Professional life, exams, the desire to keep one’s head over the years, memory is an essential function of the brain. It defines us, delights us, surprises us… but sometimes it plays tricks on us. We cultivate it while remaining curious about everything!
Memory is not immutable capital, a frozen stock of data that can be exhumed at will … “On the contrary, it is dynamic, plays on associations, is still under construction”, indicates Dr Catherine Thomas-Antérion, a neurologist specializing in cognition and behavior.
Am I really having memory problems?
There is of course no miracle recipe for keeping as much information in memory as possible. A certain fact: a healthy lifestyle is already a good preamble. The advice of Nicolas Conti, psychosociologist: “What we call memory problem is more often an attention problem. Attention is a voluntary act which requires above all an effort of listening. Today, we have less need to know things by heart thanks to everyday technological tools “.
To remedy this, the specialist suggests, in addition to focusing on a healthy lifestyle, daily training through playful memory exercises: add up the races, for example, to check at the cash desk that our count is correct, practice learning a poem, mentally recap your day, etc.
Stimulate all his senses to maintain his memory
For an event to be stored, it must be encoded, printed, if necessary using“callback” clues to be reactivated more surely. Then stored, during a second so-called anchoring phase, to be returned on demand. It is the first step, that of processing new information, that requires the most attention; and all the sensory windows – sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste – that we will associate with the event will allow us to remember it better.
Stay curious to boost your brain capacities
“Always undertake, deploy your antennae, multiply the stimuli to learn … The level of satisfaction thus achieved is the surest way to give a boost to your memory”, observes Dr Thomas-Antérion.
By opening other fields of interest, we refresh the previous associations kept in memory. Developing a new hobby, which you appreciate, is obviously more profitable than learning by homework, to make your brain work. Because the real memory boosters are fun, motivation and the variety of new activities, including watching TV series or chatting on the phone.
Keeping in touch and maintaining social ties reinvigorates us
To preserve your memory, you also need social stimulation: see different people. Periods of social isolation lead us in particular to reinventing our ways of sharing. It forces us to do intense, beneficial brain work.
The more we try to lead an intellectually and socially rich and varied life, later possible diseases and their consequences will arise. Doing nothing to maintain your memory is harmful, but specific exercises are not necessary, as long as you enrich your life daily with meetings and stimulating activities.
Respect your sleep and rhythms to protect your memory
It is during sleep indeed, and more precisely at the REM phase (where dreams occur), that the brain sorts the relevant memories to memorize them by “uploading” them to the hippocampus. A key brain structure that is the first to be damaged in Alzheimer’s disease. It is she who awakens “episodic” memories, giving the impression of reliving a scene, with all its components, smell, colors, as if we were there again.
It is also thanks to sleep, when it is deep, that thewe print the traces of memories. Regularizing your rhythms also involves meals, shared and balanced.
The nap, acclaimed to preserve one’s memorization abilities
To repair a chaotic or too short night’s sleep, we bet on the effects of the nap, perfectly documented. 20 to 30 minutes after lunch, she puts oil in the wheels of memorization. “At the end of an exhausting day, it only takes 5 minutes in a chair, eyes closed, where you cut yourself off from everything, to change your brain rhythms and gain attention span for at least an hour” , advises the neurologist.
Focus on a Mediterranean-inspired diet
The reference, for the brain too, being the Mediterranean diet, rich in fibers, antioxidants and good fats, in other words in fruits and vegetables, various fish and olive oil in particular.
Consuming omega-3s also increases blood flow to the brain, reducing possible inflammation and repairing neurons. This nutrient thus helps prevent cognitive decline.
Avoid refined sugars and industrial products as much as possible.
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Drive out stress to optimize your memorization skills
Stress is a real memory scrambler. During the day, it parasitizes attention. At night, it prevents quality sleep and thus memorization. To tame stress, we can act on all fronts:
- the regularity of rhythms,
- physical exercise,
- activities that bring in contact with others.
Depression (attention, which is not stress) paralyzes and blurs attention: it must be the subject of specific treatment.
Eliminate toxins to preserve your memory
Alcohol and cannabis wreak havoc by weakening the connections between neurons.
“To be banned becausethey weaken attention at the memory consolidation phase, from one glass of wine per day for women, two for men “, warns Dr Catherine Thomas – Antérion.
Better understand the link between brain, memory and smells!
A cake coming out of the oven, the scent of flowers from the garden, certain smells immediately bring us back to very specific memories. A study published in March 2021 in the journal Progress in Neurobiology has identified for the first time a neural basis explaining how the brain allows smells to elicit such memories.
This research reports the presence of a unique connectivity between the hippocampus and the olfactory zones. By comparing the connections between sensory areas and the hippocampus, the researchers found that the smell had the strongest connectivity. “During evolution, humans have experienced a profound expansion of the neocortex which has reorganized access to memory networks,” said Christina Zelano, senior researcher, assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Before completing: “Vision, hearing, and touch were all redirected in the brain as the neocortex developed, connecting to the hippocampus via an intermediary rather than directly. Our data suggests that olfaction does not. did not undergo this rerouting, and instead kept direct access to the hippocampus“.