Even though the memory power of every kid develops proportionately with age, factors like family genes and physical and psychological elements too play vital roles in the growth and development of each child. So, it is quite natural that each one of them develops unique ways of learning and imbibing things. While some kids enjoy learning by observing and listening others are interested in learning through experience and enquiry. Learning process is not a leisure activity where a child learns by listening to classroom instructors, mugging up concepts or submitting assignments. Real and meaningful learning happens when the student speaks about what they have learned, writes about it, and is able to associate his/her past experiences with it and successfully executes it in their everyday life.
Teachers and parents need to be aware about the universal learning process of the human mind. One of the main advantages of this process is that the student is able to benefit from the multiple forms in which knowledge reaches him/her. Unique and novel ideas keep the student excited about learning. This is the reason why children have been staying away from text books and traditional methods of learning lately. Activity oriented learning programs helps them recall and reproduce whatever they have learnt, pretty easily.
Memory and learning share a close and inseparable bond. Studies show that if we can’t store the concepts and lessons in our memory for a longer period of time, then we haven’t studied them properly. If teachers have better understanding about the memory systems in human brains, they might be able to develop effective and meaningful learning habits in children. Some students are quick to understand the nuances of a concept while it might take a while for others to learn them. A teacher who understands the working of the memory system could easily handle students of both categories and design lessons that cater to their needs. The first step in it is to have an idea about the working memory. Small kids tend to gravitate towards activity oriented learning.
What is memory power?
Memory refers to the processes that are used to acquire, store, retain and retrieve information. Encoding, storage and retrieval are the three major processes involved in memory. Human memory involves the ability to preserve and retrieve the information that we have learned or experienced. Memory helps us define ourselves as individuals. From the sweet nostalgic memories from childhood to the spot where we have left the keys, memory plays a significant role in our daily life and activities. It grants us a sense of existence and individuality.
Neuroplasticity is the human brain’s incredible ability to adapt and change throughout life and in response to experience. Our brain can form new neural paths and make alterations in the existing connections, with the help of right stimuli. The brain possesses the mesmerizing ability to modify itself as our intellectual capacity increases. Besides increasing our ability to learn new things, it improves our memory power even as we age.
Here are some tips to improve our memory power.
By the time we become adults, the brain must have formed billions of neural paths which help us process information swiftly, retrieve them whenever required, solve familiar problems effortlessly and do usual jobs easily without mental exhaustion. However, if we stick on to these familiar ways, the brain doesn’t find the stimuli to further modify and develop. Our ability to process and retrieve information improves only when our brain is kept active. Healthy and effective brain workouts not only teach us new things but also equip us to face challenges. Moreover, it nourishes our abilities, which prove to be rewarding too.
A balanced diet comprising of protein, carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables in the right amount would not only improve memory but helps develop creativity, focus and overall performance too. Maintaining healthy levels of blood sugar and snacking on healthy food would surely add fuel to the brain. Having a late dinner disrupts our sleep pattern. So, it is important to have dinner at least three hours before hitting the sack as there is enough time for digestion. Fluids are essential to maintain the health of brain. Drinking 6 – 10 glasses of water would keep the brain active, hydrated and refreshed.
It is the blood glucose level that determines one’s intellectual capacity and ability to byheart lessons or concepts. Glucose is often described as a significant fuel for the brain. Complex sugars like brown rice, bread, pasta and pulses have low glycemic index. Including these food items in your regular diet would control the blood sugar level and provide glucose that is necessary for the functioning of the brain, without causing hyperglycemia.
Blueberries that are loaded with antioxidants help improve concentration, memory and healthy intellectual activity. Besides, it slows down the ageing of brain cells. Fruits like cherries, raspberries, gooseberries and mulberries too are excellent for brain. The vitamin C in them strengthens the blood capillaries and improves blood circulation, which in turn provides amazing oxygenation for the brain. Moreover, they fight against the free radicals that affect the brain cells. Vitamin E is an excellent antioxidant that protects the fatty tissues from ageing and prevents Alzheimer’s too. Almonds and avocados are rich sources of vitamin E and magnesium that boost brain activities.
Protein can stimulate the orexin neurons in the brain. Eggs contain amino acids that help in the production of major neurotransmitters. Meanwhile, phospholipids and lecithin in eggs are essential components to build the membrane of the brain cells. Fishes like salmon contain essential fatty acids in abundant levels. Besides helping maintain amazing memory power, these fatty acids fight diseases like dementia.
Minerals like iron and zinc are needed for stimulating the intellectual exercises of the brain. Low-fat meat, egg yolk, pulses, broccoli and whole grains are rich sources of these minerals. Iron deficiency may cause loss of concentration, exhaustion and lethargy and lowers the blood’s ability to carry oxygen to the brain cells. Foods rich in vitamin B and magnesium like bananas, chicken and potato have to be strictly included in the diet to improve memory power. Magnesium is essential to form neuron stimuli too. Besides, vitamin B 6 and magnesium aids the balancing of neuro transmitters. Meanwhile, gama amino butyric acid and serotonin help us think with reason, behave calmly and create healthy mental state. Spinach and broccoli are loaded with vitamin B 9 folates which are required for the development of neurons and renewal of blood cells in fetus.
Flavanols in dark chocolate increases the amount of blood that reaches the brain and helps improve concentration. Studies have revealed that having a few pieces of chocolate while writing exams would help the student concentrate better. Ginkgo biloba, a unique species of flora that is native to China improves short term memory and ability to focus too. It has also been proven that ginkgo biloba can prevent dementia and increase blood flow to the brain. Moreover, researches have shown that tea contains high amount of antioxidant that fights free radicals and keeps brain active.
Follow these eating habits to prevent the chance of dementia:
» Include lots of omega 3 fatty acids in the diet
» Limit the consumption of calories and saturated fat
» Eat lots of fruits and veggies
» Make it a habit to sip on green tea
Resveratrol is a flavanoid contained in wine and grape juice that increases blood flow to brain and prevent Alzheimer’s.
Indulging in physical exercise and workout boosts the effectiveness of neuro chemicals and reduces the stress hormones, which in turn increase the oxygen flow to the brain. Moreover, workout plays a major role in regulating neuroplasticity as it stimulates the growth factors and creates new neuronal connections. Regular aerobic exercises enhance the functioning of hippocampus. Meanwhile, it can help delay the beginning of hippocampal atrophy which is related to ageing. Hippocampus which is part of the limbic system plays a vital role in the formation of special memory and cognitive functions. Moreover, it aids in the unification of recent memories to long term memories.
A healthy adult requires 7 – 9 hours of sleep to stay energetic and fit. Lack of sleep could adversely affect memory power, creativity, problem-solving abilities and critical thinking. A good night’s sleep is required to prepare the brain to learn new things. Besides, the memory gets rebooted when we are sound asleep and it helps refresh and retrieve information. The blue light emitted from TV, tablets and mobile phones obstructs the release of melatonin and eventually causes insomnia or lack of sleep.
Maintaining healthy social and personal relationships stimulates the brain and helps store lots of significant information. These relationships are great not only for emotional stability but ensure mental health too. The memory decline of those who cherish beautiful and active social relationships is likely to be slowed. Laughter and jocund times stimulates various spots in the brain. Moreover, it is vital for learning and improving our creative faculties.
Brains cells including hippocampus could be damaged due to severe stress. Learning stress-relieving techniques is vital to ensure proper cognitive functions and boosting memory power.
Meditation can surely upgrade focus, concentration, creative faculties, memory, learning and reasonable thinking. Moreover, it can help fight depression, anxiety, physical distress, diabetics and high blood pressure. Brain images have shown more activity in the left pre-frontal cortex of the brain in those who meditate regularly. Besides, meditation thickens the cerebral cortex and initiates activities between the brain cells. All these would ensure better emotional and mental state and boosts memory too.
Diagnosis and treatment
Besides dementia and Alzheimer’s, mental illnesses and its medication might hinder memory. Diseases like heart ailments, high cholesterol and blood pressure, diabetics, premenopausal period, low testosterone and thyroid imbalance and medicines for depression, sleeping pills and anti-depressants too could affect memory. So, these treatments and medications have to be carefully administered to ensure the health and well-being of the individual.
How to improve learning by boosting memory
» Intense focus is the key to good learning. Around 8 seconds of intense focus is essential to process information into our memory.
» Try to include most sensory organs in the learning process
» Correlate new information with the old ones
» Keep rehearsing or recalling whatever we have learned so far
» Use mnemonic instruments to make by hearting easier
Teachers should have a balanced approach towards learning process. Active learning is significant to ensure success. It is always a struggle learning new things as the brain has to develop new neural paths to receive and process information. That is the reason why most students tend to easily give up when they are involved in a new project. However, they could always hang on and eventually succeed if the teachers and parents keep motivating and supporting them.
This article could be rightly ended with a famous quote by celebrated American writer Mark Twain, “Astonishing things can be done by the human memory if you will devote it faithfully to one particular line of business”.
(The writer is a consultant neurosurgeon at VPS Lakeshore Hospital, Kochi)