Psychologists and neuro-specialists categorize memory into two separate parts with subcategories, the main types being long term and short term. Short term memory or "working memory" is accessed by the brain continuously; it is what stores the current or recent snapshots which help us problem solve. Short term memory is what we use most during the day, whether we are balancing our checkbook, reviewing instructions for a task, or simply recalling the day’s activities or responsibilities.
Sensory memory is cataloged by the brain for only a few lingering seconds at which time it is quickly over written as new information is collected. In some cases, sensory memories that are significant for us can be shipped to the area of the brain that stores the most important or memorable information. This is why smells, tastes, and even sounds can trigger a rush of long term memory recollection.
Long term memory stores information we know about the world; for instance, our studies, family members, and beliefs. This type of memory contains our autobiographical information as well as certain semantic information. Since long term memory used different routes of the brain to access information, when attempting to recall information you may also recall information related to or in close proximity to the main subject of recollection.
Short term memory controls certain responses to stimuli including, emotional response, fluid reasoning, set-shifting, and attention. There are several ways to help us improve short term memory and cognitive response, one way in particular being brain training. Here are some brain training tips you can practice each day to help improve short term memory:
- Attention: Paying close attention to an object or subject gives it meaning. Undivided or focused attention can increase your brain’s ability to recall possible problem solving details related to the subject or object.
- Elaboration & Repetition: Attention can give you basic information; elaboration and repetition allow your brain to store information regarding a subject along different routes. This is where senses and deduction come into play, your brain uses sensory cues to examine each aspect of the object or subject to create access routes to short term memories regarding the subject or object of your attention. Repetition further solidifies the route making the memory easier for your brain to access and recall.
- Focus: Focus heightens awareness, concentration, and alertness. Strong focus requires you to tune out everything around you in order to concentrate on the subject or object of your attention. The more difficult the task, the more focused you must become in order to commit details of the task to memory.
- Strategy: Develop a strategy that works best for you. For example, breaking a task into separate parts and taking breaks in between can help your brain retain each portion equally and wholly. If you begin new portions of the task to quickly, your brain will naturally forgo the information from the last portion of the task as a reaction to your prompt movement from one portion to another.
- Engage: Memories are created because they have some type of meaning to us. Engage in your projects by providing them with meaning. Your effort to create meaning may be as simple as relating the task at hand to another. For example, while working on a work task, take into account the similarities between your current task and another that sticks out in your mind.
Tech Trends for Memory Enhancement
Games like crosswords, scrabble, and word searches have long been thought to help individuals improve their short term memory. Tech companies such as Luminosity and iBraining offer users a comprehensive list of games that can be played on handheld devices anytime, anywhere to help improve brain function and cognitive response.
Whether you are looking to improve memory retention or are performing some memory maintenance, there are plenty of applications available to help you reach your goals. When at work, remember to pay close attention and focus on the task at hand to help your short and long term memory retain vital, usable information. When practicing memory improvement exercises or completing difficult tasks, remember to take breaks often and allow yourself to absorb what you are learning as you analyse information. No matter your career, keeping your mental performance at its peak can help increase your creativity, productivity, and efficiency.
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