5 Things You Can Do to Improve Your Memory

One involves checking out beautiful women. Rough job.

By The Editors
March 31, 2016 9:00 am

Many things have been said about the importance of memory.

Most of them are just so damn hard to remember.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to fix that. Beyond a little ginkgo biloba with your cereal.

Get more exercise
According to Lawrence Patihis, an assistant professor at the University of Southern Mississippi and the director of the university’s Cognition and Memory research lab, going for a run or hike is a good place to start. “Aerobic exercise is the way to go,” he says. “I would avoid the potential problems of lifting excruciatingly heavy weights or contact sports that could result in concussions.”

Break a mental sweat
Professor Patihis also recommends giving your mind its own workout as often as possible. “There is evidence that if you exercise your mind in the domain of a certain type of memory, it will lead to better functioning and even growth in brain areas dealing with memory. For example, London cabbies who had passed the exam testing their memory for the map of London showed increased hippocampal size compared to others and that increased brain area size is probably due to practice.”

Pay attention and repeat
UC Irvine Professor Elizabeth Loftus, an expert in psychology and cognitive science who has studied the human memory for decades, also has some tips for stepping up your memory game. “Pay better attention at the time you’re learning something and rehearse the information afterward,” she says. “You can repeat it to yourself, but need to do so in spaced intervals.”

Stress: Bad for your hairline, good for your noggin
In addition to exercise and repetition, it turns out that stressing out about not being able to remember where you put your keys might actually be a memory-boosting exercise. After a study on rats revealed a link between stress and a rise in the neurotransmitter glutamine in the central nervous system, researchers at New Mexico State University gave students a vision test before and after inflicting psychological stress. Students did better on the working-memory test when their cortisol levels spiked after the imposed mental strain.

Look (but don’t stare!) at beautiful women. For science.
If all else fails, science says admiring an attractive woman will boost your memory. Really. A team of researchers recently found adults do better on memory tests after they’ve quickly gazed at an enticing member of the opposite sex. “Although intuition might suggest that exposure to highly attractive people would be distracting and would impair cognitive performance, mating goals might lead people to display desirable mental traits,” the researchers wrote in Evolutionary Psychology. “Displaying a robust memory would signal a variety of reproductively beneficial characteristics.

That’s a tip you won’t soon forget. You’re welcome.

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