Obtain Regular Exercise

People who engage in regular vigorous exercise tend to stay mentally sharp into their seventies and eighties and beyond. You don't have to run marathons or go to other extremes, but you should get your heart pumping faster and break a sweat. Participants in the MacArthur Foundation Study of Aging in America whose cognitive function remained strong were active almost daily. A 2000 study from the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine concluded...

Core Features of Amnesia

Impaired recall of episodic memories Rapid forgetting with impaired ability to form new declarative memories Normal attention and working memory capacity Relatively preserved skill learning and procedural memory ing and the episodic form of declarative memory that are affected, whereas procedural memory remains relatively intact. Procedural memory which comprises well-established skills, such as driving a car is unscathed because it doesn't depend on the hippocampus or other brain structures...

Psychogenic Amnesia

In contrast to organic amnesia, psychogenic amnesia is caused by severe emotional trauma and does not entail structural brain injury. People with psychogenic amnesia exhibit a retrograde amnesia in which they lose memory for past events and previously known facts but are able to learn new information normally. Fugue state is a dramatic form of psychogenic amnesia in which an individual abruptly relocates to another city or region, assumes a new identity, and has no apparent memory of his or her...

Persistence

Most people worry about forgetting things, but sometimes you remember things that you wish you could forget. Persistence is the tendency to continually revisit a memory it can be something mildly annoying like a song that sticks in your head or it can be a troubling or a traumatic event. Persistence often has an intrusive quality in the sense that you experience the disturbing recollection as a thought or an image that is forced into your awareness. In the brain, persistent negative memories...

The Cycle of Neuronal Death and Neurogenesis

You may have heard the fact that you lose thousands of brain cells a day. For years, the scientific view of the adult brain was anything but encouraging. It was an unquestioned truth that your brain produced new brain cells only early in life and that upon reaching adulthood, your fixed complement of neurons would begin to dwindle. With this relentless cell death would come a sharp slide in your capacity to learn and think. We now know that this position was a combination of exaggeration and...

Other Specialty Consultations

Because memory loss can have such a wide array of causes, the diagnostic process may require input from additional medical specialists. Your primary care physician might refer you to one or more of the following types of doctors to follow up on particular 112 findings from your initial checkup counselor before and after being tested in order to be in the best position to make an informed decision and to have the emotional support to cope with the results. Some patients without a family history...

The SQ3R Method

SQ3R stands for Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review. This method is particularly useful for integrating and remembering a substantial quantity of information, for example, from a textbook or lengthy professional material you need to master. Survey. The first step is to gain an overview of the material, via a quick read-through or skim. Reading chapter headings and subheadings or the first sentence of each paragraph will yield a mental outline of the material. Look over all associated...

Do You Need a Memory Evaluation

If you're concerned enough about your memory to wonder if something's wrong, you should see your doctor. Begin with a consultation with your primary care physician. Because this doctor knows you and your medical history, he or she is in an advantageous position to assess the big picture of your health and consider the more common medical and psychological conditions that can cause memory loss. Don't expect to walk out of your primary care physician's office with a diagnosis. There's no single...

Memory Myth All Stress Is

Excessive stress can blunt your memory, but a modest amount of stress can actually sharpen it. The pressure of a looming deadline may increase your ability to focus and sustain attention. The result is that you acquire information more effectively, which in turn promotes memory consolidation and retrieval. Without some sense of urgency, your focus is likely to blur, resulting in diminished assimilation of information and ineffective memory consolidation. But a word of advice. Don't run away...

Causes of Memory Problems

His primary care physician referred him to me because he was concerned that he was developing Alzheimer's disease. He anxiously recounted, in minute detail, a half dozen instances of memory failure over the past few months, including a forgotten name, a missed appointment, and a wrong exit on the interstate. As the consultation progressed, I asked a routine question regarding how he'd been faring emotionally. For Michael, this question triggered a pained expression, which...

Putting the Strategies into Practice

I've just reviewed a range of different approaches to enhance everyday memory. Do you need to use them all That depends on what sorts of things you tend to have the most trouble remembering. Some strategies tend to be universally effective I would argue that everyone needs a PDA or a notebook to keep track of contact information and appointments. But most people will identify specific problem situations in their lives that are best remedied by customized solutions. Take a few moments to...

Prevention and Proaction The Path to Optimal Memory

No matter how old you are, it's not too late to take steps to prevent memory loss. In this chapter, I review thirteen strategies for achieving and maintaining optimal memory. Some are good health habits that can reduce the risk of illnesses that might impair your memory as well as the likelihood that you'll need medications with memory-related side effects. Others are strategies that appear to strengthen the brain and enhance cognitive function. Best of all, they're neither expensive nor...

Alternative Remedies for Memory Loss

Several colleagues at Harvard in the Division of Complementary and Alternative Medicine conduct research on therapies outside of mainstream American medicine for preventing and treating health problems. These doctors are curious about herbs, homeopathic medicines, and other products typically sold in health food stores, as well as natural approaches to healing that are used in cultures around the world. They have researched a number of substances that claim to improve memory, but so far these...

Practical Strategies to Enhance Everyday Memory

A variety of strategies have proven to be highly effective in helping people improve their memory for new information and skills. These strategies can be divided into organizational methods, effective learning behaviors, and memory techniques. I personally rely on many of them to help me put names to faces, remember what people tell me, avoid misplacing keys and other items, and retain complex information. The memory-enhancing strategies described in this chapter are not difficult to master....

Is Your Brain Shrinking

Most people's brains do shrink, or atrophy, with age. But the number of lost neurons is relatively small. It turns out that the decrease in brain volume and mass in normal aging results not so much from an actual loss of neurons but rather from changes within neurons loss of neuronal branches (dendritic spines), decreased density of synapses, and deterioration of the myelin sheath that surrounds the axons of neurons. Only in the presence of memory disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, does...

Involve Yourself with Others

It goes without saying that keeping up positive relationships with family and friends is emotionally and socially rewarding. But it's also good for your overall health and beneficial for your brain. The MacArthur study on aging and other research suggest that social support can improve mental performance. A Canadian study published in 2003 sought to tease out the effect of social engagement on cognitive function in a group of people older than sixty-five. Over the course of four years, the...

Manage Stress

It's difficult to concentrate when you're under severe stress, and poor attention is one of the main barriers to effectively encoding new memory. The physiological features of the fight-or-flight response interfere with mental focusing in the moment. Living with chronic significant stress can impair your memory over the long term high levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, are harmful to the hippocampus. You can't control all the stressful events in your life, but you can control your reactions...

Stress

Try to memorize a phone number or remember what someone just told you when you're in a time crunch or consumed with worry. Of course, we're all under stress. If you're working and raising a family, you have to juggle deadline pressures and office politics 74, along with homework, soccer games, teenagers' social schedules, and so on. Financial problems are also a major source of stress for many people. If you have an ailing parent, the stress of caregiving adds to the mix. Patients often ask me,...

Caveat Emptor

Beware of memory training programs that rely on a game-playing approach. There is no credible scientific evidence that simply playing games that require concentration or memory will allow you to transfer a benefit to the specific memory demands in your everyday life. One type of memory game that purports to strengthen memory entails remembering the location of hidden items in a grid. Do you remember the 1960s TV quiz show Concentration Parts to a puzzle were concealed within a grid consisting...

Coronary Artery Disease and Its Risk Factors

What's bad for your heart is also bad for your brain. Conditions that are risk factors for cerebrovascular disease and heart disease, such as high cholesterol, hypertension, and diabetes, increase the risk of memory problems. Controlling these disorders with medication, dietary changes, and exercise can help keep your memory in optimal condition. High Cholesterol. If your total cholesterol level is high, you're more likely to suffer memory problems in the years ahead than if the level is what...

What Is Memory

When we talk about memory, we mean not only all that we remember but also our capacity for remembering. You might think that an optimal memory is a huge database that faithfully records and securely stores all that you have learned and experienced in your life. But actually, that wouldn't be optimal at all. Not all memories are created equal. Some are meant to be retained for just a short time and then discarded. Imagine if you carried in your head every phone number you ever dialed or the time...

Vitamins

A strong link in the diet-memory connection seems to be with the B vitamins folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12. These vitamins are not naturally produced within the body and must be obtained from food or supplements. B-complex vitamins are found in brewer's yeast, liver, whole-grain cereals, rice, nuts, milk, eggs, meats, fish, fruits, leafy green vegetables, and other foods. People with deficiencies in some or all of these vitamins are at greater risk of age-related memory impairment as well...

Memory Myth Alcohol Destroys Memory

Large amounts of alcohol are toxic to the brain, but small amounts appear to be beneficial. In recent studies, people who consumed alcohol in moderation had a reduced rate of Alzheimer's disease compared with people who did not drink at all. The exact mechanism of alcohol's beneficial effect is uncertain. One hypothesis is that alcohol reduces cardiovascular risk factors by altering blood lipids. Another hypothesis is that alcohol stimulates the release of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in...

Insomnia

Staying up late of your own free will is one thing. But what if you're trying to get a good night's sleep and can't Insomnia takes different forms. Onset insomnia refers to difficulty establishing sleep common causes include anxiety and racing thoughts. Middle insomnia refers to middle-of-the-night awakening and an inability to return to sleep within a reasonable time. This type of problem is typical of people experiencing chronic pain, which may rouse them from the midst of slumber. Early...

Illicit Drug

Marijuana, ecstasy, and other illegal drugs can impair memory and related brain functions. The effects are not only evident while the drugs are being used but can persist for weeks and months afterward. The active substance in marijuana, Delta -tetrahydrocannabinol, engenders psychoactive effects by attaching to receptors in the brain for cannabinoid. Cannabinoid receptors are plentiful in the hippocampus, amygdala, and cerebral cortex, 90, regions that are crucial for forming memories. People...

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD

Some people who experience severe psychological trauma develop post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition characterized by recur- T3_ ring, intrusive memories of the traumatic event. These memories are highly persistent and interfere with the process of acquiring new information, consolidating memories, and remembering information that is unrelated to the trauma. Sustained levels of stress stimulate the release of a hormone called Cortisol, which can ultimately damage brain structures that are...

Memory Disorders

One morning in June 2002, a young man named Steven arrived at my office for an evaluation, having been referred by his primary care physician. Steven was pleasant and amiable, and he easily made conversation. Although he had difficulty providing detail about his history, he was able to tell me that he had been having memory problems since being injured in a motor vehicle accident six months earlier. He spoke somewhat vaguely about his current circumstances where he was living, family members in...

New Drugs Under Study

There are many compounds under development for treating Alzheimer's disease and other memory disorders. Some of the experimental compounds work on the same principle as the medications available today. But several others work in completely different ways and hold the potential of actually preventing or reversing dementia and other memory disorders. I join other memory doctors and our patients in the hope and expectation that one or more of these new medications will yield greater benefits than...

Memory Loss Following Heart Surgery

More than 500,000 Americans undergo coronary artery bypass surgery each year for the treatment of angina and vascular insufficiency. People who've undergone bypass surgery for heart disease often have trouble concentrating and remembering. The exact cause of these cognitive problems is not clear, but there are probably many factors. They include the impact of anesthesia and major surgery, disruption of oxygen flow to the brain during the procedure, damage to blood vessels, and a generalized...

Normal Versus Abnormal Forgetting

Tests of memory and related cognitive functions can help distinguish memory disorders from normal, age-related memory loss. And make no mistake age-related memory loss is not a disorder. However, two memory disorders mild cognitive impairment and dementia do become more common with age, leading memory researchers to wonder if there is any relationship between them and age-related memory loss. Experts disagree about the answer. Some say that mild cognitive impairment and dementia are entirely...

The Rashomon Effect

A concern voiced frequently by my patients has to do with their recall of a particular event that diverges widely from the recollection of someone else who was there. For example, a man I'll call Paul recently came to me for a consultation because he was extremely upset that he had been unable to remember an episode that occurred during a family Thanksgiving gathering two years ago. He and his sister were reminiscing and she mentioned the incident, characterizing it as a knock-down, drag-out...