How can an adult improve memory?
March 15, 2012 11:00 AM   Subscribe

I have a terrible memory. I did join luminosity to try to "regain my brain" lol. I think there might be other ways. I do read a ton but I find I sometimes even forget the characters. I have spoken to a doc and they say it isn't medical so I'm hoping to get a few suggestions? I find it is a detriment to my everyday life.
posted by femmme to Science & Nature (8 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Previously, though that has all sorts of weird relationship drama interwoven.

FWIW, I work in an experimental memory lab, and here's my advice. Definitely see a clinical psychologist (not a therapist) if you're finding it detrimental to everyday life. They can administer really detailed tests to precisely pin down where the deficit is. I'm guessing they can help you with improvement/coping strategies as well.
posted by supercres at 11:10 AM on March 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also, it might be some kind of conflict of interest to recommend this book to you, but I'm going to do it anyway. (I don't personally profit from it.) My boss is the author, and I had a pretty significant hand in editing it. If you're interested in approaching the problem and study of memory from a theoretical standpoint, with real-world examples, you could do worse. (It's approximately an undergrad-level monograph.)

Feel free to MeMail me or follow up in the thread if you have specific questions, but again, I study memory experimentally rather than clinically.
posted by supercres at 11:17 AM on March 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can you exercise? Aerobic exercise improves memory as well as a host of cognitive indicators. If you are sedentary right now, even a 20-minute daily walk might lead to real improvement.

I am not a doctor or a serious expert, but my impression is that the effects of exercise are much more robust than any known "brain training."

I would also not necessarily take at face value the assertion that your complaint is "not medical" -- you might want to get a second opinion. Various dietary and other health factors can impact memory.
posted by grobstein at 11:24 AM on March 15, 2012

Without any conflict of interest, I would also have recommended the Kahana book. I have had only one long-ago undergraduate course in neurology and I found it completely easy to understand.

I think the best self-help/popular book on memory and memory training is this one.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:26 AM on March 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

It might be helpful to know what you cannot remember. Faces? Facts? Commitments you have made? Where you put your keys? For example, if it's about remembering where your keys/cell phone/wallet are, having a designated container near the door is likely to be more valuable than memory training, but that technique won't help you if you can't remember your nephew's birthday.
posted by Wordwoman at 11:35 AM on March 15, 2012

Dual N-Back has a good amount of support for increasing working memory. And it's available free through Brain Workshop!
posted by CutaneousRabbit at 1:25 PM on March 15, 2012

How's your stress level? Stress, anxiety, and depression can really impact memory function.

Years ago I found myself at a shrink's office for anxiety. He had me take an IQ test, part of which involved things like Simon Says-type memory games, trying to recall short stories word for word, and remembering matched pairs of words. It was interesting to quantify just how fucked my memory was: 50 IQ points lower than my verbal and quantitative scores. I'm doing much better now, mostly because I eliminated environmental stress. But I also developed coping skills and habits so that I don't need to rely on my memory: Writing everything down, fanatical adherence to GTD-type calendar and task lists, etc.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 1:55 PM on March 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Read Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer. The main message is that extraordinary memory is a skill that can be developed with practice by anyone.

If you need to remember specific information try spaced repetition and the computer program Anki.
posted by laptolain at 7:00 AM on March 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

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