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Find out ways to boost your memory

December 17, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
It happens all the time, you forget to do important tasks or you forget the names of people you know. So how can you go from having something on the tip of your tongue to actually saying it? You can't always write everything down, so it's important to sharpen your memory. While you're awake, your brain generates 25 watts of power. That's enough to illuminate a light bulb. But how bright is your bulb? Luckily, there are some new tests and tricks that can help you ace the memory test.

How good is your memory? If you take a good look at items on your screen and they soon disappear, how many objects can you recall? Usually, seven objects is pretty good. Dr. Eric Chudler from the University of Washington's Department of Bioengineering says that a trick to improving your memory is chaining the objects together.

"The more bizarre image that you can come up with, the easier it will be for you to remember," explained Dr. Chudler, Ph.D., University of Washington.

If you had in front of you a crab, a ring, and a pencil, you could improve your memory by chaining the objects together.

"So, now we have a ring. We have crab. We have pencil. I see the crab writing c-r-a-b," said Dr. Chudler.

Another test is the tennis ball game. You can place a ball a few feet away then close your eyes and try to go there.

"That's testing memory for place and space," said Dr. Chudler.

Now for the face test, can you recall what kind of hair a person has after looking at a picture of them for a brief moment?

The right answer to remember names and faces is to picture first letter of the person's name on one of their features.

"Whenever I see a face, I can see the letter "K" on Kevin's glasses," said Dr. Chudler.

Also, use your senses. Think about the smells that were around when you saw something. Try to chunk together the information. Instead of remembering the number 2,054, you can think of it as 20-54. You can also tie the information to something that is important to you. Most of all, you should keep challenging yourself. It won't be long before you've aced these tests.

The good news is that memory isn't fixed. You can boost your memory and improve it over time.

FUN FACTS ABOUT THE BRAIN:

  • The adult human brain weighs about three pounds
  • The adult human brain is about 2 percent of one's total body weight
  • The average human brain is 140 mm wide and 167 mm long
  • The human brain has about 100 billion neurons
  • Neurons multiply at a rate of 250,000 neurons per minute during early pregnancy
  • Unconsciousness will occur eight to 10 seconds after loss of blood supply to the brain
(Source: University of Washington)

MEMORY TRICKS: Eric H. Chudler, Ph.D., from the University of Washington in Seattle, says you can sharpen your memory with a little practice. "Memory is not a fixed thing," Chudler says. "It can be improved over time."

  • Chaining: Chudler recommends trying the "chaining" method when trying to remember certain objects. The idea is to make a mental picture of the items for better recall. "The more bizarre the image that you can come up with, the easier it will be for you to remember," Chudler explains.. For example, if you are trying to remember the words "book," "pencil," "apple," and "car," you might want to visualize a book with a pencil going through it. You can also picture that pencil sticking through the apple. Then, you can picture the pencil sticking through the book and the apple sitting in a car as it's driving down the street.
  • Chunking: Another "trick" to remember a list of numbers is to "chunk" them together. This means combining them. For example, if you are trying to remember the three numbers 1, 5 and 6, try to visualize them as "156." Dr. Chudler says it's easier to remember one chunk than three separate numbers.
  • Sleep: Dr. Chudler says sleep is also very important for a good memory. "Sleep is very, very important to consolidate information that we learned the day before," he explained.
  • Catchy phrases: Dr. Chudler says you can help yourself remember lists of items by coming up with catchy phrases. One popular "trick" for remembering the planets in order is to use a phrase that has each planet's first letter in it. "My Very Excellent Mom Just Served Us Nine Pizzas" is the phrase that helps some. Each first letter represents the first letter of a planet. So, the "m" in "my" stands for Mercury. "V" stands for Venus ? and so forth.

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