As we get older, our brain loses more cells; this can result in making it harder to remember. While it is annoying to forget a word, there are ways to improve your memory.
One of the most common memory problems are with working memory. Working memory is the memory that is involved in remembering phone numbers: information is stored temporarily in the prefrontal cortex, manipulated and recalled, then discarded when no longer needed. The average number of items that an adult with no brain damage can store in her working memory is 7±2.
One way to increase the number of items retained in working memory is chunking, a process that groups items, like numbers, together in a meaningful way. An example of successful chunking was in a recorded case where an All-American cross-country runner had a working memory retention of seventy nine; he grouped the numbers together in his mind to be racing times. However, he was unable to have the same size working memory when the items were words; since his method of chunking was not meaningful when done with words, his working memory could not retain the same large amount.
Creating a meaningful connection with the incoming information can help with retention. Grouping information semantically (by topic) can help the brain process information from short-term memory to long-term memory much better.
In addition, associating visual images with auditory information, such as words, strengthens the mental connection. One technique when trying to remember a list of words is to picture a room, and when each word is read, picture it being added to the room. Therefore, when recalling the words, you can use the mental image as a reference. These memory techniques, whether one or all are used, can help with short term memory.
Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch received her bachelor’s of science degree in neuroscience from Trinity College in Hartford, CT in May 2009. Her thesis research was in learning, memory and attention in female college-age sexual assault survivors with posttraumatic stress disorder.