10 Scientific Secrets to a Perfect Memory
Were you late to work yesterday because you couldn’t remember where you put your car keys? Did you completely forget about a coffee date last week with a friend and only remember when you got a text asking, “where are you?” Can you no longer remember the name of your favorite elementary school teacher? Memory problems impact just about everyone to a certain degree, but science suggests you might be able to improve your memory, as well as reduce the likelihood of Alzheimer’s and dementia, by engaging in certain activities, eating specific foods, and using certain mnemonic devices.
People with near-perfect memories actually exist, and they have something called an “eidetic memory,” which means they can recall a remarkable amount of information from their past experiences. Interestingly, many people assume having an eidetic memory means having a “perfect” memory, but even these superhuman memory machines can have some trouble recalling absolutely every detail with crystal clear accuracy. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t emulate these memory superstars and improve your own memory and protect yourself against age-related diseases and maladies.
Some scientists believe people with excellent recall and the ability to remember everything use a special mental filing system to keeping things organized in their memories. Mental tricks are also used by magicians to wow audiences with seemingly impossible feats of memory. But do you need to know special tricks or have an eidetic memory to remember everything?
If you’re worried you’ve forgotten more in life than you ever knew, don’t worry. Science has you covered! Check out these 10 scientific secrets to a perfect memory.
10Drawing Words Helps Your Brain Recall Them
The “Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology” published a study in early 2016 entitled, “The drawing effect: Evidence for reliable and robust memory benefits in free recall.” While the title seems a bit long and complex, the study actually demonstrated a very simple idea. Drawing words in picture form helps people make better and stronger memories. The authors of the study created simple tasks where a participant would first draw a simple word, like a common piece of fruit. Later, the authors of the study would ask the participants to recall the words they drew. Other participants in the study were given different tasks like repeating the given word aloud a certain number of times or actually writing the word down. The researchers found that participants who drew doodles of the words they needed to recall fared much better than other participants.
Anyone who doesn’t feel they can tap into their inner-Picasso to create amazing drawings needn’t worry. The study demonstrated that it wasn’t the quality of the doodles and drawings that helped participants recall given words. Drawing a simple outline of a banana offered just as much benefit to the memory as a perfectly drawn piece of fruit. Additionally, the study found that participants only needed to spend a few seconds on their drawing to receive a significant boost to their ability to recall the word. The researchers plan to take their research a step further in the future by introducing more complex words and ideas and measuring the memory success of participants asked to recall those intricate thoughts.
9Putting Yourself in Someone Else’s Shoes Improves Memory
A study published in the journal “Clinical Psychological Science” in 2012 showcased the power of self-imagination, which showed the technique could help people with impaired memories, as well as individuals with no memory problems. As with other studies of human memory, the scientists asked participants to remember a list of words related to certain personality traits. The participants were then asked to use a specific strategy to help them recall the words. For example, some participants were asked to remember one personality trait by thinking of a second word that rhymed with the trait. Other participants were asked to remember the definition of the trait while others were asked to engage in “self-referential processing” where they would think about the trait in a personal, self-reflective way.
The study participants asked to imagine acting out the trait, which is a method of self-imagining, were most successful in remembering the personality traits when questioned about them later. In fact, study participants who engaged in self-imagining were three times as likely to successfully remember a personality trait than participants who didn’t use any type of memory device or method. The scientists in charge of the study believe that self-imagining could help individuals in rehabilitation programs, as well as anyone with a memory impairment. However, it’s likely that the technique could help just about everyone, even if he or she wasn’t currently in a rehabilitation program or diagnosed with memory problems. For example, if you wanted to remember where a friend bought a pair of shoes, you might imagine yourself walking into that store to buy the shoes.
8Experienced Better Cognitive Performance With Bare Feet
A fascinating study from researchers at the University of North Florida reveals that running barefoot may actually improve your memory more than running with shoes. While most memory studies seem to take place in a laboratory or room where everyone sits at a table, this experiment definitely introduced an interesting idea to the search for a better memory. The experiment focused on something called “working memory,” which is the human ability to process information and recall details throughout life. The scientists published the results of their study in “Perceptual and Motor Skills,” and found that running barefoot resulted in a not-insignificant memory boost when compared with memory performance after running with shoes. The researchers found that tossing your shoes off and running for about 16 minutes at a comfortable pace could result in a 16% improvement in working memory performance.
Participants in the study were between the ages of 18 and 44 and were asked to run twice – with and without shoes. After completing their quick runs, researchers found that the heart rate and overall run speed of each participant had no effect on memory, but the presence of shoes or bare feet did. The researchers have hypothesized that the need to engage the mind while running barefoot to avoid pebbles or other impediments could have a positive impact on a person’s ability to remember things. If you’re an adventurous person, you might try taking a barefoot jog around the block before your next test or before you need to remember something important.
7Pumping Iron Could Enhance Long-Term Memory
The theory that exercise boosts your intelligence might have some basis in fact according to a study conducted at Georgia Tech. Even if you don’t like lifting weights, and the inside of a gym makes you want to run for the nearest doughnut shop, it might take just 20 minutes to enhance your memory, according to the 2014 study. Researchers asked participants to work out for 20 minutes in an intense manner and found that just 20 minutes of activity could help improve “episodic memory” by as much as 10% in young adults. Episodic memory is also known as long-term memory, and the researchers approached the study of exercise in a different manner than previous studies. Other studies examined the impact of aerobic exercise conducted over many months, but this study simply asked participants to lift weights a single time.
During the test, half of the participants were asked to use a weight machine before recalling a series of images they were shown at the start of the test. The other half of the participants were also asked to recall the images but without having engaged in any strenuous activity before the recall session. In demonstrating the memory improvement for the participants who engaged in just a single session of weight lifting, the researchers were able to show that improving one’s memory through exercise didn’t take hours of dedication in the gym. The next time you have the opportunity to lift weights or someone tries to convince you to join the gym you might just want to take him or her up on the offer.
6Cutting Down on Saturated Fats Could Preserve Your Memory
A study cited in an article from Harvard University suggests your diet could have a significant impact on your memory as you age. Scientists at Brigham and Women’s Hospital published a study within the “Annals of Neurology” that suggested women who ate high levels of saturated fat in foods like red meat and butter didn’t perform as well on memory tests than women who regularly consumed less saturated fat. Researchers haven’t yet discovered the connection between saturated fat and memory, but they hypothesize it could have something to do with a person’s genes. Scientists and doctors have long recommended that patients work to control their cholesterol levels as they age to protect the memory during the aging process.
The Harvard article suggests that protecting the brain with a heart-healthy diet could be the key to warding off dementia and keeping your memory intact well into your golden years. Some studies have suggested certain foods have a positive impact on memory, but no study thus far has revealed the existence of a miracle food. The idea that a heart-healthy diet could also prove beneficial to the brain and memory has become popular with doctors studying Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Some of the risk factors associated with heart disease are similar to those associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Foods recommended for a heart-healthy diet include fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain bread, as well as beans, nuts, and olive oil. If you can’t use every one of these 10 scientific secrets to a perfect memory, a healthy diet might help you avoid losing it!
5Closing Your Eyes Boosts Your Recall Ability
We often close our eyes when deep in thought or when trying to recall a piece of information, and science suggests this act might actually make it easier to successfully remember an idea. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Surrey found that asking a participant to close his or her eyes helped him or her recall correctly 23% more of the questions asked. The research was actually comprised of two distinct studies, and each study showed that the act of closing one’s eyes was key to helping the brain recall an idea or answer a question. The first study required participants to watch a movie and recall distinct visual details from the movie, such as the writing on a vehicle. The second study went a step further and asked participants to recall things like dialogue and other auditory details.
In addition to asking some participants to close their eyes when attempting to remember certain details of what they had seen or heard, they also asked participants to build a “rapport” during the experiment. Interestingly, building rapport seemed to increase the success even more of a person’s ability to recall certain details. The study was published in the journal “Legal and Criminological Psychology.” Given the study’s results, it would seem police officers investigating a crime could glean more information from a witness by building a rapport with the person and then asking them to close their eyes during questioning. Not surprisingly, the technique could also come in handy for the general public in attempting to remember specific details from a past experience.
4Micro-Cramming Could Create Permanent Memories
A study in the “Journal of Neuroscience” suggests rehearsing new memories for just a few seconds could help transform them into permanent memories. The research, entitled “Consolidation of Complex Events Via Reinstatement in Posterior Cingulate Cortex,” found that participants could more accurately recall an event if they rehearsed the memory quickly after first experiencing the event. The study asked participants to watch several video clips and then asked participants to recall what they saw in the clips. Some participants were asked to recall details aloud, and others were asked to recall details silently while receiving an MRI scan. Participants who actively rehearsed the video clips remembered far more details after a week than participants who didn’t rehearse what they saw immediately after watching the videos.
The results of the study suggested that participants could remember a much greater level of detail whether they silently thought about what they just saw or whether they had a conversation aloud about the video. Does this mean that you could study for a test 40 seconds before the start of it and expect to remember everything necessary to pass the exam? Probably not, but if you spent more time during your study session going over an educational video you just watched, it’s possible you could retain greater details about the video when test day arrived. Like other studies about making memories, the technique of reviewing events a person just experienced could also help a witness recall specific events after seeing a crime take place.
3Drink Coffee & Enhance Your Memory
Research conducted at Johns Hopkins University suggests drinking coffee, brewing a cup of tea, or consuming caffeine in some way could enhance your memory. The team of scientists at the university found people could improve long-term memory for about 24 hours after consuming caffeine. In the study, the researchers compared memory strength between participants who were given a 200-milligram caffeine tablet and other participants who were given a placebo. Participants were not regular caffeine drinkers outside of their participation in the study. Researchers showed participants images and then asked them to come back the next day to see how many images they could recall. The researchers showed participants some images they’d already seen, as well as new images and pictures that were just a little different.
The interesting part of the study is that it showed that caffeine drinkers could identify when images they were shown on the second day were similar but not exactly the same as the initial images showed to them. Specifically, this ability to engage in successful “pattern separation” was a sign of better memory retention. Researchers at Johns Hopkins suggest previous studies were more simplistic than the Johns Hopkins study and their simplicity is why researchers observed no measurable improvement in memory with caffeine consumption. The government’s Food and Drug Administration suggests around 90% of people around the world use caffeine in some form, and about 80% of people consume caffeine in the United States every single day. There’s a good chance you already drink caffeine, so you might already be enjoying the memory-boosting benefits of drinking that morning cup of coffee.
2Climbing a Tree Could Boost Your Memory & Cognitive Skills
A study conducted in 2015 at the University of Florida concluded that climbing a tree, as well as walking on a balance beam, could noticeably improve a person’s cognitive skills. In “The Working Memory Benefits of Proprioceptively Demanding Training: A Pilot Study, ” researchers at the university’s Department of Psychology examined the working memory benefits of adults who engaged in demanding activities like climbing trees against other participants who engaged in calmer activities like yoga. Like other studies examining the benefit of exercise on the brain, researchers found that just a few hours of strenuous activities were enough to produce noticeable gains in memory. Study participants were well above the traditional age for climbing trees and ranged from 18-years-old to 59-years-old.
Proprioception, which is a person’s ability to know where his or her body is positioned and oriented, has already been connected to memory. Researchers wanted to investigate this connection and see if activities, where a participant needed to remain aware of his or her posture, could increase the memory benefits. After a few hours of participating in activities like climbing trees and crossing a balance beam, researchers found that working memory capacity increased by a whopping 50% when participants were tested after two hours. The researchers concluded that participating in activities that required a person to think and which wouldn’t allow someone to “zone out” during the activity were excellent for boosting memory. Reaching back into your childhood to participate in time-honored activities like climbing trees could very well give you a better memory.
1Writing It Down May Help You Remember It
In the digital era, it’s common for people to go several days without using a pen or pencil, and we might be making things tougher on our brains by taking notes with a computer rather than with a pen and paper. Teachers have long advised their students to take notes during class, as well as during study sessions to improve knowledge on various subjects, but a recent study on writing called “Handwriting versus Keyboard Writing: Effect on Word Recall” may prove what teachers have been saying for decades. After examining the results of study participants writing in three different ways, researchers found that handwriting words led to stronger memories. The different ways participants were asked to record information included typing on a normal keyboard, using a virtual keyboard such as one on a tablet computer, and writing by hand.
While the scientists who created the study couldn’t pinpoint the reason for the discrepancy in memory between keyboard typing and handwritten writing, they suggested it could have something to do with the split attention span required to type on a keyboard. A person must occasionally glance at a keyboard and then back to the screen when typing while a person using a pen and paper need only look at the paper while recording information by hand. Another hypothesis suggested by the researchers was that writers could create better visual memories by staring at recently handwritten words than they could words typed via a keyboard. Whatever the reason, you might want to pick up a pen and paper the next time you need to remember a phone number without having to look at the contacts in your phone.
So, do you need to employ all of these techniques at once to create the perfect memory? Should you wake up with a cup of coffee, take a barefoot morning run, go write down a few things you want to remember, and adopt a heart-healthy Mediterranean diet? Is it necessary to start lifting weights, climbing trees, and engaging in self-actualization? Will these techniques truly give you a perfect memory? Can you become Dr. Spencer Reid from “Criminal Minds” with an eidetic memory and an 180 IQ?
The Mayo Clinic reveals there’s no guarantee when it comes to memory loss and dementia but that engaging in memory-sharpening techniques can help, as well as knowing when to seek help from a doctor for memory problems. Simply socializing regularly, getting organized, and getting enough sleep can have a positive impact on your memory, which means adding these scientific techniques for improving your memory could be the icing on the cake when it comes to remembering the name of your new coworker, your significant other’s birthday, and exactly where you put your car keys.
They were on your bedside table next to your smartphone, right? Or were they on the kitchen counter where you dropped them after bringing in the groceries last night? Fortunately, you don’t have to be a savant, experience life-changing head trauma, or have a genius IQ to improve your memory. Trying out these 10 scientific secrets to a perfect memory might be all you need to remember everything you want to remember.