Memory Aids

Dec 18, 2008 by

Memory AidsMemory aids run the gamut from the simple to the complex, from daily tricks to ensure we remember necessary information, to longer-term health approaches that strengthen body and mind, thereby ensuring that our memories function at optimal capacity.

On the more basic side of the coin, there are simple practices that essentially revolve around “trying” to remember better. Talking to yourself, repeating key information out loud, drawing diagrams, or visualizing a picture of the information or event you want to remember are all ways to aid memory. You may remember these mental training methods– often called mnemonic devices– from grade school: a mnemonic is a simple image or verbal phrase, often a rhyme, that helps your brain retain specific information by organizing it into a pattern. For instance, musicians trying to memorize the order or notes in treble clef notation might use a mnemonic like “Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge”, in which the first letter of each word in the phrase is the same as the note in treble clef order.

Setting information to a musical tune is also a proven way to help your brain retain information. This is why people can often remember the lyrics to a song they may have heard for the first time fifty years ago: the melody provides an organizing structure for the words of the song. However, to really make use of mnemonic memory aids like this, repetition of the information—or memory rehearsal– is key. Repetition alerts your brain that whatever you’re concentrating on is important, encouraging it to move the information from short term to long term storage. “Chunking” information together will make for easier and stronger connections, aiding your brain’s process of memory formation and recall.

Other simple memory aids include “external” devices. Basic as it sounds, how many of us are reluctant to use notebooks, alarms, or even strings around our fingers? So prideful can we be that we ignore the simplest tricks– those that make the difference between remembering and forgetting. Once you take the time to write it out, your notebook or calendar will never “forget” information. As our world gets faster and busier, we are increasingly distracted. Thus, having a secondary storage area for our important information becomes even more important.

There are also internal approaches. A few key vitamins (A, B complex, C and E) and minerals (calcium, magnesium, zinc, boron, selenium) are essential to ensuring our bodies and minds operate at their best. All of the vitamins above have overall beneficial effects on cellular health, as well as actions that specifically aid brain function and health:

For instance, the B complex of vitamins helps to break down homocysteine in nerve cells, a free radical which can damage neurons if it becomes concentrated in the cells. B vitamins are also an important ingredient in the production of the red blood cells which ferry oxygen all over the body, including the brain. You can get B vitamins in leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits like oranges, legumes (beans and peas), and in meat and other animal proteins. B vitamins are also available as a dietary supplement— recommended for vegans who don’t consume any animal products, as some complete B vitamins are only present in animal proteins.

Eating lots of fruits and veggies is not only the easiest but one of the best ways to ensure you get a good mix of brain-enhancing vitamins and minerals. Besides B vitamins, leafy greens and dark-skinned fruits like blueberries and strawberries contain vitamins A and C, as well as beta carotenes: anti-oxidants which protect cells against the damaging free radicals that accumulate in our bodies as by-products of cellular respiration. Green tea, nuts and seeds, and citrus fruits are also good sources of these vitamins. Many ready-to-eat breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamin E, which also occurs naturally in nuts and seeds, spinach, tomatoes and fish.

Dietary and herbal supplements can also function as overall cognition and memory aids. Classics like ginkgo biloba, which acts as an anti-oxidant and increases blood flow, and the pricey Acetyl L-carnitine, which improves energy use in regions of the brain, have become known for their ability to aid in memory. Omega 3 fatty acids have also been gaining exposure as an excellent supplement for promoting brain and heart health, and may have a supportive effect on cognition and memory. Omega 3’s are “good fats” which the body can use, among other things, to maintain the myelin sheath around nerves in the brain and peripheral nervous system. Myelin is a lipid-based coating which coats the axon (shaft) of a nerve and prevents the nerve’s electrical impulses from “leaking”. Much like the rubber used to insulate electrical wiring, myelin helps electrical impulses travel faster along the nerves; healthy myelin means better cognition, motor reflexes, and quite possibly, better memory recall.

 More recently, the West has just started to find out about a proven memory enhancer that had been used in India under the Ayurvedic Medicine system for countless years. Herbal formulations with Celastrus seed, which is now available as a tincture, whole seed, and tea, perform shockingly well as memory aids. We have tested all of the herbal preparations on the market, and to be honest, none have come close to the blended formulation that the people at Cognihance have come up with.

This shouldn’t be any great surprise, since their team of researchers and formulators includes a well-respected food chemist who is trained in Ayurvedic traditions. They seem well-suited to be at the top of our list, and their tincture definitely speaks for itself.

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