Category Archives: Improving Memory

Many of us would love to improve our memory, and it becomes even more important as we age.

There’s nothing more frustrating than having a word on the tip of your tongue and not being able to remember it.

Being a little forgetful at times is usually nothing to worry about. However, improving your memory could be more in your control than you realize.

Research shows that health, lifestyle and even some hobbies and activities can help boost our memory and keep our brain in better condition as we age.

Although there’s currently no cure for diseases like Alzheimer’s, some evidence suggests we may be able to prevent or at least slow down, the progression of dementia through taking care of our brain and cognitive health.

Memory Exercises: Help strengthen your memory

Memory—it’s tied to everything that forms our person. The vivid images in our minds are how we recall our favorite moments, communicate with those we love, learn new information, and even perform routine behaviors. With memory involved in daily life, this cognitive skill is highly beneficial. There are many memory exercises to strengthen and improve all types of memory.

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What is Memory?

Memory is a cognitive process. When applied, it is how the brain encodes, stores, and then recalls or retrieves information from the environment and previous experiences. Encoding is taking in information through the senses, learning it, and relating it to past knowledge. In the memory process, storing memory is retaining that information over time until retrieval, which is accessing the information as it is needed. Without memory, language, behavior, and personal identity are impossible because we would have no concept of recalling past events.

Types of Memory

There are three types of memory that can be divided into subcategories and improved in various ways!

  1. Sensory Memory—Information is taken in through the sense (i.e. sight, touch, hearing, taste, and smell), processed by the nervous system, and is stored for mere seconds after the initial stimuli are no longer present before being transferred to short term memory

  2. Short Term Memory—The ability to hold or store current information for a limited time (between 15 and 30 seconds) and capacity, meaning only several items can be held until they are forgotten or moved to long term memory
    • Working Memory—The process of temporarily storing current information and then manipulating it for use
  3. Long Term Memory—The unlimited capacity to store any information occurring over a few minutes ago for an extended period of time; information is encoded and manipulated  
    • Explicit—Memory that is easily recalled unconsciously and unknowingly influences thoughts and behavior
    • Implicit—Memory that is remembered intentionally with work like recalling a phone number
    • Declarative—Recalling factual information like dates, events, concepts, faces, or words
    • Procedural—How to perform a skill, action, or behavior
    • Episodic—Remembering personal experiences and events
    • Semantic—Remembering general facts

Why Should We Use Memory Exercises To Improve Memory?

Memory is involved in every facet of our lives. Essentially, it makes us who we are. So, to become the fullest version of ourselves, it is important to use memory exercises to prove memory. Memory naturally declines with age as the number of neural synapses (nerve cells and their connections) decreases. While genetics and environmental factors do play a role, practicing memory exercises can potentially prevent such a drastic reduction in memory skills.

Concrete or Abstract Memory Exercises: Which is Best?

Concrete and abstract are two types of thinking. Concrete thinking includes concepts derived from information taken in through the senses. It is literally and focused on the physical world as facts, objects, and definitions. Contrarily, abstract thinking is ideas that are not tangibly related to the physical world. It is a more complex manner of thinking that allows us to understand and make connections about the information processed through concrete thinking. Examples of abstract thinking are concepts such as freedom, love, and metaphorical language.

A combination of both forms of thinking is useful for memory exercises. However, concrete exercises are beneficial because they target specific goals. Abstract thinking cannot occur without real, physical experiences of the concrete.

Memory Exercises: Learn A Language

Memory is an integral component of learning. Learning a new skill is a memory exercise because it challenges the brain to recall information. It utilizes the brain’s neuroplasticity to do so, which is how the brain forms neurons (nerve cells), strengthens the connections between those cells, and repairs damage. One study of bilingual participants with Alzheimer’s disease demonstrates how learning multiple languages delays symptom onset like that of memory loss by up to 4.5 years.

Memory Exercises: Visualization

Visualizing is the act of creating images in your mind. The sense of sight is incredibly powerful—lingering in the memory more so than hearing, smelling, tasting, or the sensation of touch. Visualization trains short term memory by enhancing the encoding process. When visualizing, including information from all of the senses ensures the clearest, most vivid image. That also increases the likelihood of remembering. Visualization exercises can range from trying to reproduce a picture you previously observed, an object, a person, or a location. Begin by looking at the image you wish to recreate in your mind for one minute.  

Memory Exercises: Numeracy Games

Numbers games foster logical thinking. Doing math, especially without pencil and paper, requires you to repeat and rehearse numbers in your head. That heavily relies on memory and is considered a memory exercise because of the amount of information held in short term memory necessary to complete the math problem. Examples of numeracy games are Sudoku or simply performing math equations such as choosing a number and adding or subtracting digits from that number multiple times to arrive at the correct answer.

Ex: 3(46 x 7 – 18)

Memory Exercises: Repeat and Recall

Repeat and recall may seem to be a simple practice, but it is an extremely effective memory exercise. This is one reason why you repeat a phone number in your mind to dial it later. The repetition of the repeat and recall process commits it to long term memory because short term memory can only hold the phone number for merely seconds. To train the brain, repeat and recall conversations, numbers, song lyrics, poems, or even books read. In conversations, repeat and recall exercises are beneficial for listening skills. Listening skills are often lacking, and repeating a conversation makes the main idea of the conversation more clearly.

Memory Exercises: Physical Exercise

Physical exercise does not solely exercise the body. It works out the brain too! Aerobic exercises are particularly helpful for memory. Firstly, the body’s physiological response to exercise serves as a protection against memory loss. As one exercises, the blood flow increases the amount of oxygen available to the brain. When the brain has more oxygen, the body is less susceptible to cardiovascular disease and various forms of dementia which both impair memory. According to leading neurologists at Harvard University, exercise also boosts neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers in the brain. Studies suggest that those who avidly exercise have more volume in the regions of the brain that control memory and cognition.

Memory Exercises: Teach A Skill

They say practice makes perfect! The same concept applies to memory. Teaching a skill is a memory exercise because it gives the opportunity to practice the skill being taught. As a teacher, you have to refine your own technique as you are explaining it to somebody else. This repetition trains the memory.

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Memory Exercises: Change Your Routine

The brain needs diversity. Sticking to the same routine day after day does not challenge the brain. Altering your routine, however, does. The hippocampus is the area of the brain that stores long term memories. Changing your routine in any way, like working out in the morning instead of the evening, going out for lunch rather than staying at the office, or taking a new route to class stimulates the hippocampus to improve memory.

Memory Exercises: Observe Details

Details are in everything—the people we surround ourselves with, the places we go, the movies we watch. Observing these details can be an effective memory exercise. For the observation exercise, intentionally observe and note at least four details of a stimulus in your environment. For example, committing to memory that the restaurant you are dining in has checkered floors, red walls, six tables, and a green jukebox in the corner. Later, try to recall those details. This is referred to as passive memory training. It trains the memory not only to retain information but to easier access the details stored in memory.

Memory Exercises: Social Connections

Humans are social creatures. Research analyzing the social connection patterns of patients with Alzheimer’s disease establishes a connection between patients with active social lives and those who remain more isolated. Published in the American Journal of Public Health, “women with the larger social networks were 26 percent less likely to develop dementia than those with smaller social networks” (Crooks et al., 2011). Daily connection is key, as the chance of developing dementia is then lowered by nearly half. This is because the brain is stimulated as we respond to others. Additionally, group activities that bring about socialization (i.e. exercise) encourage healthy behaviors and lend emotional support during times of trial. A contented emotional state is imperative for building strong brain connections for cognitive skills such as memory.

Memory Exercises: Eat Breakfast

Diet is linked to memory function. Starting the day with a healthy breakfast is the first step to successful memory exercise. To retain information, pay attention, and perform other cognitive skills related to memory, the brain requires a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and antioxidants. It cannot function optimally without energy to do so. Foods with high levels of vitamin E are also essential to building memory function. These include nuts and seeds, eggs, and green leafy vegetables like spinach and broccoli. The typical breakfast foods like sugary cereals, processed meats, and pastries do not provide the brain with enough nutrition for optimal brain function.

Memory Exercises: Read

Reading is a memory exercise most beneficial in old age. It stimulates the occipital and parietal lobes, which are the areas of the brain associated with visual information and reading comprehension. As the occipital and parietal lobes are “exercised,” the brain can more effectively process visual information of other stimuli in the environment that we store to memory.  

Neurobic Exercise = Memory Exercise

Each of these memory exercises is known as neurobic exercises—the idea that cognitive skills like memory can be maintained and enhanced through exercising the brain. They reflect how actions like reading a book, taking up a hobby or having a conversation potentially train the brain with minimal effort.

References

Crooks, V.C., Lubben, J. Petitti, D.B., Little, D., & Chiu, V. (2011). Social Network, Cognitive Function, and Dementia Incidence Among Elderly Women. American Journal of Public Health, 98(7). DOI: https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2007.115923

Diament, M. (2008). Friends Make You Smart. Retrieved from https://www.aarp.org/health/brain-health/info-11-2008/friends-are-good-for-your-brain.html

Harvard Health Publishing. (N.d.). Exercise can boost your memory and thinking skills. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/exercise-can-boost-your-memory-and-thinking-skills

Convergent Thinking: The key to problem-solving

Imagine sitting in class shading the bubble on a multiple-choice test. You would not think that simple action has a whole lot to do with creativity, but when combined with divergent thinking, convergent thinking is an integral component of problem-solving. The thought process that goes into answering standard questions opens up a world of possibilities known as convergent thinking.

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What is Convergent Thinking?

While studying human creativity, psychologist Joy Paul Guilford first created the term as the opposite of divergent thinking.

When presented with a problem, it allows someone to arrive at a solution by analyzing the information available to them and later applying established rules and reasoning. It relies heavily on logic. Its purpose is to decrease the chance of ambiguity—seeking to bridge the gap between multiple interpretations. Ideally, it leads to one correct answer or method to solve a problem. Examples are IQ tests, standardized tests, math quizzes, and spelling tests.

Convergent VS. Divergent Thinking

Being linear and systematic, convergent thinking is straightforward. It filters ideas to a single solution. The process focuses on the questions, “why?” and “what’s best?”

Contrarily, divergent thinking is web-like—creating connections between ideas. Divergent thinking generates multiple ideas that are original, open to more than one solution, and unconcerned with the risks or limitations.

While different concepts, convergent and divergent thinking go hand-in-hand. Typically, we use divergent thinking to generate multiple ideas followed by convergent thinking to analyze and narrow down those ideas.  

Convergent Thinking and Brain Activity

Brain activity in convergent thinkers is unique. Such activity is measured by a test called an electroencephalogram (EEG). Electrodes on the scalp measure a person’s brain waves. It causes a distinct increase in Theta bands, which is a type of brain wave linked to learning, memory, and intuition.

Studies of patients with hippocampal damage suggest that the ability to apply convergent thinking is associated with the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory (Warren et al., 2016). Neurotransmitter systems that carry signals to brain cells are also involved. Convergent thinking function is greater when lower levels of dopamine—the chemical for arousal, thinking, and planning—are present in the nervous system.

Convergent Thinking and Personality

Thinking processes affect personality. Personality traits are categorized into 5 basic dimensions. This is known as the Big Five method.

The Big Five personality traits are:

  • Openness—Curious, imaginative, sensitive to inner feelings
  • Conscientiousness—Efficient, organized, and diligently hardworking
  • Extraversion—Enjoys interacting with the world, talkative, energetic
  • Agreeableness—Considerate and kind to others, optimistic of human nature
  • Neuroticism—Sensitive and nervous, likely to be moody, anxious, or depressed, easily angered

After assessing brain activity studies, researchers conclude that divergent thinking, with its emphasis on creativity, is specifically linked to the traits of openness and extraversion. It was not found to be affected by any of the core personality traits. However, cognition does affect mood. Convergent thinkers tend to display more negative moods than their divergent thinking counterparts.

Executive Function Skills For Convergent Thinking

Executive functions are cognitive skills that assist in goal formation and achievement. There are three main areas: working memory, cognitive flexibility, and inhibitory control. Like this type of thinking, we practice executive function skills in daily life. These skills have a predominant role in creativity.

Executive function skills include but are not limited to:

Attention and Initiation

Attention is an executive function characterized by staying focused on a task. Attention is especially important for it because narrowing down one best solution requires focus. Additionally, attention helps sustain initiation—the executive function responsible for beginning a task and finishing it to completion.

Inhibition

Inhibition is an executive function that utilizes attention and reasoning to control impulsive, automatic responses. To put it simply, inhibition is part of self-control. A lack of inhibition prevents the ability to discard partial or incorrect solutions. When a person does not have inhibition, it also impacts their attention. They cannot remain focused enough to stay on task. Thus, poor inhibitory control is a disadvantage for convergent thinking.

Shifting

Although divergent thinking is unconcerned with limitations, the ‘best’ solution determined by convergent thinking tasks cannot be deterred by extensive limitations. Shifting is the executive function that allows us to adjust to these situations as they change or as limitations arise. In it, focus must shift to narrow down the ideas that were generated during divergent thinking.

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Regulating Emotions

Depending on the task, the thinking process can be stressful. Studies conclude that both convergent and divergent thinking tasks induce mood swings (Chermahini et al., 2011). Regulating emotions is the ability to deal with feelings, which is essential in times of stress. With its focus on filtering ideas, convergent thinking demands the managing of emotions. One has to acknowledge what they are feeling and address those feelings to overcome barriers to the most suitable solution.

Organizing

Convergent thinking is structured. The executive function, organizing, provides that much-needed structure. Organizing entails planning and prioritizing—each of which is relevant in convergent thinking. It is the point in the thinking process when ideas come to life. One has to identify key priorities to achieve their goals.  

IQ Tests and Convergent Thinking

Intelligence is a major component of cognition and thinking. IQ, which stands for intelligence quotient, measures convergent thinking. Questions on standard IQ tests are a prime example of this type of thinking. They measure logic, reasoning, basic knowledge, and thought flow. Intelligence does not depend on creativity, but they do have a relationship. Indicative of intelligence, higher IQ scores provide a starting point to it carry out. Problem-solving increases in difficulty if intelligence is low. However, intelligence does not guarantee creativity. Arriving at a correct textbook answer to a problem does not guarantee the capacity to generate original ideas before delving into the convergent thinking process.

How To Explore Creativity with Convergent Thinking

Most assume only divergent thinking is associated with creativity, but that is incorrect. It is necessary for creativity too. According to the Geneplore model, creativity is a cycle consisting of the generation stage and the exploration stage. Divergent thinking is the generation of ideas and convergent thinking explores ideas to put them in motion.

These general guidelines are beneficial to enhance creativity with convergent thinking:

Be Original

Do not dismiss novelty ideas. While divergent thinking is the stage in which original ideas are generated, convergent thinking involves actually working with ideas. Creative ideas may initially seem impossible due to limitations but think deeper. They may be able to be revised or modified. Step out of the ‘norm’ to courageously approach new ideas others do not understand.

Ask Questions

Questions beginning with “what,” who,” “when,” or “where” are typically convergent thinking questions. Convergent questions are less complex, easy to formulate, and strategic in nature. Asking questions creates goals to strive towards. The questions structure the thinking process. They also determine which information is no longer relevant and should be discarded.

Practice Objectivity

Convergent thinking is an objective experience. After establishing clear goals, those goals become the basis for the thought process. Objectiveness is focal for the organization and planning. Guide all questions around the objectives. This ensures the overall solution is met competently and without excessive distraction.

Take Time

Although we all appreciate situations of instant gratification, arriving at the single best solution to a problem is not instantaneous. Be deliberate when practicing convergent thinking. Hasty decisions prematurely eliminate ideas that could have potentially been successful. If overwhelmed, take a break from the process and return later with a fresh perspective.   

Convergent Thinking In Education

As previously stated, convergent thinking is implemented throughout the tasks of daily life. It has been put to practical use in educational settings. When convergent thinking is implemented for educational purposes, it requires information to be provided from numerous sources. Teachers are wise to deliver rigid, well-defined information for convergent thinking—not unfocused, open-ended ideas subjected to change. Concepts and materials are then combined to conclude the correct answer.

Examples of convergent thinking in school are study materials like flashcards, rote memorization, and drill learning. Class discussions between students and the teacher also contribute to convergent learning, as it is an opportunity to filter out incorrect ideas.

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Techniques of convergent thinking in the classroom are:

Grouping

Problem-solving processes originate with many ideas generated during divergent thinking. In contrast, those ideas must be organized into groups for convergent thinking. Some of the ideas are likely to be similar. By combining like-ideas, grouping makes the data easier to find the most accurate solution to the problem. The like-ideas can be merged into a single comprehensive solution.

Outlining

Students benefit from outlining because it offers structure. Facts and information in excess get disorganized, so outlining prevents useful data from getting lost amongst what is non-useful. Outlining techniques ensure the gathered research is easier retrieved from working memory. This is similar to grouping, except with more structure. Examples of outlining include step by step lists, web maps, or reframing questions with multiple choice answers.

Filtering

Both outlining and grouping are vital to the technique known as filtering. Outlining and grouping present the information in an organized manner to filter or weed out ideas that offer no solution to the problem at hand. Students cannot ‘choose the best answer’ on their exam without methodically eliminate the incorrect answers first.

As with anything, practice makes perfect. Convergent thinking does not come effortlessly. It requires repetition to refine the process.

References

Akbari Chermahini, S., & Hommel, B. (2012). Creative mood swings: divergent and convergent thinking affect mood in opposite ways. Psychological research, 76(5), 634–640. doi:10.1007/s00426-011-0358-z

Warren, D. E., Kurczek, J., and Duff, M. C. 2016. What relates newspaper, definite, and clothing? An article describing deficits in convergent problem solving and creativity following hippocampal damage. Hippocampus 26(7):835–40. doi:10.1002/hipo.22591

Brain Training: Discover the Benefits of Brain Exercises

Much has been said about physical exercise and the multiple benefits it to your body. However, what about brain exercises? Do we really know what benefits you can get from brain games? Discover what brain training is about and how cognitive stimulation can benefit us throughout our lives.

What is cognitive stimulation and how does it work?

Brain gym and cognitive rehabilitation are synonyms to refer to cognitive stimulation techniques. However, what is brain stimulation?

Cognitive stimulations are actions and activities where the main objective is to improve or maintain brain functions. It is about carrying out different exercises aimed at stimulating cognitive abilities such as attention, memory, language, executive functions, visuospatial functions, perception, etc.

When the brain is not stimulated it tends to get weaker and weaker. Our neurons which are responsible for receiving, processing and transmitting information through chemical signals, are the main engine of our brain. Therefore, when we exercise our brain, what we do is stimulate our neurons so that they regenerate, both anatomically and functionally, and form new connections.

At a scientific level, it has been shown that brain training regularly stimulates brain plasticity. Even if we don’t realize it, in our daily actions whether it’s reading a book, driving to work or cooking we exercise our neurons. However, our brain tends to stimulate the parts that it uses most but we stop stimulating very important parts. That’s why it’s important to do a proper brain training to train all the functions.

In order for brain training to be more effective, it must be adapted to the person who is doing it and look for the ideal moment when the brain is at its maximum level of activity.

To understand well what brain training and cognitive stimulation are about, we must learn and understand concepts such as brain plasticity.

Broadly speaking, according to recent research we can say that brain plasticity (or neuroplasticity) is “the ability of the nervous system to change its structure and functioning throughout its life, as a reaction to the diversity in the environment”.

In other words, brain plasticity allows the brain to adapt to new situations or even sometimes recover after suffering injuries or certain pathologies. In this way, brain training and cognitive stimulation aim to help the brain generate new connections between neurons thus promoting greater brain plasticity.

Brain Training

Brain training can (and should) be performed by everyone. Children in an early intervention during the first years of life, or adults when enhancing the skills required in different jobs, everyone can benefit. In people with cognitive impairments, cognitive stimulation is essential for the deterioration to be slower even though unfortunately, the impairment is irreversible.

People tend to associate cognitive stimulation only for people who have some alteration. It is true that cognitive stimulation is the most supported non-pharmacological intervention applied to people with mild cognitive impairment, mild dementia or even normal aging.

Brain Training- Neuroplasticity

Cognitive stimulation and brain training not only work on cognitive processes but they are perfect for anyone, with or without pathologies.

Brain Training for Children and Teenagers

The brain continues to develop since we are born. Childhood and adolescence are especially critical stages as they form brain crisis periods where the brain undergoes drastic changes. There are many differences between a brain and an adult brain.

Brain plasticity appears every time we learn something new, and it stays that way throughout life. Our brain is prepared to learn over the years, but we have to exercise it.

Neuroeducation or brain-based technology is now part of education. Brain training helps children relax and concentrate. Teachers can use puzzles, reading, crossword puzzles, etc.

Brain training results are visible in children over time. They understand reading better and solve problems and exercise better than children who have not trained. These children tend to develop their creativity and have better study habits which give them a better quality of life.

Among the most relevant cognitive abilities to train in children are planning, working memory, cognitive flexibility, reasoning and creativity among others.

Brain Stimulation in Healthy Adults

If we want our brains to age in a healthy way, we must stay active both physically and mentally.

Wanting is power and neuroscience is helping a lot. When we talk about staying mentally active, we think of spending hours and hours doing additions, subtractions, math problems… Wrong! It is clear that activities like these can help stimulate mental capacities but they are not the only ones, nor are they the best way to activate your brain.

There are traditional board games (cards, bingo, etc.), question and answer games and even digital leisure games (video games) that can bring us benefits. Discover brain games that can help train your mind.

Brain training traditional Games

Traditional games can bring us benefits such as:

  • Social interactions. They are extremely important for brain development and reduce loneliness.
  • Moods improve and motivation and self-esteem increase.
  • It increases self-efficacy, increases levels of satisfaction and coping capacity in stressful situations.
  • Exercising cognitive skills enhances sensory perception and improves the maintenance of healthy habits

the other hand, some video games can improve people’s executive processes.

Some researchers have wondered whether video games benefit brain functions that deteriorate over time and after several studies, they concluded that video games such as “Rise of Nations” improve cognitive abilities.

Brain training with video games

This particular video game (“Rise of Nations”) consists of “conquering the world” by building cities, expanding territories, maintaining armies and caring for citizens. Among the most significant cognitive improvements that have been found in Kramer’s team study are processing speed, updating, shifting, reasoning, spatial memory, etc

There are also pages where you can carry out personalized brain training.

By regular brain training, over time we retain more information and faster. The trick is to perform different activities to relax your mind and get better results.

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For example: When Einstein was exhausted he would play the violin to clear his head, thus solving his mathematical problems better. Apply it to yourself!

Among the benefits of cognitive stimulation in healthy adults we find:

  • Increased brain function.
  • Prevention of cognitive deficits.
  • Better brain plasticity and greater potential therefore, you will be more skillful.

Brain Training in Adults with Brain Injury

In people with some kind of impairment, cognitive stimulation is essential. It is the main non-pharmacological treatment used in cognitive impairment and dementias to slow evolution and preserve abilities.

  • Benefits of cognitive stimulation in adults with some impairment are:
  • Keep non-altered cognitive functions healthy.
  • Improve brain plasticity.
  • Increase in the quality of life and delay in the evolution of the disease.
  • The activities must always be adapted to the person and their degree of deterioration.

Some activities that can be carried out in adults with any type of brain injury, deterioration or dementia are:

  • Attention exercises: Counting
  • Language exercises: Ordering letters to form words, crosswords, word searches, completing words, etc.
  • Mobility exercises: You can use everyday tasks to make the person feel entertained and motivated.
  • Time estimation exercises: Keeping a calendar, a clock or anything that they can have as a reference.
  • Number exercises: Math problems, additions, subtractions, etc.
  • Creativity exercises: Drawings can be used to encourage people’s creativity and motivation.
  • Reading exercises: Newspapers, books, magazines adapted to the person’s tastes.

Just as we take care of our bodies, we must remember that it is important to take care of our brain. Brain training is a great resource for strengthening our mental abilities. Remember that it is never too late to train your brain.

And what do you do to train your brain? ????

Short term memory: What is it and practical exercises

What is short-term memory? How is it different from long-term memory? In the following article, we will try to answer these and other questions with practical examples and everyday situations.

Short term memory

What is short term memory?

Short term memory is a system that allows us to store a limited amount of information for a short period of time.

For example, short-term memory has made it possible for you to be able to read the previous sentence and understand its meaning. Without short term memory, by the time you had reached the last word of the sentence, you would probably have forgotten the first word you read. We use short-term memory many times in our daily lives. Another example would be when someone gives us their phone number: we need short-term memory to keep the number in our mind for as long as it takes us to write it down or dial it on our phone.

Activities to exercise short-term memory

How much information can we store thanks to short-term memory? And for how long? To answer these questions, we are going to use the following exercise:

1. Remembering numbers

Read aloud the following numbers: 7293 and then cover them with a piece of paper. Can you remember the numbers in the same order? Well, let’s try more numbers. Cover them with a piece of paper as soon as you have read them and try to remember each set of numbers in the same order in which they are written before moving on to the next set. Ready?

  • 40863
  • 785342
  • 7916382
  • 16249067
  • 912308462
  • 6129347320

How many numbers have you been able to remember? This type of task is known as a digit span. It has been used on numerous occasions to study short-term memory. In this task, most people remember about seven digits in the same order.

Therefore, what this task tell us about short-term memory is that a person has a short-term memory capacity of about seven elements. As for the duration of this type of memory, as you have seen, the elements remain in our mind only for a few seconds and then they vanish.

In summary, short-term memory is a fragile type of memory with a limited capacity, very sensitive to interference. The content stored in short-term memory usually disappears within a few seconds unless we repeat it over and over again or use some other strategy. In these cases, the stored information may become part of the long-term memory. Unlike short-term memory, long-term memory is stable, insensitive to interference, and long-lasting.

2. Free recall task

Another way to study short-term memory is through the free recall task. This task consists of repeating a long list of words a certain number of times in order to see the learning process of the person evaluated. Let’s look at an example of this type of task. Next, words will appear in four columns. Read them consecutively, cover them with a piece of paper and try to remember the words you have read. You don’t have to remember the words in the same order they appear.

short term memory list

What words do you remember? Write them down on a piece of paper and repeat the procedure four more times. Have you managed to remember all the words?

When doing this task, it often happens that especially in the first attempts, the people evaluated prefer to remember the first and last words on the list. Remembering the first words on the list is known as the primacy effect and occurs in a stable way throughout repetitions. In this case, “analysis, approach, and area” would be more likely to be remembered than words in the middle columns. On the other hand, remembering the last words in the list is called the recency effect and has particular characteristics. At the end of the list, we are more likely to remember the words “structure, theory, and variable” than the words in the middle columns. Unlike the primacy effect, the recency effect is very sensitive to interference. This means that if we take a break after reading the list or do another task before trying to remember the words in the list, the recency effect will fade away and we will no longer remember which were the last words we had read.

The primacy effect is related to long-term memory or learning, while the recency effect depends on how we use short-term memory.

A trick to train your short-term memory: Chunking

Several studies show that training can improve a person’s performance o short-term memory tasks. One strategy to increase the number of elements we are able to repeat in a digit span task is chunking. A chunk can be defined as a set of elements treated as a unit. For example, the first sequence of digits we saw in the first section was 7293, which is equal to four elements, 7, 2, 9 and 3. However, if instead of reading digit by digit we read that sequence as “7.293”, we will be coding those four digits as a single element, a chunk.

Let’s see another example of chunking, but this time using letters instead of digits. Let’s imagine that we have to memorize a sequence of ten letters: “h”, “a”, “p”, “p”, “i”, “n”, “e”, “s”, “s”. To repeat this sequence of letters, we need to retain ten elements in our short-term memory system. Instead, we can put those ten letters together in the word “happiness” which will count as a single element.

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Studies have shown that the retention capacity of chunks in digit-width tasks is about four or five chunks.

A well-known example of this type of memory training using the chunking technique is the S.F. case, presented by researchers Ericsson, Chase and in 1980. S.F. was a normal person with average intellectual performance who, after more than a year’s training in digit tasks, went from repeating seven digits to repeating 79. How could S.F. achieve this? The researchers stated that S.F. grouped the digits presented in chunks of three and four digits each, and then associated each chunk with mnemonic strategies of time it took runners to complete a race. Thus, the sequence “3, 4, 9, 2” was categorized as “3 minutes and 49.2 seconds”, a world record in one race. In other words, S.F. associated each of the sets of digits retained in his short-term memory with codes that already existed in his long-term memory.

However, the fact that S.F. could repeat up to 79 digits in the digit range task does not mean that he had short-term since as we said in the first section, short-term memory is a system with limited capacity. In fact, when the researchers changed the format of the task and S.F. had to repeat sequences of letters instead of digits, the number of letters he was able to repeat was no longer 79, but about seven elements or four/five chunks.

Curiosities: Clive Wearing

Another highly studied case in psychology in relation to memory is the case of Clive Wearing, a case that has linked memory with consciousness. Clive Wearing was a musician who suffered acquired brain damage as a result of an infection by herpes. The brain damage from this infection caused Wearing to have an important effect on his memory.

In addition to losing most of his memories, Clive Wearing lost his ability to retain information beyond a few seconds or minutes. That is, the information remains in his memory only for a few seconds and then fades away without becoming part of his long-term memory. As a result, Wearing is unable to recognize the people he works with every day or remember what has happened to him.

What Wearing seems to experience is that he recovers his consciousness, as reflected in a diary that he updated every few minutes. During those seconds or minutes, Clive Wearing felt he had woken up and didn’t remember anything he had done minutes before. When his temporary memory store was exhausted, all the information retained during those seconds would fade away and Clive would rewrite that he had regained consciousness.

However, some memories from Clive’s previous life remained, such as his musical ability. This can be seen as evidence that memory is a complex system that includes different independent memory systems.

References

  • Baddeley, A. D. (2014). Essentials of human memory. New York, United States: Psychology Press.
  • Baddeley, A. D., Thomson, N. Buchanan, M. (1975). Word and the structure of short-term memory. Journal of verbal learning and verbal behavior, 14, 575-589.
  • Schwarb, H., Nail, J. and Schumacher, E. H. (2015). Working memory training improves visual short-term memory capacity. Psychological Research, 80(1): 128-148.
  • Ericsson, K. A., Chase, W., and Faloon, S. (1980). Acquisition of a memory skill. Science, 208, 1181-1182.
  • Morgado, I. (2005). Psychobiology of learning and memory. Cuadernos de Información y Comunicación, 10, 221-233.
  • Mathy, F. and Feldman, J. (2012). What’s magic about magic numbers? Chunking and data compression in short term memory. Cognition, 122, 346-362.

Types of Memory: Learn everything you need to know

Where did you put the keys? Why does she look so familiar? What was his name again? This is a situation we have all been at one point or another. That feeling like we don’t remember where we were going, or what we had on our to-do list for tomorrow. All these situations have in common one cognitive skill: memory. There are different types of memory that can explain why sometimes we are forgetful about certain things and not others. Learn everything about the different types of memory in this article. 

Memory is one of the cognitive abilities that we use daily, without even knowing it. It allows us to properly store new information in our brain so that it can be easily recalled later. Even though this process is intuitive, it’s a lot more complicated than it seems because we have different types of memory. Like other cognitive skills, types of memory can also be assessed. There are many ways of assessing types of memory, from standard testing such as the Weschler’s scales to CogniFit online General Cognitive Assessment.

General Cognitive Assessment Battery from CogniFit: Study brain function and complete a comprehensive online screening. Precisely evaluate a wide range of abilities and detect cognitive well-being (high-moderate-low). Identify strengths and weaknesses in the areas of memory, concentration/attention, executive functions, planning, and coordination.

The good news is that this complex cognitive ability can be trained by practicing specific memory exercises. Even though we’re not always aware of it, we can do things to train our memory to keep it from deteriorating prematurely. It’s much more effective to prevent its decline and boost our memory while its still in shape than to wait until we see signs of memory problems. Memory problems cause anxiety in those who suffer, which is why more and more people are starting routines to help them improve their cognitive functions. Many scientific studies have shown that memory is one of the cognitive abilities that can be trained with exercises designed by neurologists and specialists.

Types of Memory

The main two types of memory are the short-term memory and long-term memory based on the amount of time the memory is stored.

Short-Term Memory: the memory mechanism that allows us to retain a certain amount of information over a short period of time. Short-term memory temporarily retains processed information that either fades quickly or turns into a long-term memory. It is limited and has two objectives. The first is to keep information in our brain without it being present, and the second is to manage this information so that it can be used in higher mental processes. 

Long-term Memory: Long-term memory could be defined as the brain mechanism that makes it possible to code and retain an almost unlimited amount of information over a long period of time. The memories stored in long-term memory can last for up to a few years.

Types of Memory related to short-term memory

Types of Memory: Sensory Memory

We receive sensory memory through our senses and it lasts for a very short period of time, about 200 to 300 milliseconds. This information can be visual, auditory, tactile, smell, etc. These memories either fade or are stored in short-term memory. The information only lasts for as long as it takes to be processed and stored.

Types of Memory: Working Memory

Working memory, or operative memory, can be defined as the set of processes that allow us to store and manipulate temporary information and carry-out complex cognitive tasks like language comprehension, reading, learning, or reasoning. Working memory is a type of short-term memory. Its capacity is limited We are only able to store 5-9 elements at a time. It is active. It doesn’t only store information, it also manipulates and transforms it. Its content is permanently being updated and it is modulated by the dorsolateral frontal cortex.

Once you have assessed the different types of memory, there are different types of activities that help improve them. From games such as Sudoku to full on personalized brain training.

CogniFit Brain Training: Trains and strengthens essential cognitive abilities in an optimal and professional way.

Types of Long-term Memory

Types of Memory: Declarative 

Declarative Memory is the information stored in our memory systems that can be explained and recalled voluntarily and consciously. The brain systems related to this memory system are the medial temporal lobe, the diencephalon, and the neocortex, and is divided into two parts.

Types of Memory: Semantic

Semantic Memory refers to the set of information that we have about the world around us. This information is unrelated to how or when it was learned and includes vocabulary, academic concepts, or anything that we know about a certain subject. For example, you know that an apple is a fruit that you can eat, that there are different colored apples, and that it comes from the apple tree, but you probably don’t remember when you learned this information.

Types of Memory: Episodic

Episodic Memory includes the concrete experiences that we have lived and has a very close relationship to how and when information is learned. For example, remembering what you ate for dinner last night, where you parked your car, when you visited a certain city for the first time, who you went to a certain party with, or when you met that person.

Types of Memory: Non-Declarative or Implicit

Implicit Memory is stored in your memory systems, but can’t be talked about. It is usually acquired or incorporated through implicit learning (you may not be conscious that you’re learning it). This type of memory is quite resistant to brain damage, which usually leaves it less affected than other memory systems. This type of memory uses different parts of the brain, like the neocortex, the amygdala, the cerebellum, and the basal ganglia. It also includes other subdivisions. This is used subconsciously and helps to learn new skills like driving or riding a bike.

Types of Memory: Procedural

Procedural Memory is made up of information of muscular movements that we have learned to automatize through practice, like habits and other skills. For example, riding a bike, throwing a ball, or moving a computer mouse.

Types of Memory: Priming

Priming refers to the ease with which we activate and remember a certain concept in our minds. For example, you would probably remember the word “sedan” quicker if you were talking about “cars”, “trucks” or “convertibles”.

Types of Memory: Classical Conditioning

Classical Conditional relates to the link between a conditioned stimulus and a response that has previously been associated with an unconditioned stimulus. For example, if you hear a bell chiming (conditioned stimulus) before blowing air in your eye (unconditioned stimulus), hearing the bell chime would be enough to cause you to blink (conditioned response). This relationship forms part of the non-declarative or implicit memory

The use of all of these types of memory is essential in our day-to-day, as it is one of the cognitive abilities that we use constantly. 

Critical Thinking: How to Develop It at Home and at School

What is critical thinking? It’s a way of reasoning and questioning things to help us make better decisions. We’ll explain what critical thinking is and how you can improve it daily. You’ll also learn how to boost a child’s critical thinking at school! Andrea Garcia Cerdan explains below.

Critical thinking

What is critical thinking? It’s the ability to think clearly and rationally, and understand the logical connection between ideas. Critical thinking allows us to think independently and reflexively.

Thinking critically requires the ability to reason and learn actively, not passively. This means taking an active approach to learning information, rather than just letting the information reach you.

People with developed critical thinking skills question ideas and thoughts and don’t take everything they hear as fact. They work to get a rounded view of an argument or idea, research and thinking reasonably about each possibility, and welcome a contradictory view. They don’t see an argument as something negative, but rather a chance to grow and learn.

Characteristics of a critical thinker:

  • Understands the connections between ideas
  • Determines the importance of these ideas
  • Recognizes and creates valid arguments
  • Identifies inconsistencies and reasoning errors
  • Approaches problems consistently and systematically
  • Reflects on their own beliefs, thoughts, and values

Critical thinking is a great decision-making tool, but that doesn’t mean that we always have to think critically because not every decision is important. Think about it: you could think critically about whether you’re going to eat salmon or chicken, but probably not a life-changing decision. When you’re in one of these situations where you have to make a decision, it’s better to be intuitive than critical. You’ll save time and psychological resources that you could be using to solve another problem.

How can you boost critical thinking?

1.Don’t believe everything you hear

The first step to improving your critical thinking skills is to evaluate the information that you receive on a daily basis. Before doing something based on information that someone else told you, do your own research! Think about the problem and what possible solutions may be. Need some help coming up with answers? Maybe you want to improve your creative thinking as well! You have to decide for yourself what you want to do and what you believe is best, and evaluating all of the possibilities is a great way to do that.

2. Define you goals

What do you want to do? What’s your goal? How are you going to make it happen? Knowing what the goal is is an important part of creating a plan to get it done.

3. Research

We’re constantly being bombarded with information which can sometimes be overwhelming, but this constant information can actually help you make better decisions. When you’re faced with a problem or decision that you’re not sure about, look online, ask a forum, read a book, watch a documentary, or get in touch with someone who might be able to help you. Look at different opinions and arguments and look at it from all sides. The more information you have, the better prepared you’ll be to make a good decision.

4. Don’t assume that you’re always right

Everyone loves being right. It makes us feel like we know everything and can be a mood booster. But thinking that other arguments and ideas aren’t valid closes our eyes to other points of view. Your thoughts, ideas, and beliefs are just one possible solution, but there are other equally valid ideas that you should get to know and respect. Open your mind to other perspectives.

5. Don’t complicate things

There is a line of thinking that’s often used in scientific research when they’re trying to figure out which hypothesis is correct. It’s called Occam’s razor, and it’s the idea that when there is more than one possible answer, go with the simpler one until proven false.

6. Divide the problem into parts

When you’re faced with a difficult problem, try to break it up into smaller, more manageable parts. You’ll find it easier to evaluate and take on each different part of the puzzle on it’s own.

Developing Critical Thinking in the Classroom

One of the most important things that we can teach our children is showing them how to think, argue, research, and make their own ideas and opinions about diverse topics. Learning to do this as children will make it easier to do as adults, when the decisions and topics are more serious and have potentially serious consequences. Learning to how to question things and not believe every word they hear, read, see, etc. will help them make their own decisions in the future.

So, how can we help develop critical thinking skills at school?

1. Group work

Working as a team helps children learn to think. When they’re surrounded by classmates and have to work together to talk about their ideas and thoughts, not only will they be exposed to other ideas, but they’ll have a chance to form their own opinion.

2. Let them use their creativity

Creativity is a skill that we have since birth, but using it more helps us develop and strengthen it. Learning to use creativity to solve problems can help us come up with ideas that we might not have thought of before, which is why it’s so important to use in a classroom. Instead of giving kids instructions to something, let them try to figure out how to do it on their own. Give them space to problem solve and use different theories to get the job done without a specific plan.

3. Don’t run to their aid right away

Children will get used to having things done for them. If they try to do something and ask for help, you might be inclined to solve the problem for them, which will inhibit their ability to problem solve on their own. It’s better to let them struggle and think of the answer on their own rather then run in and save them right away. For example, if they’re having trouble with a math problem, ask them questions to help them figure it out on their own.

4. Have brainstorming sessions

Brainstorming is a great way to help develop critical thinking. It helps the child reason and see different possibilities and points of view. Ask them questions like: “What is the book about? or What do you think you’re going to learn in this chapter?

5. Compare and contrast

A great way to help students learn to think critically is to let them compare and contrast the information that they have available to them. It can be about anything-books, hobbies, favorite x. You can do the same thing with a pro and con list.

6. Ask them questions

Asking questions helps students reflect and apply what they’ve learned to a real situation, which will help them consolidate the information and create an informed response. You can ask things like: “Do you agree with this? Which option do you think is better? Explain why you think this happened. Try to avoid questions with a yes or no answer and make them think and develop a response.

7. Let them debate

Debated are a great tool to help students reflect and thinking about a topic and develop opinions about what they’re learning.

A good way to promote critical thinking is to let each child defend an opinion. Do you think we should have uniforms at school? Break the kids into groups or assign each one a side to take and let them debate.

The video below will give you some more great ideas to improve critical thinking. Check it out!

 

Did we leave you with questions? Leave us a comment below! 🙂

 

This article was originally written in Spanish by Andrea Garcia Cerdan

Semantic Memory: “It’s on the tip of my tongue!”

“It’s on the tip of my tongue!” Semantic memory stores what we now about the world and language. When we want to remember certain things that we’ve learned like the capital of France or the current president of the United States, we’re efficiently using our semantic memory.Find out what semantic memory is, how it works, how it can be improved, and some of the problems related to poor semantic memory.

What is semantic memory? Photo by Tachina Lee on Unsplash

What is semantic memory?

What is semantic memory? Tulving was the first person to establish the term “semantic memory”, which is a type of memory that holds meaning and general knowledge, where our specific experiences don’t come into play.

For example, if you want to answer the question “how many hours are there in a day?”, you don’t have to remember the exact moment in your life that you learned it. Semantic memory allows us to “automatically” remember that there are 24 hours in a day, without having to recall the specific events that led to us learning the information.

We use semantic memory to remember concepts that we’ve learned about the world and language. There is also a type of long-term memory that we acquire that, once it’s learned, we’ll remember it for the rest of our lives.

Semantic memory extends to all of the knowledge that we may learn. For example, if we want to remember that a lion is a mamas that has 4 legs, you don’t need to relate it to any specific event or experience that you’ve had with a lion- it’s just in our brain.

  • Semantic memory is a type of long-term memory: It allows us to remember things for days, years, or decades. There is no limit on its duration.
  • Semantic memory is declarative: This means that we are constantly using it.
  • Difference between episodic and semantic memory: Episodic memory is how we remember autobiographical memories, like what you ate for breakfast, or what you did last weekend. The main difference between these two types of memories is that semantic memory is a type of dictionary that doesn’t require that you have any specific personal knowledge or experience with the word.

Where are words located in the brain? A team of scientists created an interactive map of the areas of the brain that are activated when certain words are heard. This semantic brain map shows how language is distributed through the cortex and both hemispheres of the brain, grouping words by meaning and constructing a brain dictionary.

What does semantic memory do?

Semantic memory gives us a mental dictionary that organizes words, concepts, and symbols that we store throughout our life. It allows us to reserve cognitive resources and interpret, quickly and easily, the world in which we live.

Semantic memory is a fundamental part of our daily life. For example, it allows us to “automatically” know that lions are mammals, without having to go through our brain and think bout the lions that we’ve seen in our life.

Our semantic memory gives a general meaning to the word “lion”: Large mammal with four legs and lots of hair around its head.

If we had to think about all of the lions that exist in the world in order to remember and describe it, it would be impossible. Semantic memory gives us the ability to group multiple concrete concepts (animals, people, objects, etc.) into general concepts. These things can be categorized into an infinite number of areas, like animals, objects, living things, non-living things, mammals, reptiles, etc.).

Alterations of semantic memory: Access disorders and semantic storage

People with semantic dementia: Have problems finding the right meanings for concepts. As with almost any pathology or disorder, symptoms and characteristics of the disorder vary from patient to patient. Semantic dementia is characterized by a difficulty in remembering the meaning of concepts or words, but don’t necessarily have trouble carrying-out the task that the word represents. For example, they may have trouble remembering the word/concept “iron”, but they would be able to use an iron.

People with damage to the prefrontal cortex: It’s been shown that patients with damage to the prefrontal cortex may have trouble carrying-out a task related to a certain word or concept, but don’t have trouble recalling the concept (the inverse of the previous point). People with this kind of brain damage are unable to to certain tasks that may seem simple to others, like going to the dentist when their gums hurt, or washing their clothes when they’re dirty, but are easily able to recall the words for these actions.

Alzheimer’s Disease: Poor episodic (autobiographical) memory is a common characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease, but semantic memory is affected as well. Patients with Alzheimer’s tend to develop language disorders and have a hard time carrying out tasks related to a word or concept.

Exercises to improve semantic memory

1. CogniFit, leader in cognitive assessments and brain games

Being able to easily recall words from our vocabulary is one of our main cognitive skills as humans. Without this, we would constantly be searching for a word in our memory and have that feeling of “it’s on the tip of my tongue!”. It’s common to sometimes forget the exact word that you’re looking for, but if it happens often, it may be a sign of poor semantic memory.

CogniFit is a professional tool that helps assess and improve access to our vocabulary. Studying neuroplasticity has shown that the more we use a neural circuit, the stronger it gets. This idea can be applied to the neural circuits related to naming, working memory, short-term memory, visual memory, auditory short-term memory, contextual memory, etc.

The ability to find the correct word for an object or concept can be improved if it is properly trained. The battery of clinical exercises from CogniFit allows you to assess and train your Naming and other cognitive skills related to memory.

How does CogniFit work? The program first evaluates your cognitive level in certain cognitive skills (like naming), and based on the results gathered, provides a complete brain training program.

The different interactive exercises are presented as fun brain games that can be played on a mobile device or computer. After each session, CogniFit will provide a detailed graph with the user’s cognitive progression.

2. Remember what’s going on around you

Its good to remember what’s going on around you: The best exercises for improving semantic memory are remembering a series of words and increasing the amount and difficulty of the word. For example, try to remember all 50 states in the United States, then the each state’s capitals, and then move on to continents and countries.

3. Learn new languages and travel

Learning new language requires us to expand and learn new vocabulary, new grammar rules, and new sentence structures. Our semantic memory is constantly being used and strengthened as we learn language.

Seeing new places and learning about new cultures can also help you find new ways of doing things. For example, if you might learn that people in a different culture eat, clean, or raise their children differently than you. Exposing yourself to these new ideas can help you adapt to situations when you’re back in your home country.

4. Give meaning to ideas by understand what you’re learning

How does the brain learn? Studies have shown that we learn better and more quickly if we give meaning to the concepts that we learn. For example, when studying for a test, you’ll learn the information much better if you give it some kind of meaning aside from the concept itself. Learn more about memory techniques.

5. Exercises for patients with semantic memory problems

There are a number of different exercises that you can do to help improve semantic memory. You can write down a series of basic questions that the patient has to answer. If they answer incorrectly, correct them in the moment. For example, you could ask the season in the year, the names of the months, or what are the numbers between 1 and 15.

You can also give them incomplete sentences that they have to complete. For example, “lemons are the color…”, “The capital of the USA is…”, etc.

We use our semantic memory everyday, and there is hardly any point of the day where we aren’t using it. It helps us talk, communicate, and learn about the objects and concepts of the world around us. With all of the information that we have stored in our semantic memory, it’s amazing that we’re able to keep it organized and pull up the words that we want at a given time. If you tried to re-learn the days of the week without giving it any meaning, it would be almost impossible. Semantic memory allows us to reserve cognitive resources and store more information in our brain.

Semantic memory allows us to figure out how the world works and carry out the necessary tasks to get through the day (if you’re sick, you go to the doctor), and follow “scripts” almost automatically (go to a restaurant, wait until you’re seated, order food, etc.).

Do you have any questions? Leave me a comment below 🙂

This article was originally written in Spanish by Eva Rodriguez Weisz

Development of Cognitive Skills; Piaget’s theory.

Crawl before you walk, walk before you run! When it comes to development, this phrase is certainly true. Before children learn to talk and are taught to problem solve at school, right from birth, they begin to develop novel ways of communicating and exploring the world around them. They cry to tell you they’re hungry, and go through a stage where it seems they’re trying to eat everything (I’m sure the parents reading this can relate)! These practices enable babies to make sense of the world. As they get older, their way of exploring rapidly evolves. As well as developing the ability to walk and talk, our development of cognitive skills (memory, attention, language, reading comprehension, fine motor and gross motor skills) are developed throughout our childhood.

French Psychologist Jean Piaget, proposed the development of cognitive skills during childhood occurs in 4 distinct stages. Each stage builds upon the previous one. Piaget’s theory was ground breaking at the time, as it was previously thought that children didn’t develop cognitive skills until they began to acquire language. Piaget challenged this, as he found that children explore the world around them before they acquire language by using their different senses. This is known as the sensorimotor stage, which is one of four stages that classify a child’s learning stages. The other three stages are known as the pre-operational stage, concrete operational stage and the formal operational stage. During each stage, children acquire new cognitive skills, whilst developing skills they have acquired in previous stages.

Cognitive development

Development of Cognitive Skills: Sensorimotor stage

This stage lasts from birth to 2 years.

In this stage, children learn about the world using their senses and manipulating objects. Here a child’s intelligence is based on their motor and sensory knowledge. During this stage, children learn of object permanence, i.e. although a toy is out of sight, it still exists. This information is extremely important as it prepares children to be able to name objects.

3 months– Infants are able to recognise faces and imitate facial expressions (above).

6 months– Infants can imitate sounds, recognise their parents and display fear towards strangers. They understand the difference between animate and inanimate objects. Between four and seven months, children begin to recognise their own name.

9 months– Infants imitate gestures and actions. The understand simple words like ‘no’ and begin to test their parents’ response to their behaviour.

12 months– Infants can follow moving objects. They can speak between two to four simple words like ‘mama’ and ‘dada’. They can imitate animal sounds and begin to display attachments to objects such as a toy or blanket. At this age, they will also begin to display separation anxiety.

18 months– Vocabulary increases to around 50 words. Children begin to identify body parts and display sense of ownership. They can follow simple instructions (e.g. picking up toys and putting them in the box). They begin to show an understanding of discipline and have knowledge of appropriate and inappropriate behaviour.

Development of Cognitive Skills: Pre-operational stage

This stage lasts from 2 – 7 years.

A child’s vocabulary is around 150 words. Around this time, children learn around 10 new words a day, and begin to understand emotions such as love, trust and fear. Children also begin to learn through pretend play, or “make believe”. However, their view of others and logic isn’t well understood, and children have a self-centered view of the world. In this stage, children begin to use their imaginary and memory skills, and begin to develop their social interaction skills and play cooperatively with children their own age. They will begin to develop their cognitive abilities. Children learn to read, develop routines and display an increased attention span. At the beginning of this stage, children develop their attention, long term and short term memory. As children get older, they learn to control their attention and use their cognitive abilities to help them solve problems and achieve their goals. Also during this stage of development, auditory processing is further refined. This is highly important in improving reading skills.

Imaginative play

Development of Cognitive Skills: Concrete operational stage

This stage is from 7-11 years.

During this stage, children learn to be less egocentric and self centered. They begin to think about the thoughts and feelings of others, and they are more aware of their own thoughts and feelings and the rules around sharing them with others. Children are also able to think in a more logic manner and see the world from the view of others. However, at this stage, a child’s thought is often rigid, therefore they tend to struggle with abstract concepts. Here children learn that things, such as volume and weight, can stay the same despite changes in the appearance of objects. For example, two different glasses can hold the same volume of water. Also, at this stage, children’s attention span begins to increase with age. At the age of six, the child may be able to focus on a task for around 15 minutes. At the age of nine, children can focus on a task for around an hour.

Concrete operational stage

Development of Cognitive Skills: Formal operational stage

This stage is from 11 years and upwards.

Children are able to better understand logic and abstract ideas. They will start to reason and think about abstract ideas, and implement these ideas into their lives. They are also able to see multiple solutions to problems, and begin to look at the world in a scientific manner. During this stage, Adolescents display independent problem-solving skills, and are able to understand abstract ideas such puns, proverbs, metaphors, analogies, philosophy and maths. Children also learn to apply general information to specific situations. During adolescence we undergo cognitive transition, which means that the way we think becomes more advanced, more efficient, and more complex. Thought is no longer limited to what is real, it is expanded to include the hypothetical. During this stage we begin thinking about the process of thinking, known as metacognition. Thought becomes multidimensional; we are able to look at multiple outcomes to a specific problem, which allows us to think rationally and analyze the problem. This will hopefully help us to make well-informed decisions.

Every child will progress through each stage in order, but it’s important to remember that each child is different, so that manner or time that it take a child to develop these skills may vary- and that’s OK! Progression through the 4 stages of development can occur at different rates; some faster than others. We all have a unique cognitive profile, some cognitive skills can be weaker than others. A cognitive assessment can help us to identify which of our cognitive skills are weaker. This enables us to tailor our cognitive training, and improve our weaker skills. If you are looking to strengthen your cognitive skills, why not try some brain games! If you are concerned that about your cognitive abilities or the development of a child, it is important to seek professional advice.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, get in touch below! 🙂

Not Sure If You Should Take The Leap? Cognitive Benefits of Learning Foreign Languages

We may not look back on our foreign language classes at school with much fondness.However, after reading about the following benefits of learning foreign languages, we may all be searching for our Spanish or French class notes.

Learning a foreign language can be difficult. The older you are, the more challenging it can be. Nevertheless, learning a new language can have a range of cognitive, health and cultural benefits.

Cognitive Benefits of Learning Foreign Languages

Benefits of learning foreign languages: Beneficial for traveling, learning and communicating

Learning a foreign language means you can explore a whole new culture, country, or continent through the native tongue. Learning a foreign language also allows us to communicate with individuals who do not speak our mother tongue.

Benefits of learning foreign languages: Stay young and stave off disease

Research has found that bilingualism can help counteract cognitive decline. In fact, it was noted that bilingual older adults had better memory than monolingual older adults. Furthermore, there has been links between bilingualism and Alzheimer’s, showing the correlation to speaking more than one language and preventing Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, Evy Woumans and colleagues have found that in older adults diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, the rate of progression is slower in bilingual patients compared to monolingual patients.

Benefits of learning foreign languages: Be more creative

A review into the cognitive correlates of bilingualism, by Olusola Adesope and colleagues found that bilingualism has been associated with enhanced creativity and abstract thinking. Essentially, being proficient in a foreign language can make you more creative and can help you think outside the box.

Benefits of learning foreign languages: Improved problem-solving skills

Bilinguals tend to have better problem-solving skills than monolinguals. In addition, bilinguals tend to perform better on tasks like the Stroop test, which requires an element of conflict management. Being fluent in a foreign language has been linked to enhanced inhibitory control ability. This means that bilinguals are better at ignoring information that interferes with their ability to complete a task. The message here seems to be that learning a foreign language can help us to solve problems faster and help us to ignore irrelevant information.

Benefits of learning foreign languages: Better cognitive control

Researchers Viorica Marion and Anthony Shook tested bilinguals in experiments of task switching. Participants were required to switch between sorting objects based on colour and by shape. Compared to monolinguals, bilinguals displayed high levels of cognitive control. They find it easier to switch between tasks compared to monolinguals. Essentially, learning a foreign language may improve our task switching ability. Researchers propose enhanced cognitive control is due to the ability to balance two languages. Bilingual language processing networks for both languages are active at the same time. As both languages are activated, the individual responds in the correct language by learning to inhibit one language over the other. By doing this, bilinguals improve their inhibitory control mechanism, to the point where when processing language, the process of inhibiting the language that isn’t needed at a particular time becomes second nature. Wondering how you can train your brain and cognitive skills? Try some fun brain games!

Benefits of learning foreign languages: Changes brain structure

Bilingualism has been found to increase neuroplasticity. Researcher Rosanna Olsen and colleagues investigated structural brain differences in monolinguals and bilinguals using fMRI. Scans revealed that bilinguals display increased activation in the dorso-lateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC plays an important role in tasks which require control). This part of the brain is associated with attention and inhibition. The researchers found that the hippocampus and the left superior temporal gyrus are more malleable in bilinguals (The hippocampus is associated with memory and the superior temporal gyrus is associated with sound processing). Furthermore, these structures as well as the frontal lobe are thicker in bilingual individuals (The frontal lobes are associated with executive functions such as problem solving and executive control-need some exercises to improve executive functions?). Increased volumes of white matter have been noted in frontal and temporal lobes. According to researcher Christos Pilatsikas and colleagues, when learning a second language age doesn’t matter, as adults who have learnt a foreign language have shown increase white matter. Being proficient in a foreign language can improve connections of brain regions that control our memory, executive functioning, attention and inhibition processes.

Benefits of learning foreign languages: Improves attention and attention control

Studies have shown that on tasks of attention control, bilinguals tend to perform better than monolinguals. Also bilinguals tend to have a higher attention capacity. Bilinguals are better at filtering out unwanted information and find it easier to focus on more relevant information.

Improves ability to process information– Benefits of learning foreign languages

Being bilingual can benefit sensory and information processing. Jennifer Krizman and colleagues present participants with target sounds embedded in background noise. Compared to monolinguals, bilinguals found it easier to filter out background noise. The researchers found bilingualism enhances sound processing and sustained attention. The study found that bilinguals process sound similarly to musicians. This means that one of the benefits of learning a foreign language is being able to improve the efficiency of the brain’s auditory system, and enhance our ability to distinguish between similar sounds.

Benefits of learning foreign languages

Enhances working memory– Benefits of learning foreign languages

Managing two languages puts increased pressure our working memory. To ease the pressure, bilinguals become more efficient at information processing. Combining this with their enhanced inhibitory control ability, a bilingual’s working memory capacity and efficiency us greater than monolinguals.

Learning multiple foreign languages

We have already established that being fluent in a foreign language can improve our information processing abilities and enhance our sustained attention. As a result of these enhanced processes, bilinguals find it easier to learn a third or even fourth foreign language.

Learning a foreign language can have numerous benefits on our cognitive functions. It improves executive functions, cognitive control, attention, and memory. In addition, neuroimaging studies have revealed that learning a foreign language in later life can actually grow the brain and improve the connections between different brain regions. What is even more interesting is that learning a foreign language can counteract cognitive decline and slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Regardless of the age at which we learn a foreign language, it is still beneficial for our brains to do so. So, although it may be a little more difficult, it is clearly never too late to reap the benefits of learning foreign languages! Encouraging young children to learn a foreign language may benefit them in later life, so schools should look at making learning a foreign language a compulsory part of the curriculum. Aside from the benefits to cognition and the brain, for all of us who have the travelling bug and want to explore new cultures, learning the lingo is obviously the best place to start!

Do you have any questions or comments? Leave me a note below! 🙂

References

Adesope, O. O., Lavin, T., Thompson, T., & Ungerleider, C. (2010). A systematic review and meta-analysis of the cognitive correlates of bilingualism. Review of Educational Research80(2), 207-245.

Krizman, J., Marian, V., Shook, A., Skoe, E., & Kraus, N. (2012). Subcortical encoding of sound is enhanced in bilinguals and relates to executive function advantages. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences109(20), 7877-7881.

Mårtensson, J., Eriksson, J., Bodammer, N. C., Lindgren, M., Johansson, M., Nyberg, L., & Lövdén, M. (2012). Growth of language-related brain areas after foreign language learning. NeuroImage63(1), 240-244.

Marian, V., & Shook, A. (2012, September). The cognitive benefits of being bilingual. In Cerebrum: the Dana forum on brain science (Vol. 2012). Dana Foundation.

Pliatsikas, C., Moschopoulou, E., & Saddy, J. D. (2015). The effects of bilingualism on the white matter structure of the brain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences112(5), 1334-1337.

Woumans, E., Santens, P., Sieben, A., Versijpt, J., Stevens, M., & Duyck, W. (2015). Bilingualism delays clinical manifestation of Alzheimer's disease.Bilingualism: Language and Cognition18(03), 568-574.

Costa, A., & Sebastián-Gallés, N. (2014). How does the bilingual experience sculpt the brain?. Nature Reviews Neuroscience15(5), 336-345.

Olsen, R. K., Pangelinan, M. M., Bogulski, C., Chakravarty, M. M., Luk, G., Grady, C. L., & Bialystok, E. (2015). The effect of lifelong bilingualism on regional grey and white matter volume. Brain research1612, 128-139.

Saidi, L. G., & Ansaldo, A. I. (2015). Can a Second Language Help You in More Ways Than One?. AIMS neurosci1, 52-57.

Emotional memories: How emotions help you remember

Have you ever wondered why are there situations you can remember better and more vividly than others? How you might even experience an intense emotion just by remembering an important event in your life? And on the contrary, why are there situations we can’t remember so easily or we can’t remember at all? Emotional memories remain longer and are experienced more intensely when remembered. Let’s discuss how your brain processes them.

Emotions help you remember

We all have been surprised about how our memory works and the amount of information we are able to remember. For instance, faces, names, events in the past and in the future, and even how an object smells, tastes or feels like. Though having a bad memory is very often a complain, its capacity is similar to the one of a computer’s and is even more flexible and easier to use. (Read more on false memories)

Identity formation is also our memory’s responsibility. How? By being conscious of the experiences we’ve been through: our thoughts, emotions and reactions to those events. This is called the autobiographical memory. This type of memory is in charge of remembering everything that’s related to you and your relationships with the world.

Emotional Memories 

Emotions and feelings are present in our daily life, enriching our reality. From a person we meet, an object we possess, a trip we take, or even just appreciating nature, emotions are always making experiences richer. The role these moods play in recalling events is an interesting topic to learn about in order to understand ourselves better.

There are always certain situations that are easier to remember than others. And although many factors influence your memory’s performance, a crucial one is emotion. Giving importance or paying attention to a situation, person, object, event or idea, improves our memory’s storage process.

On this matter, memory is selective. It will register and give value to the information that is more relevant to you. This value might be established according to how something makes you feel, the emotions it evokes on you (either pleasant or unpleasant), or even by the mood you’re in. This is why you might be able to remember better if you ran into someone you hadn’t seen for many years two weeks ago, rather than what you had for lunch last Friday. This means that interest and relevance to you are main factors in emotional memories.

Emotional Memories: Our brains 

The limbic system is a part of the brain that regulates emotions and memory (read more on the functions of your limbic system). Amygdala, hippocampus, hypothalamus, cingulate gyrus are only some of them. When an emotional event is taking place, the amygdala is activated. Afterward, the cerebral cortex processes the information. Some of the cortex involved are the prefrontal cortex, cingulate, cerebellum and somatosensory cortex. Also, as the hippocampus is in charge of storing information, it will also play an important role in the process. When these brain regions are activated, a “print” or “mark” will remain for our brains to recognize this information in the future. As a result, our brain will pay more attention to the event whenever it’s repeated in the future.

Brain anatomy

Here’s an example: a friend of yours gives you some shocking news. Immediately, an emotional reaction follows this information. In this case, the activation of the amygdala, hippocampus and cerebral cortex will store this as a memory. Consequently, the amygdala orders to liberate adrenaline and glucocorticoid hormones to the blood stream. These hormones have an impact on how you experience a situation, how it makes you feel physically. This is how emotional memories have a physical response as well.

By all this, involving stronger emotions in an event activates more the amygdala. Therefore, emotions not only help you remember better but also to have more vivid memories filled with details. It’s probable that whenever you think about the shocking news your friend gave you, you might even feel sad, remember exactly what you were doing and where you were in that moment. Time will pass by and you’ll still have those fresh details with you. When recalling this event and emotion, your brain will activate the same areas as if you were experiencing it in that same moment.

Emotional Memories: Pleasant and unpleasant 

We all experience emotional events in different ways. Someone might consider a situation annoying, while it might be funny for another one. Hence, our reaction to a situation, person, object or idea, varies depending on our past experiences and our personality.

Our brain encodes pleasant and unpleasant situations differently. According to different studies, positive emotional memories are full of significant contextual details. Negative or unpleasant ones, on the other hand, are less specific. Some emotional events can be so impressive and intense that they boost brain activity. Thus, liberating hormones excessively, causing harm to your cardiovascular and immunologic system as well. As a consequence, you see damage in the neurons located in the hippocampus.

With this in mind, whenever a person goes through a traumatic situation (i.e. being a crime victim or a war veteran), there’s a hyper stimulation on some parts of the brain, like the amygdala and prefrontal cortex. Along with the hormones liberated, the event will be more memorable and terrifying, harming health and memory.

In other cases, psychogenic amnesia may occur when forgetting strongly traumatic experiences. The stress of an emotional memory can provoke amnesia. Sometimes, not only does this person forget the particular disturbing event, but also a global or temporary loss of personal memory may happen. At the other hand, some persons can repress or block a stressing event and remembering years later. It must be taken into account that brain damage is not responsible for memory loss. In any case, psychotherapy must be specially recommended.

Emotional Memories: improve your memory

Why do we forget? Some factors involved can be age, time, stress and anxiety. In any case, what can help you enhance your memory? There are many factors, techniques, and tools: as mentioned above, attention, interest, and motivation are very important to assign a value to a situation and make it more memorable. Together with this, using techniques and tools are always helpful. Mnemotechnics are brain strategies to help you remember information better, using mental images or verbal keys, relating them to previous knowledge (like the world we live in or past experiences). You may also try Cognifit, a training program that uses brain games to strengthen the user’s weakest cognitive skills according to their needs.

To summarize, emotionally charged events help remembering better and more vividly than neutral ones. Being aware of the present moment and experiencing all emotions truly, will surely make you have more meaningful memories.

Live life fully

Significant learning: How do we internalize information?

What is significant learning? Learning is an essential part of our lives. We need to constantly acquire new knowledge and put it into practice in order to adapt to the environment. Sometimes it is not enough to retain long lists of data, we must internalize them. Ausubel’s significant learning theory explains how we integrate information into our brain. In this article, we will give you tips on how to learn significantly.

Significant Learning

Significant learning: Definition and characteristics

What is significant learning? To answer this question, we must be clear about what “learning” means. This term does not only involve the knowledge we are taught at school. It involves any lasting changes that we may observe in our behavior or that take place in our minds. Learning is essential in every area of our lives. Understanding and communicating the basics is the key to progress.

Psychologists and other professionals try to develop learning theories to explain how the brain learns. There are several proposals that address this issue from different angles. At present, an attempt is being made to understand this process through brain-based learning. Answers must be sought to provide future generations with better education.

In this article, we will talk about significant learning, which was proposed by the American psychologist David Ausubel. This author is one of the greatest exponents of constructivism. This perspective is based on each person building their own world through their own experiences. Piaget is also one of its most prominent exponents, which profoundly influenced Ausubel.

Ausubel’s significant learning theory states that we add and adapt the new information to our previous knowledge. It is a conscious process. Significant learning is an active process in which the subject is the protagonist.

This type of learning contrasts with rote learning, which is a more passive procedure. This constructivist theory contrasts with other proposals that focus on external influences.

Significant Learning: What do we need?

It is imperative that we have:

  • A cognitive structure: The existing basis with which the latest data interact is of great importance. It is made of the ideas we have, how they relate to each other and their degree of clarity.
  • New materials to learn: They need to be related to our previous knowledge. If it is difficult for us to find a link, we must make an effort to achieve a link that unites the new and previous concepts.
  • Willpower: The most important thing is the willingness of the person to form and structure knowledge. We are in charge of organizing the information in our brain.

Significant learning: Types and examples

Significant learning is used throughout our lives. Learning as machines can help us in specific cases like knowing our telephone number, our ID card or reciting a poem.

If we are interested in a topic, we will have to investigate the subject and retain it in a deeper and more lasting way. In fact, even if we don’t want to be experts, the results will improve if we learn significantly.

1. Feature learning

It is the most basic type of learning. From it comes the others. It consists of connecting meanings with certain notions. For example, it happens when we learn that an instrument that tells us the time is called a “clock”. It is not a simple association between concepts, the person connects them in a meaningful way.

2. Concept Learning

It is based on grouping the different representations into categories. It happens when we discover that although there are different types of clocks, they all have common attributes.

3. Learning statements

This is the most elaborate form of learning. It implies that the meanings of concepts are processed in depth in order to express them in the form of statements. It’s about creating logical connections.

For example, if we are asked everything we know about clocks, we will comment on their definition, uses, classifications, examples, etc. In order to do this task, we must have gone through the two previous types of learning.

Significant learning: Applications

Significant learning in the classroom

Significant child learning is vital for us to acquire new knowledge later on. Throughout our lives, we will find ourselves in a variety of situations where we have to settle new information deeply in our minds to overcome an academic challenge.

It doesn’t matter if we do it in college, for competition or to get a job. The sooner we implement strategies that enable us to learn meaningfully, the better.

Here are some significant classroom learning activities that will allow you to retain information more deeply.

1. Make concept maps

This will clarify and organize our ideas. Visually capturing the new concepts and linking them with others we know is a great way to firmly establish the latest data.

2. Explain the lesson to a friend

If we begin to talk about the topic we are studying to someone else, we take the trouble to structure the information. By answering your questions and looking for examples, our understanding of the subject will improve considerably.

3. Work in teams

Listening to people’s views helps us to better internalize information. Our colleagues will also benefit from our skills. We will discover new methods and data to incorporate into our learning process.

Significant learning in companies and organizations

Any type of institution requires its members to acquire new knowledge. There are completely mechanical jobs. Others imply a flexible way of thinking that adapts to continuous changes. However, in all jobs, you need to learn.

Recently it is difficult to keep up since it develops so fast. The future is uncertain and changing. This context does not imply that our future is negative, but that we must work hard to be efficient and adapt.

Companies and organizations should promote significant learning for their employees. This will encourage the involvement of workers and increase their productivity. Also, if we know what we are learning for and link it with our previous knowledge, we will be more motivated.

Significant learning in everyday life

We continue to learn throughout the life cycle. David Ausubel’s theory can be extrapolated to countless situations. For example, since childhood, we have some knowledge about cooking. We see people preparing food and exchanging recipes. In addition, we know a large number of dishes and know what we like and what we don’t like.

One day we may become independent and have to put everything we know about cooking into practice. We can ask our father to teach us his best tricks. He will see what our level is and act accordingly. In this way, knowledge will be mixed with those we have been learning all our lives.

In everyday life, we have to learn to live harmoniously with our flatmates, to drive in different cities or to behave in a party. The new situations will provide us with new knowledge that will interact with what we already knew about how to act in those circumstances.

Significant learning: Benefits

Ausubel’s significant learning is a simple theory that guides us to improve both education and interpersonal relationships.

  • Improved student-teacher relationship: If the teacher is concerned about knowing and adapting to the student’s knowledge, the student will adopt a more proactive attitude, be more motivated and study better. This may also apply to other contexts, such as family or peer groups. We may all need to teach something to our acquaintances at a certain point in time.
  • Ease the acquisition of new knowledge: It consists of “learning to learn”. It improves our learning habits and our understanding of the world.
  • The information is stored in long-term memory: The connections we create are thus firmly anchored in our cognitive structure. This way we can easily recover them in the future.
  • It’s personal: Each person has gone through previous experiences that affect their way of perceiving reality. This makes it easier for us to be able to form our own associations in an active and meaningful way. However, it requires a more personalized education that requires more time and dedication from educators.

Significant learning vs. rote learning

We all know people who are able to memorize immense lists very quickly without making practically the slightest effort (rote-learning). You may even be one of them. Or maybe you’d love to have that ability. On the other hand, there are people who, after reading a text, know how to summarize it and explain it perfectly, even if they don’t say it with the same words (significant learning). Which is better?

Each type of learning is more appropriate for a particular situation. It depends on the context, each person’s abilities, and motivation. In addition, everyone has had different experiences that have encouraged them to try to retain information in one way or another.

If we want to pass a subject and forget about it forever, we will probably try to memorize its contents as quickly as possible in order to pass the test. Next, we’ll forget about it when we’re done. On the other hand, if we are particularly interested in an issue, we will do our best to deepen it and internalize everything we learn.

These two types of learning are not opposites. They can perfectly complement each other. In fact, in tasks such as learning a country’s history, there are parts that we learn significantly and others that we memorize (such as dates). In most cases, however, it is preferable to learn significantly in order to make further progress.

Significant Learning Tips

1. Adopt a healthy lifestyle

This advice is valid for all areas of our life. Healthy habits are fundamental to our mental and physical health. Doing sports, eating well, keeping a regular schedule and getting enough rest will help us learn better. Likewise, contact with nature will help us to disconnect and de-stress from everyday life.

2. Be curious

Amazement is the key to wanting to inquire into why things are happening. If we ask questions and look for answers, we will be able to build new and lasting partnerships in our memory. Reflecting encourages us to learn more and better.

3. Don’t lose motivation

We are not always motivated to learn. Many times we are lazy to learn or read something new that might not contribute to what we need in the moment. However, we never know when the knowledge we get in certain moments might be needed.  we acquired years ago will be phenomenal. Taking a flexible attitude and accepting all tasks as challenges will bring us countless benefits in the long term.

4. Acquire good study habits

If we organize ourselves and have well-established habits, it will less difficult to study or carry out any similar task.

5. Prevents information overload

We have to face a lot of challenges at once every day. Sometimes we sacrifice doing things right for more activities. However, multitasking worsens our performance. It is preferable for us to know what our priorities are, how much time we have to carry them out and act accordingly. If we focus on a single issue and are clear about what we have to do, we will improve our performance.

6. Create your own summaries and outlines

If you are preparing for an exam, significant learning is the key to success. You can underline the most relevant aspects of the text after reading it a couple of times. Afterwards, when you are clear about what is most important, try to make your own notes with the essentials.

Think about what you know about the topic and connect it with the new information. New associations will emerge to help you master the content. You can use color psychology to make your summaries more memorable. In this way, you will be able to link the contents to emotions, keep attention and highlight the essential.

7. Make Examples

If every time you try to learn something you relate it to previous experiences or knowledge, you will make memorable connections. This way you can go from memorizing a concept to visualizing it and knowing how to explain it. Understanding an issue is the basis for meaningful learning.

Look for examples that excite you. You will create associations that go straight to your amygdala, which is a survival-associated part of the brain and is closely related to learning.

8. Take your time

Sometimes, fatigue or lack of time leads us to take the fastest path and avoid focusing on significant learning. With the rush we probably won’t retain the most important things.

If we are really interested in learning something, it is best to look at a time when we are not overwhelmed and to focus all our attention on this issue. We do not always have this option. But if we make an effort, our concentration will increase and we will appreciate it after seeing the results.

9. Rely on technology

Information and communication technologies allow us to improve our attention and keep us motivated to continue learning. New resources are continually being developed that simplify our daily activities and improve our quality of life. More and more means are being used to enable people to interact with them as they develop new skills.

10. Benefit from brain-based learning

CogniFit is the leading cognitive assessment and stimulation tool. Through an entertaining online brain-based platform, it enables both the specialized and general public to learn more about the brain and train cognitive skills such as memory, attention, perception, and reasoning.

If you have any questions or wish to deepen this topic, do not hesitate to comment. Thank you so much for reading this article.

 
This article is originally in Spanish written by Ainhoa Arranz, translated by Alejandra Salazar.
 

Learning Styles: What are They, Models and Discussion

Learning Styles. Learning is a massive part of everyone’s life. From childhood to adolescence, we go to school for hours daily to learn about various subjects. Outside of schooling, we continue to learn in everyday life — including how to perform better in the workplace, how to work through interpersonal issues, or how to fix practical household dilemmas. But does everyone learn in the same way? That doesn’t seem to be the case. There is no one-size-fits-all method of learning. To learn and teach most effectively, we must know an individual’s preferred learning styles.

Learning is an important part of life.

Different Learning Styles?

It is often recognized that there are differences in the ways individuals learn. Even at a very young age, a child will prefer certain subjects and teachers over others. They may be excited at their performance on a math assignment, but spend their time in history class doodling. Alternatively, a child may be an enthusiastic art student under the guidance of one teacher, and then lose interest when that teacher is replaced. These are the consequences of a child’s unique learning style.

In the classroom, teachers will notice that students vary remarkably in the pace and manner by which they pick up new ideas and information. This same concept carries into the workplace, where employers notice that employees learn and perform better under different conditions. Conversely, each teacher has their own preferred method of teaching. Each teacher has their particular style and then so does each learner. Problems can occur when teachers and learners don’t match.

Models of Learning Styles

Since the 1970s, researchers have theorized models to describe individual differences in learning. Everyone has a mix of preferred learning styles. These preferences guide the way we learn. They determine the way an individual mentally represents and recalls information. Research shows that different learning styles involve different parts of the brain. Unfortunately, there is no universally accepted model of learning styles. Rather there are dozens of competing models. The most widely recognized model, “The Seven Learning Styles”, as well as David Kolb’s and Neil Fleming’s models are discussed below.

What are the different learning styles?

The Seven Learning Styles

Known simply as “The Seven Learning Styles”, this is the most commonly accepted model of learning styles. It is referenced by researchers and teachers alike. To find out which of the seven learning styles apply to you, fill out this questionnaire. This is an unofficial inventory of the Seven Learning Styles provided by Memletics (care for the pop-ups!). The Seven Learning styles are as follows:

Visual (Spatial)

Visual learners have an ability to perceive the visual. They prefer to learn through pictures and images and are good at spatial understanding (relating to a given space and the relationship of objects within it). They create vivid mental images to remember information and enjoy viewing pictures, videos, maps, and charts.

Skills:

  • Interpreting and manipulating images
  • Drawing and painting
  • Charting and graphing
  • Good sense of direction
  • Creating visual analogies and metaphors
  • Puzzle Building
  • Constructing
  • Designing and fixing objects

Tips:

  • Use images, pictures, and other visuals to learn
  • Pay attention to color, layout, and spatial organization
  • Make use of ‘visual words’ when speaking
  • Use ‘mind maps’ (diagrams used to visually organize information)

Aural (Auditory/Musical)

Aural learners prefer to learn through sounds and music and are able to produce and appreciate music. They tend to think in rhythms and patterns, and are particularly sensitive to sounds in the immediate environment.

Skills:

  • Singing and whistling
  • Playing musical instruments
  • Writing music
  • Recognizing melodies and tonal patterns
  • Understanding rhythm and structure of music

Tips:

  • Use mnemonics, rhyming, and rhythm to memorize new ideas
  • Ambient recordings can increase concentration
  • Music can inspire certain feelings and emotional states. Make use of music to anchor your emotions.

Verbal (Linguistic)

Verbal learners have an ability to use words and language. While many people think in pictures, these learners think in words. They tend to be elegant speakers, with highly developed auditory skills.

Skills:

  • Writing
  • Speaking
  • Explaining
  • Listening
  • Storytelling
  • Persuasion
  • Analyzing language

Tips:

  • Read content aloud, and try to make it dramatic and varied to aid recall
  • Verbal role-playing can aid in understanding concepts
  • Make use of techniques such as assertion and scripting
  • Record your scripts and listen back

Physical (Kinaesthetic)

Physical learners prefer learning with their body and sense of touch. They are adept art controlling their bodies and handling objects. Information is processed by interacting with the space around them. A good sense of balance and hand-eye coordination is common.

Skills:

  • Physical coordination
  • Working with hands
  • Using body language
  • Sports
  • Dancing
  • Acting

Learning tips:

  • Use hands-on activities to learn
  • Describe the physical sensations of an experience with verbs and adverbs
  • Use physical objects as much as possible, including flash cards and miniature models
  • Writing and drawing diagrams may help, as these are physical activities
The Seven Learning Styles is the most popular model. 

Logical (Mathematical)

Logical learners are able to use reason, logic, and numbers. They think in terms of systems, patterns, and concepts. These learners also seek to understand the reasoning or the “why” behind each new concept and like to experiment.

Skills:

  • Categorization
  • Problem solving
  • Complex mathematical calculations
  • Connecting concepts
  • Making logical conclusions from long chains of reasoning
  • Geometry
  • Experimentation

Learning tips:

  • Focus on exploring connections between ideas
  • Make lists of key concepts from material
  • Think in terms of procedures
  • Think in terms of systems
  • Thinking in terms of systems may help you understand the “big picture”
  • Create diagrams that outline entire systems

Social (Interpersonal)

Social learners have an ability to relate to and understand others. These learners are good at sensing the feelings, intentions, and motivations of others.  They are also able to see things from multiple perspectives. These learners are often good at encouraging cooperation, but sometimes their abilities enable them to manipulate others.

Skills:

  • Empathy
  • Listening
  • Communication, both verbal and non-verbal
  • Conflict resolution
  • Establishing relations with others
  • Building trust
  • Noticing the feelings, moods, intentions, and motivations of others

Learning tips:

  • Work with others as much as possible
  • Use one-on-one or group roleplaying
  • Share what you have learned with others, including associations and visualizations you have made
  • Learn from others’ practices, associations, and visualizations
  • Learn from others’ mistakes

Solitary (Intrapersonal)

These learners like to introspect and self-reflect. This gives them a keen awareness of their own inner state of being. They understand their own inner desires, motivations, feelings, strengths, and weaknesses.

Skills:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-analysis
  • Evaluating one’s own thoughts and emotions
  • Understanding one’s role in relationships with others

Learning tips:

  • Study in private
  • Try to invest yourself personally in your work
  • Adjust your goals to fit your personal values.  This maximizes motivation.
  • Keep a journal to record thoughts and observations
  • Focus on what you would be feeling or thinking about when you associate or visualize
  • Train your brain cognitively, with training programs such as CogniFit which is a leading company in cognitive brain training programs. You can register here.

David Kolb’s Model of Learning Styles

“Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience.” – David A. Kolb

David A. Kolb’s model is outlined his book “Experiential Learning”, published in 1984. In this book, Kolb speaks of a four-stage cycle of learning as well as four independent learning styles. According to Kolb, all four stages of the learning cycle will be engaged in a complete learning process. The four stages are described below.

  1. Concrete Experience – This occurs when a new experience, or a reinterpretation of an existing experience, is encountered.
  2. Reflective Observation – This occurs when the experience is reviewed or reflected upon, with the goal of achieving a consistent understanding.
  3. Abstract Conceptualization – This occurs when a new idea or concept arises from reflection.
  4. Active Experimentation – This occurs when new ideas are applied to the world and the results are observed.

David Kolb’s four learning styles are built upon this four-stage learning cycle.  An individual will naturally prefer one of these styles over the others. This preference is influenced by social and educational environments as well as cognitive structures. Although everyone will occasionally need the stimulus of all four of these learning styles, it is useful to know your personal orientation.

Learning Styles: Diverging

This style corresponds with the first two stages and involves watching and feeling. People who are oriented towards diverging are able to see things from many different perspectives. They gather information by watching rather than doing and use their imagination to solve problems. This means that they are good at brainstorming and other methods of generating ideas. Diverging thinkers tend to have an open mind and broad interests. They tend to be imaginative and emotional and can be talented in the arts.

Learning Styles: Assimilating

This style corresponds with the second and third stages. It involves watching and thinking. People who prefer assimilating have a concise, logical approach to processing information. To them, ideas and concepts are primary, while people and practical applications are secondary. Information should be organized in a clear logical format. Because of their preference for the abstract, these learners tend to prefer reading, lectures, and analyzing concepts.

Learning Styles: Converging

This styles corresponds with the last two stages and involves doing and thinking. These learners strive for practical, “hands-on” solutions. They excel at technical work, finding practical uses for ideas and theories, and are less concerned with the interpersonal. Problem-solving comes most naturally to these learners. They like to experiment with new ideas and find practical applications. This allows for great technical and specialist abilities.

Learning Styles: Accommodating

This style corresponds with the fourth and first stages. It involves doing and feeling. Much like converging learners, accommodating learners are “hands on”.  They rely on intuition rather than logic, and their strength lies in imaginative ability and discussion. “Gut” instinct is primary. They do not shy away from an interpersonal approach, often relying on others for information or analysis. New challenges and experiences excite these learners.

Neil Fleming’s Model of Learning Styles

Dr. Neil Fleming identified four learning styles in the 1980’s. These four styles came to be known as the “VARK” model of learning styles. This model describes the sensory preferences of learning. It is built on earlier notions of sensory processing, such the VAK model. This is perhaps the most straightforward of models. It is simple yet insightful.

  1. Visual – You learn best from images, pictures, symbols, charts, graphs, diagrams and other forms of spatial organization.
  2. Auditory – You learn best from sound, rhythm, music, speaking and listening.
  3. Reading and Writing – You learn best from reading and writing.
  4. Kinesthetic – You learn best from interacting with their physical surroundings, making use of your body and sense of touch.

Learning Styles: A myth?

There has been recent controversy regarding the subject of learning styles. Although the idea has a lot of intuitive appeals, many disagree with it altogether. There are some problems that can be easily identified.

The first is that there is no agreed-upon model for learning styles. Over 70 different models have been identified, including The Seven Learning Styles, David Kolb’s model, Neil Fleming’s model, “right” and “left” brain model, “holistic” vs. “serialist” model, and so on. All of these models have very little research that supports their validity over others — some are merely more popular than others.

The second and most important problem is that there is no research to support the effectiveness of teaching to an individual’s learning style. A major premise of the theory of learning styles is that individuals learn better when the material is matched to their learning style. Unfortunately, studies have shown either no evidence or weak evidence to support this. On the other hand, studies do show that individuals will learn better if they reflect on their own learning style. This alone lends credence to the theory of learning styles. While it may not be useful to teach to individual learning styles, it is useful to reflect on your own preferences.

Some argue that the lack of evidence means that learning styles don’t exist. Many agree that they do exist, but are simply difficult to measure. Regardless of the extent of their validity, it is always interesting to learn more about yourself.

Learning can be daunting. Knowing your preferences will help.

References

Cherry, Kendra. “Are You a Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing, or Tactile Learner?” Verywell, 15 June 2017.
“Learning Styles Explained.” Idpride.
“Learning-Styles-Online.com.” Overview of learning styles, Advanogy.Com, 2017
McLeod, Saul. “Saul McLeod.” Kolb’s Learning Styles and Experiential Learning Cycle | Simply Psychology, 2010.

False Memories: Can You Trust Your Memory?

We often don’t think about the accuracy of our memories. We just assume that they’re exact and precise, because it’s something that we experienced. But the reality is, our memories are very susceptible to change. Research is showing that our memories can be manipulated by introducing new or different information. This can be from an authority figure, or simply just by talking to your peers. Although this can be helpful at times, false memories actually poses a problem for our justice system. 

False memories: What are they?

Why do false memories occur?

Imagine you pass by someone when you’re walking down the streets of Times Square. You only see them for a split second, but you see them wearing a green t-shirt, black sneakers, and a blue hat. Now just hold on to that thought- we’ll come back to it later.

We’d like to think that our memory is like a video recorder, accurately recording our experiences. But our memories are actually very prone to suggestion. Here’s why: every time we recall a memory, it gets changed based on our mood, goals, or environment. If we don’t remember something that happened to us or that we saw, our brain fills in the missing information. This seems like, and sometimes is, a helpful tool, but sometimes it can have serious consequences. We all know “that” person who tells the same story just a little bit differently every time. The fish was THIS big, kind of thing. A false memory is a misguided recollection of an event or experience.

False memories can happen in a lot of ways. Introduction of new or different information is one way the perception of events can change. This can be in the form of a question, or discussion with a peer. Knowledge you already have and other related memories can also change your perception. For example, if you were to recall your fifth birthday party, the memories of your friend’s birthday party might influence how you remember your own. And of course, over time your memories begin to change. Misinformation can become a part of your memory, and that version can actually grow stronger and more vivid.

How do we know that memory can be altered?

Remember the person you walked past on the street? Now answer this question (without scrolling up): The person was wearing a green hat, but what color were their sandals?

If you were to scroll back up, you will find that their hat was blue, instead of the green stated in the question. Also, you might notice that the person was wearing black sneakers, not sandals. How did you do? If you fell for the tricks, then you can see how easily our memories can be altered. By wording the question with a new or different fact from the original scenario, your memory changed to fit the question. This is how researchers study false memory, by introducing new or different information to something you may have experienced.

Another way our perception of events can change is just by talking to the people around us. Take the video below, for example. In this study, participants viewed a video of a store robbery, and then discussed what they saw with each other. After a few minutes of discussion, each of the participants were asked to recall what they remembered seeing in the video. What they found was that most people were actually talking about things they didn’t actually see themselves. They were given information by their peers, which led them to be misguided not long after an experience.

Are false memories a good or bad thing?

False memories can be as harmless as you thinking you saw your phone in the glove compartment, when it was really in the back seat of the car. But many times, these false memories can have serious consequences.

The idea of false memories arose in the late 1980’s when psychologists started using memory recovery techniques. Soon after, parents started reporting instances where their children wrongly accused them of childhood sexual abuse. The problem was that these accusations were typically coming from an adult daughter in her 20s and 30s, soon after she started therapy. Therapists justified the Freudian idea of repressed memories– saying that they didn’t remember the events because it was too traumatic for them. But many experts say that the idea of repressed memories has been proven false, which sparked a lot of controversy and debate.

Psychotherapists believed that they could recover repressed memories by inducing hypnotic states with sodium amytal. This is what happened to 19-year-old Holly Ramona, who accused her father of sexual abuse shortly after beginning her therapy for bulimia. Holly recalled that she had vague flashbacks of a man forcing her to perform sexual acts when she began therapy. But according to other therapists, Holly didn’t know it was her father until the doctors had told her about it after she was in the hypnotic state. Expert psychologists who study memory say that “repressed memories” are in no way supported, especially for sexual abuse. Holly’s father eventually came to sue the therapists that worked with his daughter and won the lawsuit, but not before losing his entire family.

False memories can also be a problem when it comes to eyewitness testimony. Since DNA testing became available, The Innocence Project has worked to exonerate wrongfully convicted prisoners. In 75% of the DNA exoneration cases, faulty witness testimony was found to be the cause of wrongful conviction. But it’s not that these witnesses lied under oath with a secret vendetta, it’s because they were misinformed. Misleading information they may have been exposed to, like a misleading question, could have changed their perception of events. The witness, unaware of the change, can easily recount the wrong information as their own experience, sending many innocent people to prison.

False memories can also do some good, by helping those who have had traumatic experiences. Researchers are working on methods to replace traumatic memories with less anxiety provoking ones, to allow the person to cope with their experiences better. This is similar to narrative exposure therapy, which is a type of talk therapy designed to help people learning how to live with PTSD.

How to Remember Everything: Memory Techniques

Are you struggling to remember things in your everyday life? Whether its forgetting people’s names immediately after meeting them, attempting to recall your grocery list, or trying your best to remember material for an upcoming exam, you just feel as if nothing is helping these memories stick. Don’t despair, because there are proven memory techniques you can use to improve your memory!

These are issues we have all come across at some point in time. It is impossible to retain all information that comes into our minds. Considering there is such an immense amount of stimuli that we are constantly exposed to; sights, smells, tastes, sounds, textures, thoughts, etc. it’s incredible that we are able to even process any of this information simultaneously.

How much do you know about memory?


Instead of the constant bombardment of information, our brains process what is important and relevant to specific environments and situations. From there, a large portion of information is soon forgotten because it is only important in that instance. However, some of this information will continue on to become memories. You may be thinking, in an instance such as an introduction to a new colleague or individual, why is it that I almost instantly forget their name? I would consider that to be important for that encounter, shouldn’t it solidify and become a memory? It is almost as if we should call the process forgetting and not remembering.

Although this information is important, our brain is processing many other important characteristics of said individual such as social cues of their posture, facial expression, and smell, all to determine this individual is not a threat. After all, we are animals and these are vital signs to determine our survival in this instance. After processing all of these other bits of information, their name has slipped. You may feel embarrassed about trying to recall their name so you wait until their name is said again or you do not address them. This method may work, but there are much more efficient memory techniques that can improve your ability to solidify names, events, lists, and nearly anything you want to remember and these memories will be easy to recall for the rest of your life.

Memory Techniques

Chunking

Famous cognitive psychologist George Miller (1955) discovered in his studies that humans are able to remember about seven “chunks” of information at a time. He deemed this the 7 plus or minus 2 rule, being that we can work with about 5 to 9 chunks of information, with the average being 7. For example, if I asked you to remember the list of numbers:

9    7   3   5   5   5   9   3   6   5

You may look at that and think that is way too many numbers to remember at once, or, you may have done the natural tendency we have learned to do in our modern age and looked at it as a phone number, 973-555-9365. Instead of remembering ten individual numbers, we group a string of numbers into three separate chunks of numbers. 973 (chunk), 555(chunk), 9365 (chunk). Using this memory technique, we can group bits of related information together and recall these bits while staying in our 7 ± 2 rule, considering we are only working with three chunks of information.

Abstract Imagery

Although chunking is one of the effective memory techniques for remembering lists, we are not always presented with lists to remember. When we meet a new coworker, we are only focused on trying to remember their name. Well an easy way to do this is as soon as an individual states their name, attribute their name to an abstract image or concept to strengthen this memory. An example of this would be using my name, Eric Stone. To easily remember my name, when we shake hands you may want to visualize me as a huge man made of stone, similar to The Thing from Fantastic Four.

When it comes to using this abstract visualization memory technique, it is helpful to make the imagery as outlandish and ridiculous as possible. The more absurd the imaginary visual, the more likely you are to recall it in the future. You can often pair this memory strategy with those below to create even more concrete images in your head. Two birds with one stone! (Concrete. Two birds with one stone. Eric Stone. Now I know you will never forget my name using all of this abstract imagery!)

Repetition

The most common form of remembering is through the use of repetition. I want you to look at these next few words. After reading through the list, turn away and in one minute turn back to see how many words you can remember.

Mug   Delta   Hole   Yellow   Brain   Book   Fifteen   Snowman   Division

If I had to take a guess I would say that you remembered Mug, Delta, Hole, and Division. The reason for this is due to the Serial Position Effect. The order in which something occurs or appears effects our ability to remember it, and there are two forms of these effects, the Primacy and Recency effects. We are best at remembering items that appear first and last in a list because the items at the beginning of the list we repeat in our heads and the items at the end of the list are the most recent to enter our memories. If I had to take another guess, I would bet that you either closed your eyes or looked up and repeated this list of items to yourself in order to retain the information. Repeating this list of items in your head is the most common memory technique to remember because it just works! But as was mentioned, we are best at remembering the items at the beginning and end of the list so it is best to pair this memory technique with another in order to remember the whole list.

The Memory Palace

Chunking and repetition are memory techniques that come natural to us because we unknowingly use these memory techniques our whole lives. However, there are other forms of remembering that are much more effective and with little practice can make a substantial difference in your life, enough so that in just the matter of an hour you can teach yourself to remember the order of a whole deck of cards!

Memory Palace Memory Techniques – Cards

In his bestselling novel, Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, Joshua Foer embarks on a journey from reporting on the USA Memory Championship to becoming one of the contestants! The memory technique, he found, used among all of these expert memory competitors is that they develop a “memory palace.”

A memory palace is an environment in which you are incredibly familiar with, your childhood home for example, and you can visualize quite extensively in your imagination. In order to remember a list of items, for example, one would want to imagine placing these items throughout their childhood home, and then imagine walking around this memory palace and visualizing each item. So to take an example in which one might encounter on their chores, let’s make the list of items: RSVP to wedding, buy dog food, finish installing wifi router, call doctor, and sort out credit card receipts. This list may appear extensive, however, when you place these chores as visualizations throughout your imaginary home, you can easily recall these items. So now imagine walking up your driveway and you see a bride and groom at the altar, as you enter your front door your dog is salivating with a massive puddle of drool that soaks your feet, you turn to make a left down the hall and you see massive wifi signals bouncing off the walls; you see where I’m going with this right? You want to visualize yourself walking through your house and the images, sounds, smells, etc. appearing in front of you. Then the next time you want to remember what item is next on your list, you can just visualize yourself continuing this journey walking throughout your memory palace and these items will be right where you left them in your memory palace. I suggest making these items appear as abstract as possible in order to really reinforce the memory!

We can all benefit from improving our memories and over time of practicing these memory techniques they will become natural habits and you will notice a huge improvement in your ability to remember. I hope you remember where you learned all these new memory techniques!

Keeping Your Brain Healthy And Young

Did you know the Milky Way has about 100 billion stars? That sounds like a lot, right? Well, in our brain alone, we have as many nerve cells as the Milky Way has stars. In other words, a lot. With time, these cells start disappearing, but there are ways to keep them young and keep them from aging prematurely. Let me tell you how to keep your brain healthy and young.

keep your brain healthy

Healthy habits to keep your brain healthy

-Eating nutritious foods: Try to avoid processed foods, and eat foods that are high in proteins, carbohydrates, and fats so that your brain has enough energy to make it through the day.

To make sure you’re getting enough healthy fats, try cooking with olive or coconut oil. You can also try to eat more omega 3, which you can find in fish and nuts.

You should also make sure to eat enough foods rich in vitamins B and E, like leafy greens and lean meats. Eating enough fruits and vegetables is also important for your brain health. Try to get a variety of bananas, kiwi, and plums, as they contain antioxidants and help prevent cellular damage.

Lastly, drink more water! Your brain is made up of 85% water, which is why it’s so important to stay hydrated.

-Exercise: Our health starts declining when we’re 25. Yes, twenty-five. Exercising is a great way to stay young and oxygenate our brain. It improves blood blow and helps our body make new branches of neurons.

-Keep good sleep habits: Resting is so important to keep our bodies from aging prematurely. Try to go to bed around the same time every night and get about 7 or 8 ours of sleep a night. It’ll help keep your brain refreshed and ready to take on the next day.

Brain exercises to keep your brain healthy

-Some past times may be good brain exercises, like Sudoku, word searches, or crossword puzzles.

-Memorize letter sequences, images, or numbers. Memory exercises will also help keep your brain young.

-Solve brain teasers and math problems. There are a ton of brain teasers and brain training games on the Internet. Take a look for yourself!

-Read a good book: Reading is a great way to keep your brain alert and exercise it with new ideas and points of view.

-Learn new skills: If you’re constantly learning new things, your brain will adapt and work better.

-Be social! I know it’s nice to stay in and watch TV sometimes, but make sure you get out and interact with other people, whether you get coffee with friends or join a class at the gym. Being with other people and keeping a steady conversation seems easy, but your brain is working to think and come up with an answer, it has to organize your thoughts, and works to imagine new perspectives and different ways to see things.

If you’re able to follow all of these tips, you’ll probably have a healthy brain for many years. It’s important to constantly challenge your brain. Learn something new, go to a place you’ve always wanted to go, learn a new language, play chess, complete a crossword, play brain games online… there are a ton of fun ways to challenge your brain and keep it young and healthy!

Learn To Be More Perceptive: How To Improve Your Intuition

Intuition is the ability that we have that allows us to make one decision, rather than another. It is also what allows us to be creative and adapt to changing situations in our lives. Many people believe that intuition is stronger in women, but both men and women can be intuitive and can work to improve it. These are some tips for developing and improving your intuition.

How to improve your intuition

Tips for how to improve your intuition

When we talk about intuition, many people believe that it is an innate ability, something that you either have or not. There are people that have a type of “sixth sense” for seeing things before they happen, or know what someone is like before getting to know them. While this may seem mysterious and even supernatural, it’s not. Intuition is the mental ability that everyone has, and just like we are able to train our memory and concentration, we can train our intuition. These are some tips for developing intuition.

-Train your senses: They are in charge of collecting information from our surroundings and transmitting it to our brains. Everyone reacts differently to the information that we receive from our senses. Some are especially sensitive to colors, while others are sensitive to smells. Some are also kinesthetic people, who primarily use touch to perceive the world around them.

-Ask yourself questions: Sometimes we get comfortable and we stop questioning our surroundings, which is something that hinders our intuition. Forget trying to fit in with everyone else and make everyone like you, you don’t have to act like everyone else. Stop being so stiff and open your mind. Allow yourself to be more receptive. You’ll keep your brain alert and it’ll be easier for you to adapt to new situations, something that is very important for intuition.

Listen to your inner voice: Sometimes our brain tells us something, like not to trust a certain person or to walk a different way. We may not understand why, but something in our intuition is telling us what to do. Our brain saves all of our previous experiences and helps us make decisions based off of them, even though we’re not conscious of it.

You have to learn to listen to this inner voice, which also implies getting to know yourself. This will improve your intuition and help you understand yourself, two things that will help you feel better about yourself.

How to improve your memory: Tips to stop forgetting things

At some time in our lives, we’ve all had to search through the entire house to find something because we didn’t remember where we left it, or we forgot something somewhere or an important date like a birthday or anniversary slipped our minds. If this has happened to you, maybe you could use a few tips on how to improve memory.

 

For starters, you should know that all of these situations are common, especially as we age. But aging isn’t the only factor that can affect our memory. Stress and anxiety, being easily distracted or not paying attention to what you’re doing are all things that affect our memory. Even having a not-so-healthy diet, consisting more of burgers and shakes than fruits and vegetables, can play a role in how our memory works.

To keep your memory working well, it’s important to have a balanced diet based on nutritious foods. Doctors recommend 5 pieces of fresh fruit and vegetables everyday, along with fish, grains, beans, lean mean, and whole grains. This way we can make sure we’re getting all of the necessary nutrients that our brains, bodies, and nervous systems need to work properly.

Nutrition is closely related to brain health, but like the rest of our muscles, it needs to be worked out to keep it in shape. These are some exercises that you can do to challenge and train your brain.

How to improve memory with games and exercises

-Do crossword puzzles and Sudoku.

-Memorize your shopping list or the characters in a movie or book.

-Use mnemonic devices, or associating ideas, to remember things.

-Go to work a new way.

-Learn a new language.

-Make rhymes, it’ll help you memorize something complicated.

-Go to a new, unknown place.

-Read a different section of the newspaper.

-Learn to play a musical instrument.

-Write down what you want to memorize, it’ll be easier for you to retain the information.

-Try to use your non-dominant hand to eat or write.

-Do mental exercises, place chess or bridge.

-Learn a new word everyday.

-Practice memory games with CogniFit.

 

Shaklee and CogniFit decided to team up!

Shaklee and CogniFit decided to team up, and provide MindWorks consumers with a revolutionary program that provides nutritional support and brain training software

Are you having problems concentrating or remembering things? Is your mind often racing? Do you often feel fatigued and unfocused? Well, we have the answer for you! Discover a new revolutionary product that is designed to nourish the brain: MindWorks. MindWorks is the latest advancement in brain science from Shaklee Corporation, which includes access to CogniFit’s personalized brain training program.

Shaklee Corporation is once again demonstrating its commitment to safe, scientifically validated products that help people live healthier lives with its introduction of Shaklee MindWorks. “Unlike other cognitive health supplements, this exclusive leading-edge formula, based on proprietary ingredient technology, has been shown to provide benefits in both the short and long term,” says Shaklee Chief Science Officer, Bruce Daggy, Ph.D.

Did you know that the brain’s neural connections start declining as early as age 20? By age 45, this decline occurs even more rapidly, which may lead to increased frequency of forgetfulness, poorer concentration and slower reaction times. Maintaining brain health depends on proper nutrition, regular exercise and healthy circulation.

MindWorks is the latest product from Shaklee, a pioneer in nutritional health. The product contains nutrients shown in laboratory studies to promote the formation of new neural connections in the brain, and in a clinical study to reduce brain shrinkage rate.

The evidence of their benefits includes three clinical studies plus dozens of laboratory studies. Shaklee’s MindWorks contains key ingredients that have three important benefits. First, the population using MindWorks shows immediate improvement in memory and focus three times better than the control group. Second, MindWorks protects against age-related mental decline, as shown in clinical studies by reducing brain shrinkage rate by 30% over two years. 223 adults with mild cognitive impairment were selected for this two year study. Lastly, MindWorks supports healthy circulation, which is important for the delivery of oxygen and key nutrients to the brain.

MindWorks comes with a unique blend of ingredients, and CogniFit’s personalized brain training software to deliver both nourishment and exercise for the brain. A new chardonnay seed extract, exclusive only to Shaklee, is made with a patent-pending extraction process that concentrates specific polyphenols that are clinically proven to be more bioavailable than those used in non-Shaklee products. Unlike energy products that use caffeine-spiked guarana, Shaklee sourced guarana for a specific polyphenol blend.  One serving of Mindworks contains less caffeine than a medium cup of decaf coffee.

Enhance mental sharpness and support long-term brain health. Get Mindworks now!

Sleep after learning boosts memory

Sleep after learning boosts memory

Numerous studies published over the past decade have shown that a good night’s sleep is essential for brain health as it enhances the consolidation of newly formed memories in people. But exactly how these observations were related was unclear. A new study discovered the mechanism by which a good night’s sleep improves learning and memory.

In the study published in the journal Science on June 6th, researchers at New York University School of Medicine and Peking University Shenzhen Graduate School show for the first time that sleep after learning encourages the growth of dendritic spines, the tiny protrusions from brain cells that connect to other brain cells and facilitate the passage of information across synapses, the junctions at which brain cells meet. In addition, the activity of brain cells during deep sleep, or slow-wave sleep, after learning is critical for such growth.

The findings, in mice, provide important physical evidence in support of the hypothesis that sleep helps consolidate and strengthen new memories, and show for the first time how learning and sleep cause physical changes in the motor cortex, a brain region responsible for voluntary movements.

“We’ve known for a long time that sleep plays an important role in learning and memory. If you don’t sleep well you won’t learn well,” said senior investigator Wen-Biao Gan, PhD, professor of neuroscience and physiology and a member of the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center. “But what’s the underlying physical mechanism responsible for this phenomenon? Here we’ve shown how sleep helps neurons form very specific connections on dendritic branches that may facilitate long-term memory. We also show how different types of learning form synapses on different branches of the same neurons, suggesting that learning causes very specific structural changes in the brain.”

To find out the mechanism by which a good night’s sleep improves learning and memory, researchers trained 15 mice to run backwards or forwards on a rotating rod. They allowed some of them to fall asleep afterwards for 7 hours, while the rest were kept awake.

The team monitored the activity and microscopic structure of the mice’s motor cortex, the part of the brain that controls movement, through a small transparent “window” in their skulls. This allowed them to watch in real time how the brain responded to learning the different tasks.

They found that learning a new task led to the formation of new dendritic spines – tiny structures that project from the end of nerve cells and help pass electric signals from one neuron to another – but only in the mice left to sleep.

This happened during the non-rapid eye movement stage of sleep. Each task caused a different pattern of spines to sprout along the branches of the same motor cortex neurons.

At the same time, the neurons that were active during the initial task were re-activated, seemingly to stabilize the newly formed spines.

This growth spurt continued after the mice woke up. About 5 per cent of spines in the motor cortex were formed anew in the 8 to 24 hour period after the mice woke up, said co-author Guang Yang, also at the Skirball Institute. “Our previous studies suggest that about 10 per cent of these new spines should be maintained over subsequent weeks to months,” he said.

“Now we know that when we learn something new, a neuron will grow new connections on a specific branch,” said Dr. Gan. “Imagine a tree that grows leaves (spines) on one branch but not another branch. When we learn something new, it’s like we’re sprouting leaves on a specific branch.”

Dr. Gan’s team is now trying to answer these questions. “We would like to see how brain activity during sleep affects signaling within specific sets of branches and ultimately causes the formation of new spines,” he said.

There are other ways to improve your memory, in addition to sleep. Start CogniFit specific brain training program for memory now!

Artificial brain passes basic IQ test

Artificial brain passes basic IQ test.

An artificial brain created by neuroscientists at the University of Waterloo in Canada can pass a basic IQ test according to researchers. The Semantic Pointer Architecture Unified Network — SPAUN — contains 2.5 million simulated neurons. It can complete eight different tasks, and an attached arm can even write. Not only does it simulate the human brain’s and cognitive abilities, but it even simulates the brain’s limits, as it has difficulty remembering more than a few numbers.

Memory could be the most malleable and trainable cognitive function

A new study presented today at the annual meeting of the Society of Neuroscience in New Orleans, Louisiana shows that improved working memory function, following the use of CogniFit online brain training platform, may not only be more malleable, but could also be even more trainable that other cognitive functions.

The research, conducted in collaboration with CogniFit, the Department of Psychology of Northwestern University (Dr. K.L. Gigler), the Department of Psychology of the University of Notre Dame (Dr. K. Blomeke) and the department of Psychiatry of Northwestern University (Dr. S. Weintraub & Dr. P.J. Reber) showed that older adults demonstrated improvements on tests of working memory and language, as well as on a composite measure of processing speed.

Participants to the study where older adults, both healthy and with MCI (mild cognitive impairment) and completed an online cognitive training protocol and memory exercise using the CogniFit brain fitness system. Participants, and especially those with memory impairments, further showed improvement on a battery of real world-like assessments.

Dr. Evelyn Shatil, Head of Cognitive Science at CogniFit explains “This new research demonstrates once again the capacity of the CogniFit’s computerized cognitive training to effectively train specific cognitive abilities. What is interesting in this case, is to see that memory, and working memory, more specifically, seems to be one of the best candidate for cognitive training and brain plasticity exercises.”

The most recent studies in neuroscience demonstrate that scientifically validated cognitive training (leveraging brain plasticity) is one of the very few proven ways to improve cognitive skills. These new results should encourage older adults to engage in brain fitness and improve their cognitive abilities and memory.