Just as physical exercise can have lasting improvements on our physical health, brain training, such as memory, problem solving and concentration skills, has proved successful in helping our minds and bodies to stay more active and therefore healthy into older age.
Wouldn't life be so much easier if we all had a better memory? No more looking for lost keys, no more forgetting people's names and you might improve your career prospects too! Retaining information seems so much easier when we're young, and it's true that children do absorb larger amounts of information better than adults do, and those who are thought to have a 'photographic memory' are at a distinct advantage over the rest of us.
Sometimes known as 'total recall', 'Eidetic memory' (to give it its official name), is the ability to remember almost everything from sounds, images, objects and information with extreme accuracy and in great volume. Many psychologists have claimed that eidetic memory is only a myth and that, whilst some people can display extraordinary memory skills, these skills are developed and enhanced rather than being an innate difference in the brain. One common exercise in assessing eidetic memory, particularly in younger children, is to test their recall of an image after studying it for 30 seconds. 'Eidetikers' claim to 'see' the image on a blank canvas as vividly as if the image was still there.
There are a number of memory-improving games and exercises that have proved successful for people of all ages, though it is widely accepted that a healthy diet and physical exercise also has a beneficial impact on the brain. Testing memory and increasing brain power can come from simple tasks such as repeating information out loud so as to help retain in, and associating information with visual images - for example, when introduced to a stranger, look for those unusual features or try to find a discreet comparison to someone familiar with the same name.
The acquisition of information occurs everyday, for the most part this is done subconsciously as we aren't actively looking to 'remember' things; however, it is the consolidation stage of memorising that is the most important for retrieval. This is much easier to do when the information is related to something you already know or if it stimulates an emotional response.
Testing memory acquisition can come from simple tests such as playing 'pairs' with a pack of cards - laying them all face down and then revealing only two at a time, try to match the cards to comparable numbers of the various suits (e.g. 4 of diamonds with the 4 of hearts). By timing yourself as you play every game, you will see a noticeable difference over a short period of time. Trivia quizzes can be helpful in recalling long-term memory too; whether it is film, music, history or general knowledge, playing with the same questions next time will help you to develop natural memory patterns.
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