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 of thirty squares. Contestants had to solve the puzzle by remembering pairs of numbered squares that, when flipped over, would reveal partial information. Some computer-based memory training programs are based on this type of exercise. It's true that if you keep playing the same game, you will become more proficient at it over time. But remembering pairs of locations on a game board will not help you remember where you parked your car at the mall.

If you search the Internet for "memory training," you will come upon hundreds of websites guaranteeing a cure for your memory maintain momentum. Others require the additional structure and motivation provided by individual consultation.

People whose memory problems are significant and are interfering with their ability to do their jobs and function in life tend to do best with a more intensive one-on-one approach that can rapidly address their unique needs. In a private consultation, a clinician can analyze the memory problem relatively quickly and design a customized program with a brisk feedback loop for fine-tuning. Whether you opt for a group or an individualized approach, choose one that is run by a reputable health professional. Working with an academically affiliated medical center or professional or with a clinician recommended by your doctor will 184 increase the likelihood that you'll receive high-quality services.

problems. Many of these sites lead with a hard-sell pitch wrapped in pseudoscientific jargon. Some are predicated on a subliminal or hypnotic learning approach that promises that if you simply listen to the twenty-three-hour, eleven-CD set, various brain regions involved in memory will be magically activated.

One site promises "amazing instant results for a photographic memory," allowing you to memorize volumes of information in minutes. Another offers memory tools linked to the godhead and other divine sources. One of my all-time favorites is a program that awards the participant Olympic-style medals for various cognitive areas and includes a game of learning bird sounds as a tool for "mind expansion and building brain power." I must admit that the product pitch that began with "Lapses of memory can kill!" caught my attention.

What does work is a kit of practical tools that are designed to address specific memory problems, such as the strategies and techniques reviewed in this chapter and taught by qualified professionals.

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