MIT Neuroscientist On What Sets People With ‘Excellent Memory’ Apart From Others

A strong memory is essential to maintaining a healthy and productive lifestyle. Neuroscientists at MIT Sloan have discovered two simple exercises to boost both working and long-term memory. These exercises can be done daily to improve memory.

  1. Chunking: Strengthen your working memory

The first exercise is chunking, breaking down long or complex pieces of information into smaller chunks. A phone number like “3-3-2-1-6-7,” can be divided into “33,” “21,” and “67” and given a special meaning. Chunking is also useful for presentations where lengthy talks can be divided into key points with a list of catchphrases to remember them.

  1. Space repetition: Strengthen your long-term memory

The second exercise is space repetition, which focuses on memory retention over longer intervals. After learning a fact, it should be repeated out loud a few times, then again after a few hours, days, and weeks. If needed, start the process again to reinforce the memory.

In addition to memory exercises, a healthy lifestyle can also contribute to improved cognitive function. Exercise plays an important role, with cognitive decline being almost twice as common among adults who are inactive. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity for adults.

A healthy diet is also essential for cognitive function with a colourful variety of vegetables and plants being recommended. Darker vegetables such as kale and eggplants are particularly beneficial, as are foods containing high levels of polyphenols, such as coffee and dark chocolate in moderation.

Clearing headspace can help reduce information overload. Taking time to think about what is important and what is easily recalled can enable intentional changes to be made in daily life, leading to a reduction in forgetfulness.

According to MIT Sloan neuroscientist, “Chunking and space repetition are two easy exercises that can be done daily to improve the memory strength of an individual especially to help to ward off memory issues later on. Any mentally stimulating activity will boost your brainpower, but it is important to have plenty of exercise, a healthy diet and clear up headspace on regular basis”, she added.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity for adults. A healthy diet is also essential for cognitive function with a colourful variety of vegetables and plants being recommended.

Dr. Tara Swart Bieber is a renowned neuroscientist, medical doctor, and senior lecturer at MIT Sloan. She is the author of “The Source: The Secrets of the Universe, the Science of the Brain,” and hosts the podcast Reinvent Yourself with Dr. Tara. She works with leaders to help them achieve mental resilience and peak brain performance. 

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