Boost your memory

"Gray matter drops as we age," explains Arthur Kramer, professor of human perception and performance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Gray matter is the brain tissue that's rich in nerve cells. "It drops as we get older," says Kramer. "It's dropping as we speak."

The prevention of mental acuity and memory loss is big business, and people seem to be willing to pay a lot of money to keep their Grey matter from dimming under the onslaught of old age, dementia or Alzheimer's. Walk into any chemist or health shop and you will easily find a dozen or more products and supplements that promise to boost your mental performance, but do they actually work?

A lot of scientific research has been done in recent times, and despite our search for some secret elixir there are only a handful of proven remedies that promise to help those of us who are worried about our fading memory. None of these cost any money, and while some of them may surprise you, most of the recommendations supported by research are nothing more than common sense.

A good example is a recent article that looked at a wide range of factors currently being investigated, and only found five things that have been proven to be successful. In no particular order they are regular exercise of both our mind and our body, losing extra weight, and drinking coffee. Now where have I heard that before?

For those of us who just need a boost when we are faced with a mental challenge it may help to just take a few steps back, literally. According to a team of Dutch scientists, walking backwards helps people think more clearly, giving new meaning to the age old wisdom of stepping back when faced with a difficult problem! If that doesn't work it may help to take a nap to boost a "sophisticated kind of memory that helps us see the big picture and get creative".

To get smarter you may want to try and phone a friend, or perhaps you want to indulge in a bit of daydreaming? Studies at the University of Michigan suggest that people who engage in social interaction perform better at intellectual tasks than those who do not, and research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences show that both daydreaming and complex problem solving occur in the same region of the brain.

But the best scientific advice to prevent loss of memory due to old age is to stop thinking about it. Researchers at North Carolina State University have found that senior citizens who think older people should perform poorly on tests of memory actually score much worse than seniors who do not buy in to negative stereotypes about aging and memory loss.

In summary then you should socialize often, drink coffee, exercise, and remember you either use it or lose it. For a quick fix you can take a nap, get lost in a daydream or simply take a few steps back. As for the rest, just forget about it!


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