Six recommendations from an 81-year-old neuroscientist to keep your memory as sharp as your own

Six recommendations from an 81-year-old neuroscientist to keep your memory as sharp as your own

From where we left the keys of the car until how the daughter of this cousin Lejana was called, who was the name of the actor in that film that we loved so much, the act of remembering seems to become more and more difficult with the passing of the years.

However, this wear process is not inevitable, it ensures Richard Restakneurologist and professor at the School of Medicine and Health at the Hospital de la Universidad George Washington, in the United States, and author of twenty books on the mind.

If we exercise our memory on a daily basis — in a similar way to how we exercise the body — it is possible to keep it active and in shape, he says the recognized scientist of 81 years, white hair and impeccable memory.

In conversation with BBC Mundo, Restak shared some key advice to train and strengthen our memory.

1. Read fiction books

The non-fiction books are a great source of knowledge and information, but at the time of activating the memory, soap operas are much more useful.


“The non-fiction books, like the last one, don’t demand much in terms of memory: one can read the table of contents and focus on the one that one is interested in, for example”, says Restak.

“La ficción, en cambio, es mucho más demanding from the point of view of memory, especially if one is reading a complete novel. There, the characters appear and disappear. You can find yourself with someone in the chapter of those who don’t appear bell until the chapter ends”.

Retain the thread of the story, the links between the characters and the details of the plot, require a greater memory effort in comparison with non-fiction texts.

2. Convert the words into images

This is a basic principle. If, for example, someone calls themselves Greenstone —which translated into Spanish would be Piedraverde— visualize a stone with an intense green color on your head, suggest Restak.

This simple strategy will help you remember it without problems.

Restak converts the library books into bread wheels in your mind so as not to forget to buy bread. GETTY IMAGES Photo: BBC World

“If you don’t do it, and you are alone with the words, it could be that I don’t think you are aware if you are Piedrazul, or Piedranegra, for example”.

Another trick that the expert uses is to create a mental map from places with them that you are very familiar with, like your neighborhood, to link them with things you want to remember.

If the objective at some given moment is to agree to buy milk and bread, Restak superposes these words with two places on your map to compose dramatic images, difficult to forget.

“I imagine my house turned to the side, with milk that flows from the chimney (as if it were a milk carton) and spills down the street. And when I walk by the library and look through the window, I imagine that the shelves are full of bread wheels instead of books ”, she says.

3. Play mind games with your friends (and also when you’re solo)

One of Restak’s favorite games to play at a family reunion or a party, and which turns out to be an excellent exercise for memory, is the so-called “20 questions”.

The game consists of a player (or a group) who must think about a person, one thing or a place, and another player (the group) who must guess what it is about by asking up to 20 questions that can only be answered with one one no.

The difficulty of the game is that both must remember both the questions and the answers in order not to give false clues, not to repeat questions and to get the correct answer by elimination.

If you are a sport lover, try to remember, for example, all the players of your favorite team. Once you have them in your mind, play to order them alphabetically and try to enumerate the list of players in that order.


4. Use technology (but smartly)

Carrying a list of the products we want to buy in the supermarket or a photo of something we have never bought on the phone and we want to try it is not necessarily a bad idea.

If the use of cell phones and other similar devices makes our memory weak, we can use technology to our advantage.

When we go to the supermarket, for example, Restak recommends trying to remember first What are we going to buy and use the list only afterwards, to avoid forgetting anything.

The same with the new products, try to remember how they were and once you get them corroborate with the photo that they are correct.

The idea isdo not substitute the memory for the device but use the brain first, and I have to check your performance”.


5. Take my siesta

In some places, the siesta does not have a very good reputation, but several studies have shown that having a short siesta is essential to help memory.

Restak, who should take a siesta all day, says that it helps to absorb information, solidify it and encode the memory so I can access it.

“In fact, when we take the groups of students and allow them to take a siesta after having learned something, after having learned something, we noticed that the one who slept during the siesta learned much better”, explains Restak.

The recommendation is to sleep between 20 and 40 minutes. “If you go past the hour, you will interfere with night sleep. As soon as you bridge the alarm, ask someone to wake you up”.

6. Feed better

More than specific foods, Restak says that the key is avoid certain foods as ultra-processed ones, in reference to those with excess grease, salves, condoms, etc.

“These foods are not good for the memory because they reduce the blood circulation in areas linked to the memory, causing hypertension, diabetes”.

“These are all causes that can lead to dementia,” explains Restak. (I)

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