I want to enhance my memory! At 62 years of age, in a house with two kids, a lovely wife, who enjoys her conversation, and four cats, there are lots of distractions, and when you couple all that noise with my age, there truly is a need for enhanced memory, or I will forget my name, and I definitely will forget my schedule.
Not only will I forget my schedule, but I struggle on occasion to find the right word, which is a signal that my brain is aging, and the word recall issue could be a sign of more serious memory issues coming, so I am looking for memory enhancement tools.
I remember as a kid when I wanted to be a memory superstar, I bought and started to read the Harry Lorayne memory enhancement materials, so my more recent search began there, but I quickly discovered the brain fitness materials, and I discovered the best memory enhancement is a brain workout that takes care of the pillars of brain fitness.
When I take care of the pillars of brain fitness, I enhance my brain's capacity to grow new neurons, which a number of experts say migrate to the hippocampus, a key brain structure in memory, and I enhance the connectivity of neurons, which is really what memory is.
The terms used to describe those two terms? Neurogenesis and neuroplasticity.
No one knew we had the capacity to grow new neurons until 10-15 years ago, which is called neurogenesis, and no one knew how plastic the brain is, which means when it learns something new, it might form new connections in minutes, which is called neuroplasticity.
So What are the Pillars of Brain Fitness?
To enhance memory through enhanced neurogenesis and neuroplasticity, one must get regular physical activity/workouts in, make sure the diet is filled with lots of good foods, including antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acid, get regular sleep, which enhances memory consolidation among other things, manage stress because unnecessary stress hormones kill those new neurons, and challenge the brain with novel learning experiences.
Sounds like an awful lot doesn't it? Well, for a guide which offers a reasoned approach to the pillars of brain fitness, I suggest your read Brainfit for Life by Simon Evans,Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt,Ph.D., neuroscientists at the University of Michigan, who thankfully write for the non-neuroscientist.
Evans and Burghardt have culled the scientific research for brain fitness tidbits and put them together with suggestions for daily habits we can develop for enhanced memory for example.
The most fascinating pillar to me was the novel learning challenge pillar. Most of the experts say that the learning which most enhances brain fitness is the kind of learning we experience when we learn a new instrument or a new language, because there is a steadily increasing challenge, and an opportunity for the appropriate amount of positive feedback.
Even with retirement looming, I do not have time to learn a new language or instrument, so I read their discussion of something called the dual n back task, which is a computerized program, with great interest.
It appears that practicing the dual n back task can have some extraordinary impact on my attention and short term memory, even increasing an aspect of intelligence called fluid intelligence, which makes it easier to discriminate between stimuli and quickly decide which to pay attention to.
(Remember the noisy environment I described above)?
So I bought a commercial brand of the dual n back task, and tried it out, and found it to be initially quite frustrating, but within an hour of beginning, I was getting the knack of it, and then it became addictive.
So being the good experimenter that I am, I tried out a couple more of the commercial brain fitness programs to see what impact they might have on my memory.
First though, I read the research, particularly the IMPACT and PNAS studies.
(By the way, I was already exercising regularly, took the omega 3's, got regular age appropriate rest, and used Heartmath, a heart rate variability tool to regulate stress, so the computerized brain fitness tools were the pillar I was paying the least attention to in my daily life).
One of the programs I tried, the Posit Science Brain Fitness Program, which was put to the research test in the IMPACT study, is really designed with Senior Brains in mind, and both the participants and the researchers involved in IMPACT were quite impressed with the results. Memory scores improved frequently by ten years or more.
What I noticed is that my word recall issue got better, which was a relief, because now I know that the issue can be worked with, and it is not permanent.
In other words, a good brain fitness workout on the computer helps my brain build neuroplastic connections with new new neurons.
I use one other program for regular touch ups, and I mean several times a day some days, when I am doing computer intensive work, because it is an online program I can boot up for a quick practice between phone calls or clients. Lumosity is quick, efficient, and economical.
I am sure the use of the computerized novel learning experience tools are helping my memory.
This program is the dual n back task.
Would You Share What You Are Most Grateful For?
Very early in my personal growth experience, a wise person taught me to use the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I was resentful or afraid and that phrase has helped me feel better tens of thousands of times.
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