Did You Know?

Understanding Memory

Memory is one of the most unique and important abilities of the human brain. ‘Forgetting’ is often a cause for anxiety in older people and many people believe that nothing can be done about their memory as they age.

However there are things you can do about your memory if you are willing to make the effort. In some respects memory is like a muscle. It will function better if you exercise it regularly. One way to exercise it is to continue learning new information or skills.

Memory involves various parts of the brain. Some parts of the brain are involved in different kinds of memory. In the temporal (length of time) sense 3 kinds of memory have been identified.

1. Working memory

This last only a few seconds and is like a sort of notepad that stores immediate information. If the information is not passed into the short-term memory it is lost. For instance it allows you to hold on to the first words of a sentence until the sentence is completed and makes sense. Working memory ‘clears’ quickly to make room for more information.

2. Short-term memory

This last from minutes to hours. It allows you to hold on to information for a while, but it is not retained if it does not pass into the long-term memory

3. Long-term memory

This can last for days or for a lifetime and when something is ‘captured’ here it is available for recall for many years. Developing your memory actually changes your brain! You can actually increase the number of synapses as well as increase the response at synapses by developing your memory.

Learning new information or skills always involves using and developing your memory. It is a great way to keep your memory ’sharp’ and even ‘growing.’ Two ways of doing this are making notes by using Keywords and Brain Branch Diagrams. (See the Brain Tools)

External Memory Tips

Everybody, old or young, uses external memory to help them remember things. They make notes, keep a diary or use a calendar or a filing system.

Your memory works less well when you are worried about it! Here are some strategies you could try using external memory.

  • Keep a notepad and pen beside the telephone
  • Put up a notice board or memo board in an obvious place.
  • Label cupboards doors.
  • Write down anything you remember you need to get immediately rather than carry it in your head.
  • Have a keyring to hang keys on and a special place for keeping your wallet, purse or glasses.
  • Put letters to post in the same place where you will see them.
  • Have an ‘In-tray’ for bills and letters and put them there immediately you receive them.
  • Establish routines e.g. do certain things on certain days each week.
  • Keep a large open diary on a table and write in it what you have done as well as what you plan to do.
  • Use a telephone answering machine to keep messages recorded.
  • Store phone numbers in a book or in a mobile phone.
  • Fill a pill organiser at the same time each day e.g. before going to bed.
  • Use Post it notes to stick information on to your diary or notice board.