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12 Strategies to Boost Your Memory

We all forget things once in a while. And most times we don’t even pay attention to this problem until and unless we find ourselves in a demanding situation. Memory loss is not something to be taken too lightly and we ought to make conscious efforts to improve our ability to memorize, retain, and recall information. Although there is no sure shot way to prevent dementia, certain techniques may go a long way in helping you improve your memory and increase your brain’s potential in general. Here are 12 strategies that can effectively boost your memory and help you remember and recall better:

1. Focus your attention: In order to store information in your memory storage system, you need to take interest in the information presented to you and give it your full attention. Information is more likely to get lost when you pay half attention to it. While reading or meeting people for the first time, give your full attention.

2. Visual/Imagery: While attending to the information add visual imagery to the information. We are better able to remember things that are visual. So while reading for an exam, use imagery as much as possible.

3. Associate: Associating new information with the information you already know or have can also help you better memorize new information. Associations help create more mental connections of the information which, in turn, helps in better retention of the memory of that information.

4. Chunking: This technique can help you memorize a large set of information by breaking the information into small chunks or groups. In other words, the information to be remembered is divided into small chunks or groups of information. For example, if you need to memorize a phone number- xxyyyzzxxx, you can make chunks of this number—xx/yyy/zz/xxx.

5. Get good sleep: Our brain gets to consolidate the day’s information during sleep. Consolidation is a process in which short-term memory is transferred into long-term memory. In order to improve your memory you need to get a quality sleep of 7-8 hours daily, whereas, lack of proper sleep can affect your memory negatively. That is the reason students are advised to get a good sleep before an exam.

6. Mnemonics: Use of mnemonic techniques can also help to memorize better. Mnemonics are specific techniques designed to improve recall. Like using first letters of the given information to form a word, for example using VIBGYOR to memorize the colors of rainbow.

7. Brain exercises: Just like any other muscle in the body our brain is also a kind of muscle that needs exercise to work at optimum level. In order to enhance memory, play brain games. Solving puzzles, crossword, Sudoku, and playing word-recall games etc. have been proven to boost memory.

8. Be active while learning: There is a saying that individuals remember 20 per cent of what they hear, 75 per cent of what they see, and 90 per cent of what they do. And this saying is fairly correct. Being active while learning something like movement of arms, pacing back and forth, and using gestures while learning a new information has been found to enhance memorization. So keep your body actively involved while learning.

9. Recite: Repeating something in a loud voice can help memorization of that information better. As you recite you involve another sense, i.e., hearing. This helps better anchoring of the information in your brain. You can also recite what you have learned to another person in your own simple words and language. This technique is especially effective for students.

10. Meditation: Meditation has been found to improve memory. Mediation helps lower the stress which, in turn, is known to affect memorization. Meditation has also been found to improve the gray matter in brain, which positively affects memory. Practice meditation on daily basis for healthy mind and body.

11. Exercise: Scientists have proven that daily exercise as simple as running or jogging can help in formation of new neurons in brain and can help improve memory. Exercising daily not only keeps you physically fit but it also keeps your brain fit.

12. Keep stress away: As mentioned above, too much of stress has been found to affect memorization and recall both. Chronic stress has also been found to damage brain cells, especially in hippocampus which is responsible for retrieval of old memories and formation of new memories. So in order to improve your memory you also need to keep your stress level under check.

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Diogenes Syndrome or Senile Squalor Syndrome

Diogenes syndrome, also known as senile squalor syndrome, is a behavioral disorder that affects older adults. It is characterized by extreme self-neglect, poor personal hygiene, severe domestic squalor, excessive hoarding of trash, and social withdrawal. It occurs in both men and women.

The syndrome is named after Diogenes, the ancient Greek philosopher who showed ‘contempt for social organization’ and ‘lack of shame.’ People with this syndrome also show a lack of shame. They are often unaware that anything is wrong with the conditions they are living in and remain unconscious of their self-neglecting behavior. They usually live alone and may also displays symptoms of catatonia.

Diogenes syndrome is often linked to mental illnesses, such as dementia, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, and addiction. Research suggests that it is most common among people with average intelligence, who are over 60 years, and are living alone.

Researchers Explain Neurophysiological Link Between Breathing and Attention

Meditation and ancient breath-focused practices, such as pranayama, have long been known to improve our ability to concentrate. A recent study by researchers at Trinity College Dublin and the Global Brain Health Institute at Trinity, explains for the first time the neurophysiological link between breathing and attention.

Breath-focused meditation and yogic breathing practices have several known cognitive benefits, such as increased ability to focus, improved arousal levels, more positive emotions, decreased mind wandering and emotional reactivity, along with many others. However, no direct neurophysiological link between respiration and cognition has been suggested till date.

The study has been published in a paper entitled “Coupling of respiration and attention via the locus coeruleus: Effects of meditation and pranayama” in the journal Psychophysiology. The research findings has revealed for the first time that breathing which is a key component of meditation and mindfulness practices directly influences the levels of a natural chemical messenger called noradrenaline in the brain.

Noradrenaline is released when we are challenged, curious, worked up, focused or emotionally aroused. If it is produced at optimum levels, it helps the brain grow new connections. In other words, the way we breathe, directly impacts the chemistry of our brains in a way that can enhance our attention and improve our brain health.

The study findings revealed that participants who focused well while undertaking a task that demanded a lot of attention had greater synchronization between their breathing patterns and their attention, than those who had poor focus. The authors of the study believe that it may be possible to use breath-control practices to stabilize attention and boost brain health.

The lead author of the study, Michael Melnychuk, a PhD candidate at the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, Trinity, explicated: “Yoga practitioners have claimed for some 2,500 years, that respiration influences the mind. In our study we looked for a neurophysiological link that could help explain these claims by measuring breathing, reaction time, and brain activity in a small area in the brainstem called the locus coeruleus, where noradrenaline is made. Noradrenaline is an all-purpose action system in the brain. When we are stressed we produce too much noradrenaline and we cannot focus. When we feel sluggish, we produce too little and again, we cannot focus. There is a sweet spot of noradrenaline in which our emotions, thinking and memory are much clearer.”

The study has demonstrated that as we breathe in, locus coeruleus activity increases slightly, and as we breathe out, it decreases. In simple words, this means that our attention is affected by our breath and that it rises and falls with the cycle of respiration. By concentrating on and regulating our breathing, it is possible to optimize our attention level and similarly, by focusing on our attention level, our breathing becomes more synchronized.

The research provides deeper scientific understanding of the neurophysiological mechanisms which underlie ancient meditation practices. Further research could help with the development of non-pharmacological therapies for individuals with attention compromised conditions such as ADHD and traumatic brain injury and in supporting cognition in older people.

Ian Robertson, Co-Director of the Global Brain Health Institute at Trinity and Principal Investigator of the study added: “Yogis and Buddhist practitioners have long considered the breath an especially suitable object for meditation. It is believed that by observing the breath and regulating it in precise ways—a practice known as pranayama—changes in arousal, attention, and emotional control that can be of great benefit to the meditator are realized. Our research finds that there is evidence to support the view that there is a strong connection between breath-centered practices and a steadiness of mind.”

According to Robertson, these findings have noteworthy implications for research into brain aging. Brains typically lose mass as they age, but less so in the brains of long term meditators. More ‘youthful’ brains have a reduced risk of dementia and mindfulness meditation techniques actually strengthen brain networks. This research offers one possible reason for this—by regulating our breath we can control noradrenaline, which in the right amount would help the brain grow new connections between cells. This study provides one more reason for everyone to boost their brain health using a whole range of activities ranging from aerobic exercise to mindfulness meditation.

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Risk of Alzheimer’s May Rise Due to Stress

New research has shown that the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease may be increased due to vital exhaustion, which is a marker of psychological distress.

Many factors such as age, family history, and genetic makeup may raise the risk of Alzheimer’s. Health conditions like cardiovascular disease or diabetes may also influence the probability of developing dementia as they impact the blood vessels. A new study has demonstrated that psychological factors especially psychological distress can also increase the chances of dementia. Vital exhaustion refers to a mental state of psychological distress that manifests as irritability, fatigue, and a feeling of demoralization and may be a response to certain life problems that are unresolvable and have been continuing for a long time. Vital exhaustion results when an individual is exposed to stressors for a prolonged period.

early-signs-of-dementiaEarlier studies have already indicated that vital exhaustion may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, premature death, and obesity, etc. The findings of this new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease have now suggested that vital exhaustion may raise the risk of Alzheimer’s disease as well.

Data of almost 7,000 people who had participated in the Copenhagen City Heart Study between 1991 and 1994 was analyzed for this study. The participants were on an average 60 years at that time and were asked questions about vital exhaustion as a part of the survey.

Islamoska and her team clinically followed those participants until the end of 2016. The hospital records and mortality and prescription registers of those participants were examined in search of diagnoses of dementia.

The findings revealed a dose-response connection between vital exhaustion in midlife and the development of Alzheimer’s later on. Islamoska reported that for each additional symptom of vital exhaustion, they found that the risk of dementia rose by 2 per cent.

The study showed that participants reporting five to nine symptoms vital exhaustion had a 25 per cent higher risk of dementia than those with no symptoms, while those reporting 10 to 17 symptoms had a 40 per cent higher risk of dementia, compared with those not having the symptoms.

The team further added that the results are unlikely to be due to reverse causation, that is, it is improbable that dementia causes vital exhaustion, rather than the other way around.

The researchers opined that excessive levels of the stress hormone cortisol and cardiovascular changes could be the potential reasons for these findings. “Stress can have severe and harmful consequences, not just for our brain health, but our health in general. Our study indicates that we can go further in the prevention of dementia by addressing psychological risk factors for dementia,” said Islamoska.