Thursday, 11 October 2012

Memory

New Scientist gives some tips on improving memory which include diet and exercise.  There are no surprises with diet:
  • Everyone's memory fades with age, but your diet could help you to keep your faculties for longer. You would do well to avoid high-sugar fast foods, for instance, which seem to encourage the build-up of the protein plaques characteristic of Alzheimer's disease.
    In contrast, diets full of flavonoids, found in blueberries and strawberries, and omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish and olive oil, seem to stave off cognitive decline by a good few years - perhaps because the antioxidants protect brain cells from an early death.
 The impact of exercise, and intense exercise at that, is perhaps less well known:
  • Short, intense bursts of exercise may be the most effective. In a recent experiment, participants learning new vocabulary performed better if their studies came after two 3-minute runs, as opposed to a 40-minute gentle jog. The exercise seemed to encourage the release of neurotransmitters involved in forming new connections between brain cells.
 The abstract from the aforementioned experiment is interesting:
  • We found that vocabulary learning was 20 percent faster after intense physical exercise as compared to the other two conditions. This condition also elicited the strongest increases in BDNF and catecholamine levels. More sustained BDNF levels during learning after intense exercise were related to better short-term learning success, whereas absolute dopamine and epinephrine levels were related to better intermediate (dopamine) and long-term (epinephrine) retentions of the novel vocabulary. Thus, BDNF and two of the catecholamines seem to be mediators by which physical exercise improves learning.
 I'm a big fan of feats of memory.  I myself use the DOMINIC system. Feed your mind, work your body and your sole will grow.

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