Understanding Memory Problems: What is Memory and How Can It be Improved
The brain is the most powerful machine in the world. Computers, robots, time machines—they are all attempts in creating something that will come close to the brain, or even better, something that will transcend the power of the brain.
As powerful as it is, the brain is also fragile. In all the things it can do, one of its most valued functions is its capacity to store memory. The simplest way to explain memory is the encoding, storage of information (stimuli), and the ability to retrieve them (memory recall).
Types of memory
There are three basic types of memory: sensory, short-term, and long-term. Sensory memory is responsible for remembering an item or stimuli in a split second. Being able to see something and remembering what it looks like is an example of sensory memory. Short-term memory is also called working memory.
This type stores information for a period of several seconds to a minute. Both sensory and short-term memories have limited capacities, which means that information stored here are often not retained. They are bound to be forgotten unless they are stored in long-term memory. Long-term memory has an indefinite capacity and is capable of storing information for an indefinite time as well. Permanent learning is done in long-term memory.
Memory loss can occur in both short-term and long-term memory. Some types of memory loss are transient and acute, and others often indicate total depletion.
There are a lot of causes for memory loss. The most common ones are the following:
- Some prescription drugs interfere with memory process because of their chemical components. “Anti” drugs (antihistamine, antibiotics, and etc.), for example, can affect your acetylcholine level (a primary neurotransmitter responsible for memory and learning). Low levels of acetylcholine affect concentration, making one forgetful.
- Alcohol, Smoking, Drug Abuse. Excessive alcohol, smoking, and drug abuse all affect the brain through oxygen transmission. These activities often decrease the amount of oxygen brought to the brain, thus resulting in depletion of neurons, inhibition of brain functions, and later, memory loss.
- Lack of Sleep. Fatigue is the constant result of sleep deprivation, and it also affects the ability to retrieve information.
- Together with anxiety, stress can get in the way of concentration. Memory suffers when a person is anxious, overstimulated, and distracted. In worse cases, stress brought by an emotional trauma can lead to depression which can lead to memory loss.
- Imbalanced Diet. Nutrition has always been an important factor in brain functioning. Lack of vitamins and minerals affect memory.
- Head Trauma. Brain injury almost always results in short-term and long-term memory loss. The extent of the damage affects how long the memory issue will last.
Memory is highly malleable. It can stretch as much as it can shrink. Ideally, memory problems are caused by age, and the early onset of memory loss, or sudden memory issues imply some abnormalities in the brain. Anything that happens in the brain has a direct impact on memory that is why there are a lot of memory diseases with varying severity. But among the most popular of them are:
- Dementia—the progressive deterioration of mental processes and memory. Prognosis of dementia occurs when memory loss interferes with the activities of daily life.
- Alzheimer’s—a form of dementia that indicates a progressive degeneration of the brain. People diagnosed of it are losing their memories in varying rates—months, minutes, or years.
- Amnesia—described as the loss of memory (short-term or long-term). Loss of memory should be of great extent, and characterized by inability to retrieve them.
How to improve memory
While it is true that memory, along with other brain functions, decline together with age, it is still possible to make the degeneration slower. When modern lifestyle is considered, this might be a little difficult; toxins, poor diet, stress, pollution may actually get in the way. However, when we counter this unhealthy lifestyle, improving and retaining memory is still possible.
Here are some lifestyle changes that will help solve problems with memory:
- Eat Healthy
In a blog posted in www.spring.org.uk, new psychology studies emerged revealing how music affects the memory. These studies demonstrated the intimate link between music and memory.
- Singing aids language learning.
- Music can aid and injured brain.
- Music activates large areas of the brain.
- Music helps in “reminiscence bump.”
- Music creates a musical hallucination.
Of course, back these up by learning something new every day and to strive to challenge the brain. Never stop learning. Learning new things allow the brain to create new connections; new connections means neurons are being used.
The more connections you create the stronger the brain becomes and the more likely you are to heighten your memory as well. Memory techniques and games also improve memory retention.