Train Your Brain to Help Prevent Memory Loss

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You may notice more lapses in memory with each passing year, but challenging your brain can help improve recall. Regularly playing games with friends, gardening, doing puzzles and art projects, playing with pets and museum- and theater-going have all been shown to help older adults preserve cognitive function.

Deborah M. Burke, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Pomona College, in Claremont, CA, notes that research suggests that using language by engaging in social interactions, reading or writing letters can help maintain your brain's command of language.

Exercise can also help. "If your risk factors for disease are controlled—blood pressure, blood glucose, chronic stress—then 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at least five days a week is one of the most effective ways to keep your brain sharp," says Nancy Johnson, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at Northwestern University, in Evanston, IL.

When it comes to "mental exercise" games, Burke suggests a healthy dose of skepticism. "The research I've seen suggests that these games may improve your performance on the games themselves but have little overall effect on day-to-day cognitive function," she says.

Some activities appear to aggressively deplete memory: TV watchers are 10 percent more likely to experience cognitive problems than non-watchers, suggests a recent study.

Study Suggests Rest Can Help You Remember What You've Learned

A recent study from New York University sheds new light on how the brain learns and retains information, suggesting benefits to everyone from students preparing for exams to adults wrestling with age-associated memory loss. The team scanned the brains of study participants twice, once as they looked at sets of images and then again during a period of rest.

Those participants whose at-rest brains showed significant levels of communication between the hippocampus and the lateral occipital complex region of the cortex also showed higher levels of recall of the images they'd seen. The takeaway? Resting after you learn something new may enhance your brain's storage and retrieval of that information. At rest, the brain appears to "replay" what it just learned.

From our sister publication, REMEDY's Healthy Living, Spring 2011

Publication Review By: Deborah M. Burke, Ph.D., Laura L. Carstensen, Ph.D., Nancy Johnson, Ph.D.

Published: 07 Feb 2011

Last Modified: 25 Sep 2015