Memory isn’t as fixed as we think
urbazon/Shutterstock Although some of us do have impressive powers of recall, memories are in fact, constantly in flux—and this has the potential to alter how we remember things. “Our brain is not a ‘video cam’ that takes in information and stores it in our memory center precisely as it happens; instead we process scenes, conversations, and outings through our filter of rich experiences, perspectives, and thinking biases,” Dr. Chapman says. “This is why two people can witness the same event and come away with very different memories.” Even studies of so-called “flashbulb” memories of major events, like the Challenger explosion or the events of September 11, 2001, show our recollections aren’t always accurate. One good thing? We do tend to look back on our life through rose-colored lenses. “Our memories are altered and typically become more positive over time,” Dr. Chapman says. Check out the daily habits of people with an amazing memory.
You can train your memory with mnemonics
A. and I. Kruk/Shutterstock The brain can strengthen its powers of recollection through certain memory-boosting techniques. “If you want to remember something accurately, write it down as soon as possible,” Dr. Chapman says. “Our brain is not inspired by memorizing information, but by doing something with it.” Other mnemonic devices, or ways to “do something” in order to create a better memory, include repeating the information—when you meet someone, say their name out loud. Or, make up a phrase that rhymes: “Claire has red hair.” For longer stretches of info, create an acronym (at the market, we need MELT—milk, eggs, lemons, and thyme). These tricks work by forming connections in the brain with already established knowledge, reshaping brain networks to better remember. Learn about another simple activity that boosts memory by 20 percent.
Video games may increase brain power
DisobeyArt/Shutterstock If smartphones and the Internet can cause our brains to be overloaded, what about video games? Scientists are now discovering that video games may actually have benefits for the brain. A recent review of research found that gamers show improvements in the brain regions involved in attention. Evidence also exists that video games can increase the size and efficiency of the regions of the brain that control visuospatial skills. Researchers are even developing video games that can modify regions of the brain that control mood—there’s one video game that treats depression. (Check out these other little-known health benefits of playing video games.) But be careful—video games can also be addictive, due to the structural changes they cause in the brain’s reward system.