Occasional forgetfulness can be a normal part of getting older.man-reading-dreamstime
You know staying active and eating well can help your body remain healthy.
And here are three things you can do today to improve your memory.


One of the memory-building tools that is often touted is puzzle-solving, such as Sudoku or crosswords. While those things are good for your brain, a study by the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology published in Frontiers in Psychology found that reading a novel can be an even better way to preserve memory skills as you age.

In an experiment, one group of adults was given iPads loaded with engaging books, while another group was given iPads loaded with word puzzles. Each group was told to read or complete the puzzles for 90 minutes a day, five days a week.

Before the study began, participants were assessed for different cognitive skills, including working memory, which is the capacity to hold things in our minds while we move onto other mental activities, and episodic memory, which is being able to remember events.

After eight weeks, the participants were tested on the same skills. The group that read books showed significant improvements to working memory and episodic memory, compared to the group that did puzzles. According to the study, reading engages both types of memory. As we dive into a book, our episodic memory recalls what happened in previous chapters while working memory helps us keep track of what happened in recent paragraphs.

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High levels of stress can cause myriad health concerns, including heart disease, high blood pressure, anxiety, and mental burnout. It can also negatively impact your memory. New research from the Youth Development Institute at the University of Georgia, however, found that low to moderate levels of stress can improve working memory.

In the study, researchers asked participants “in the last month, how often have you been upset because of something that happened unexpectedly?” and “in the last month, how often have you found that you could not cope with all the things that you had to do?” The researchers also asked participants about their ability to handle unexpected events that may cause stress and if they had support from their social networks.

To analyze working memory, they presented participants with a series of images and later asked them to recall if they’d been shown the photos before. In addition, an MRI assessed participants’ neural activation in different parts of the brain.

The participants who claimed they had support from family and friends also appeared more able to cope with low to moderate stress levels in a healthy manner. In addition, those who had low to moderate levels of perceived stress also had elevated working memory neural activation, resulting in better mental performance. The MRI showed that low to moderate stress can make the parts of the brain that control working memory more effectively do their job.


While it seems counterintuitive, reliance on your smartphone can actually improve your memory instead of draining it. Research from University College London (UCL) in the United Kingdom published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that storing information on a digital device frees up your memory and allows you to recall additional things of less importance.

The findings run counter to previous concerns neuroscientists had that an overuse of technology could cause what they called “digital dementia.” However, the study found that having an external “memory drive,” helps you remember the information you saved in the device as well as unsaved information.

In an experiment, the researchers gave participants a tablet loaded with a test that showed 12 numbered circles on the screen. They were instructed to drag high-value circles to the left and low-value circles to the right. Some participants had to use their own memory to remember which circles were considered high value, while others were allowed to store the information in their digital device. The participants who were allowed to record the information performed better than those who had to rely on their memory, even though they didn’t access the information during the test.

“Using the device shifted the way that people used their memory to store high-importance versus low-importance information,” said Dr. Sam Gilbert, UCL professor of cognitive neuroscience and senior author of the study, in a statement. “When people had to remember by themselves, they used their memory capacity to remember the most important information. But when they could use the device, they saved high-importance information into the device and used their own memory for less important information instead.”

Instead of causing “digital dementia,” external tools can improve your memory. However, Gilbert added this caution:

“We need to be careful that we back up the most important information. Otherwise, if a memory tool fails, we could be left with nothing but lower-importance information in our own memory.”

[Source: Fast Company Feb, 2023]