Strategies informed by neuroscience to improve memory

October 28, 2021 11:00 am
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A news article summarizes results from three neuroscientific research papers that provide evidence-based strategies to enhance memory consolidation. 

Photo by Katelyn MacMillan on Unsplash

The first paper suggests that if you would like to enhance your memory for prospective events or information, start asking yourself whether you remember if you intend to act on a particular goal to reach some outcome. This could be as simple as asking yourself if you will remember to take out the garbage on pickup days, or as complex as asking yourself which of your friends you will select to be bridesmaids or groomsmen on one of the most important days of your life (assuming this would be a difficult decision to make). Triggering the thoughts of what you hope to act on in the future makes it more likely for you to remember the action, to follow through on it, and to take responsibility for the consequences that follow. This is analogous to self-testing or quizzing yourself on what concepts you remember, as an effective strategy for studying for an upcoming exam.

The second paper suggests that saying out loud to yourself what it is that you’re trying to consolidate into memory will enhance the storage and retrieval of that specific piece of information. Our brains are constantly active throughout the day as thoughts drift in and out of consciousness (known as mind wandering). Orally reciting, or even simply mouthing out the words silently to yourself, can enhance your memory by 50%. Such repetition may cue your brain that a thought is important to hold onto, compared to all other things that run through your mind.

Finally, the last paper suggests that if you keep a concept in your working memory for at least 40 seconds, it strengthens the likelihood that it will be consolidated into long-term storage. You will be more likely to remember and retrieve it. This isn’t something that will occur instantaneously, as consolidation takes time and multiple attempts.

So the next time you need to remember important bits of knowledge, whether it be the glycolysis steps for an upcoming biochemistry quiz, or the lines that you are to recite for a speech you will give during your best friend’s wedding ceremony, give these three strategies a try.

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This post was written by Linda H