I do hear the cavalry trumpet sounding not too far away, and I do believe that I can do memory exercises which reflect recent discoveries about the human brain and recent technological developments.
So here is what I have learned. We grow new brain cells every day, which is called neurogenesis, and those brain cells migrate to the hippocampus, which is a very important part of the memory process in the human brain, and we are making lots of discoveries about neuroplasticity, which is the capacity of neurons to form new connections when they are presented with novel learning experiences, sometimes within minutes of the learning experience.
Neurogenesis is a new discovery, perhaps a decade old.
The good news is that both neurogenesis and neuroplasticity can be encouraged, which impacts memory, and influences memory exercises, by taking care of the pillars of brain fitness.
The Pillars of Brain Fitness?
It turns out that the best memory exercise that we can do is what Simon Evans,Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt,Ph.D. tell us to do in their wonderful e-book Brainfit for Life.
We need to commit regular time to our brain fitness, which means that we take care of what the experts in the brain and memory exercise fields are calling the pillars of brain fitness.
When we do that, we are whipping the brain into its best shape for neurogenesis and neuroplasticity, which are the keys to a longer memory, or a quicker memory, certainly a brain that is ready to use any of the traditional memory exercise tools like associative images.
So what are the pillars of brain fitness? Physical activity/exercise, nutrition including lots of antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acids, stress management, good sleep, which is the time of day when memory consolidation happens, and novel learning experiences, which might include the use of the new computerized brain fitness programs.
The novel learning experience that the brain requires for enhanced neurogenesis and neuroplasticity is the novel learning experience that we usually get when learning a new language or new musical instrument, because that kind of learning exposes the brain to increased complexity and provides an opportunity for the appropriate amount of positive feedback (correct answers) for strong circuits to form.
Evans and Burghardt go into some detail about research on the dual n back task and how practice on the dual n back increases neurogenesis and neuroplasticity, so I found a program to use based on the dual n back task, and discovered in about three minutes that my attentional style when it comes to memory and brain fitness exercise is of the wandering kind, which makes it hard for my brain to form short term and then move short term memory to long term.
I highly recommend the dual n back task to anyone seeking increased brain fitness, or a highly effective memory exercise.
It is fun, frustrating, and addictive. Once you get a handle for how the program works, and get some improvement, you will be amazed at how this attention and memory exercise impacts your ability to remember stuff.
The dual n back task has in interesting side effect too, which is an increased I.Q.
Since I had success with the dual n back, I decided to look at and try a couple of the other brain fitness and memory exercise programs out there, and both proved to be beneficial also.
The benefit of the online program is that it can be booted up anytime, and used on demand, anytime I want to refresh my smokin’ neurons.
Wonderful break which actually helps the neurogenesis and neuroplasticity.
The other program I tried is the brain child of Michael Merzenich,Ph.D., one of the world’s leading experts in neuroplasticity, and it has been put to the test in the recently published IMPACT study. Both the researchers and the participants were quite amazed at the results.
So, you memory exercise folks, who grew up reading Harry Lorayne’s material on memory, try his tools out after increasing your brain fitness with the computerized brain fitness tools.
You may still forget where your keys are once in awhile, but your word recall will be excellent, the envy of all.