Posts Tagged ‘Memory Health’

The Healthymemory Blog is Going on a Brief Hiatus

April 12, 2016

Nevertheless, there is plenty to read here.  To find posts of interest to you enter the subject or title into the healthy memory blog search block.  If you do not see the search block, then enter “” into your browser.

Here are some suggestion for topics to enter.

The Relaxation Revolution

Enjoy!  Grow your mindsets!  and be mindful.

Watching Football, Feeling Guilty

November 8, 2015

That is American and Canadian football.  Given that this is the healthy memory blog, a post on Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is in order.  An earlier post mentioned CTE, but not in the context of football.  CTE produces a loss in memory or failures of memory to function correctly.  Its prevalence has been linked to football.  There is  a definite link, and the strength of this link remains under investigation.  The NFL has taken actions in an attempt to reduce the occurrence of CTE, and I am sure that equipment manufacturers are working to develop means of safeguarding players from CTE.

So I watch football, and I feel guilty about it.  Are these men damaging their brains for my enjoyment?  If I had children I would strongly discourage them from playing football.

It will be interesting to see how this issue plays out.  Football is such a popular game and generates enormous revenues, so it is unlikely that it will be outlawed, at least in the short term.  Rules will be formulated to minimize the dangers from hits.  Protective equipment will be improved.  Perhaps there will even be size limits put on players.  Actually, a game consisting of smaller, faster players might be more interesting.

It will take a long time to play out.  Research takes time.  And the damage from CTE can take many years to manifest itself.  Early in the twentieth century the public became enraged by the injuries that were being incurred in college football, and changes were made to reduce injuries.  But CTE takes time to emerge, and unless it is being looked for, the link between playing football and CTE might be missed.  Now extreme scrutiny will be exercised in finding that link.  And it will take time to see changes in the rules and improvements in equipment are beneficial.  Of course, claims will be made that they do, and it will take time and improved diagnostic techniques to see if they are having the desired effect.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Computer Use and Cognition Across Adulthood

February 19, 2012

The results of the first national population-based investigation of the association between computer activity and cognitive performance across adulthood has been published.1 This study involved a large national sample (N = 2,671) of adults ranging from 32 to 84 years old. Cognition was assessed by telephone with the Brief Test of Adult Cognition.2 Executive function was assessed with the Stop and Go Switch Task.3 Individuals who used the computer frequently scored significantly higher than those who seldom used the computer. The variables of age, sex, education, and health status were statistically controlled so this result maintained across all these variables. Greater computer use was also associated with better executive function on a task-switching test. Again this result held up across the basic cognitive and demographic variables. So computer activity is associated with good cognitive function and executive control across adulthood and into old age. Individuals with low intellectual ability benefited even more from computer use.

Unfortunately, computer usage declines across age. Of course, the personal computer is a relatively new technology, one that was not available earlier in the lifespans of many. It is hoped that this will be less of a problem in the future for those who have had access to computer technology throughout their lives. There are issues with perceptual and motor decline as we age, and computer technology needs to accommodate them. It is not surprising that that people with lower income and less education are less likely to use computers. It would be good to develop programs for these people that provide not only ready access to computers, but also to training in their use.

And if you have a computer, use it, don’t lose cognitive functioning or executive control. The internet provides a good vehicle for cognitive growth. It includes a vast amount of transactive memory. The computer also provides a good means of interacting with your fellow humans, although it should not be the exclusive means of interacting with fellow humans.

1Tun, P.A., & Lachman, M.E. (2010). The Association Between Computer Use and Cognition Across Adulthood: Use It So You Won’t Lose It? Psychology and Aging. 25, 560-568.

2Tun, P.A., & Lachman, M.E. (2006). Telephone Assessment of Cognitive Function in Adulthood: The Brief Test of Adult Cognition by Telephone. Age and Ageing, 35, 629-632.

3Tun, P.A., & Lachman, M.E. (2008). Age Differences in Reaction Time in a National Telephone Sample of Adults: Task Complexity, Education, and Sex Matter. Developmental Psychology, 44, 1421-1429. doi:10.1037/a00128456

© Douglas Griffith and, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

To Improve Your Memory, Build Your Hippocampus

April 24, 2011

A previous post, “If You Do Not Like Mnemonic Techniques, Try Walking”, was a little thin given the importance of the topic. So I’ve gone to the original article1. The hippocampus is a component of the brain that is critical to memory function. Unfortunately, the hippocampus shrinks 1-2% annually in older adults without dementia, and this loss of volume increases the risk of developing cognitive impairment. This experiment was undertaken to assess whether exercise and what kind of exercise might mitigate this decline.

Participants between the ages of 55 and 80 years old were recruited, who did not have any pertinent diseases or disabilities. 120 participants were randomly assigned: half to a stretching and resistance training control group, and half to an aerobic walking group. Sessions for each group were held three times a week and lasted roughly one hour. Participants in the aerobic group started walking for ten minutes the first week and increased walking durations by five minute increments until a duration of 40 minutes was reached by week seven. Each session began and ended with approximately 5 minutes of stretching. The control group engaged in four muscle-toning exercises using dumbbells or resistance bands, two exercises designed to improve balance, one yoga sequence and one exercise of their choice. The program lasted for one year. MRIs, fitness, and short term memory were assessed before the program began, 6 months into the program, and at the end of the one-year program. Blood samples were taken at the beginning and end of the program.

Aerobic exercise (walking) increased hippocampal volume by 2%. This increase effectively reverses the expected age-related loss by 1 to 2 years. Moreover, increased hippocampal volume was positively correlated with improvements in short term memory performance. Increased hippocampal volume was also associated with greater levels of serum Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which helps support the survival of existing neurons and encourages the growth and differentiation of new neurons and synapses.

Hippocampal volume did decrease in the control group, but higher preintervention fitness partially attenuated the decline. The control group also exhibited improvement in short term memory performance.

Changes in fitness are associated with increased hippocampal volume. The aerobic exercise group showed a 7.78% improvement in maximal oxygen consumption (VO2) after intervention, whereas the stretching control group showed a 1/11% in VO2 max.

So although both exercise regimes were beneficial, the aerobic regime appeared to be more beneficial, especially with respect to its beneficial effects on hippocampal volume. Given the importance of the hippocampus to brain and memory, this finding is extremely important. Moreover, this aerobic exercise regimen was fairly mild and undemanding.

1Erickson, K.I., Voss, M.W., Prakash, R.S., Basak, C., Szabo, A., Chaddock, L., Kim, J.S., Heo, S., White, S.M., Wojcicki, T.R., Malley, E., Viera, V.J., Martin, S.A., Pence, B.D., Woods, J.A., McAuley, E., & Kramer, A.F. (2011). Exercise Training Increases Size of Hippocampus and Improves Memory. PNAS Early Edition,

If You Don’t Like Mnemonic Techniques, Try Walking

April 17, 2011

So you don’t like mnemonic techniques (Click the Mnemonic Techniques Category to see blog posts). Even though they improve memory. Even though they provide cognitive exercise involving creativity, recoding, imagining, and focusing attention. Even though they exercise both hemispheres of the brain. Then try walking.

Kirk Erickson did an experiment1 on the effects of aerobic exercise on 120 adults with an average age around 60. Different groups walked around a track, did yoga, or resistance training. They continued this exercise for a year. All groups performed better on spatial memory tests after exercising, but walking provided the greatest benefit. Brain scans were also done on the experimental participants. The brains of those in the walking group increased in volume by 2 percent on average. The other exercise groups decreased in volume by 1.4 percent on average. You should not infer that their exercise decreased their brain volume as a 1.4 percent is normal for sixty-year-olds. But the walking group increased by 2 percent over the normal 1.4 percent loss that was expected.

So the bottom line is that most any physical exercise is good for memory, walking seems to provide the best protection against aging-related brain shrinkage.

Of course, there is no need to wait until you are sixty to start walking. Clearly walking is beneficial to physical health, brain health, and a healthy memory. This also applies whether or not you use mnemonic techniques. Using mnemonic techniques likely add to healthy memory in addition to improving memory performance.

1In press in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Also summarized in Monitor on Psychology, April 2011, 42, p. 18 

© Douglas Griffith and, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Memory Demonstration—The Presidents of the United States

April 29, 2010

  So, why should you memorize the Presidents of the United States in  the order which they served without an upcoming test. Well, you might want to impress your friends (and perhaps those whom you would like to have as friends). Another reason might be that this is fun. But the most important reason is that exercises such as these can contribute to brain health.  Tips on how to memorize them are near the end of this post.

Here they are.

  1. George Washington Federalist
  2. John Adams Federalist
  3. Thomas Jefferson Democratic-Republican
  4. James Madison Democratic-Republican
  5. James Monroe Democratic-Republican
  6. John Quincy Adams Democratic-Republican
  7. Andrew Jackson Democratic
  8. Martin Van Buren Democratic
  9. William Henry Harrison Whig
  10. John Tyler Whig
  11. James Knox Polk Democratic
  12. Zachary Taylor Whig
  13. Millard Fillmore Whig
  14. Franklin Pierce Democratic
  15. James Buchanan Democratic
  16. Abraham Lincoln Republican
  17. Andrew Johnson Democratic/National Union
  18. Ulysses S. Grant Republican
  19. Rutherford B. Hayes Republican
  20. James A. Garfield Republican
  21. Chester A. Arthur Republican
  22. Grover Cleveland Democratic
  23. Benjamin Harrison Republican
  24. Grover Cleveland Democratic
  25. William McKinley Republican
  26. Theodore Roosevelt Republican
  27. William Howard Taft Republican
  28. Woodrow Wilson Democratic
  29. Warren G. Harding Republican
  30. Calvin Coolidge Republican
  31. Herbert C. Hoover Republican
  32. Franklin D. Roosevelt Democratic
  33. Harry S. Truman Democratic
  34. Dwight David Eisenhower Republican
  35. John F. Kennedy Democratic
  36. Lyndon B. Johnson Democratic
  37. Richard M Nixon Republican
  38. Gerald R. Ford Republican
  39. Jimmy Carter Democratic
  40. Ronald W. Reagan Republican
  41. George H.W. Bush Republican
  42. Bill Clinton Democratic
  43. George W. Bush Republican
  44. Barack Hussein Obama Democratic

So, what’s the trick to learning these? They can be found in the previous blot posts, “More on Remembering Numbers” and ”Remembering Names”

  1. Picture a Tie around the picture of Washington on a dollar bill. Picture him reading the Federalist papers
  2. Picture Noah Adding the numbers of animals boarding the Ark (who are reading the Federalist papers).
  3. Picture Ma lecturing Thomas Jefferson as the child who would grow up to write the Declaration of Independence. Add elephants and donkeys to your mental image.

Now take it from here.

 © Douglas Griffith and, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Remembering Names

January 27, 2010

The basic problem for most people is that we do not pay attention to the name when the person is introduced.  Usually we are thinking of what we are going to say or some other aspect of the situation and we miss the name.  So the first rule to remember people’s names is to pay attention when we are introduced or first hear the name.  It is good to repeat the person’s name when you are introduced.  Most people will be flattered when you express interest in their name.  So if you ask a question about it, you will both flatter the person and strengthen your memory.  By now you know that to remember something you need to make it meaningful.  .  Some names are inherently meaningful, for example, Rose, Temple, Church, Carpenter.  Take advantage of this.  You also know that forming mental pictures or images enhance memorability.  So you could imagine the individual holding a rose, going into a temple, going into a church, or working as a carpenter.  Concentrate on the sound rather than the spelling of the name.  Consider the following names and how easy it is to form a mental image of them:  Taylor, Cook, Barber, Skinner, Glazer, Pacer, Blocker, Fisher, Shepherd,  Potter, Mayer, Forman, Judge, King, Noble, Winter, Sommer, Spring, Snow, Rains, Bagel, Crown, Bridges, Turner, Brown, Miller, Coyne, Glass, Bell, Tucker, Katz, Bolling, Frett, Powers, Freed, Hart, Stamp, Walker, Graves, Berry, Gill, Storm, Rich, Post, Marsh, Moore, Roper, Hyde, Prince, Park, Price, Holliday, Colt, Rodes, Fawcett, Holland, Bush, Bushman, Martini, Land, Baker, Brooks, Porter, Love, Mailer, Tanner, Baron, Ashe, Banks, Allwood, Tower, Crater, Fountain, Hedges, Bloom, Starr, Burr, Fairweather, Feather, Lemmon, Cobb, Roach, Cruz, Plummer, Trapper, Bateman, Gates, Bellow, Rivers, Keyes, Bishop, Goldwater, Ford,  Booth, Foote, Trout, Gallup, Carver, Potts, March, Bolt, Garland, Byer, Angel, Farmer, Brewer, Webb, Dancer, Flagg, Bowler, Spinner, Nichols, Bowes, Silver, Gold, Frank, Marshall, Lane, Boyle, Knot, Teller, Steel, Bacon, Klapper, Pullman, Archer, and Kane.  There are many more, these are just some examples.  Some other names can be made more memorable with a little elaboration.  Smith, a common name, is one that is especially embarrassing to forget.  Smith can easily be elaborated to blacksmith.  Marriott, Hilton, and Hyatt are also hotel names so you can form a specific image for each hotel.  See if the sound of the name can be converted into an image that you can then combine with the image of the person or certain features on a person’s face.

            Another technique is to see if the name is shared by someone who is famous.  For example, if the name was Hooper, you could think of the actor, Dennis Hooper.   Given all the famous and historical people there are, this provides a rich source of remember names.  Consider the following names:  Winfrey (Oprah), De Niro (Robert), Spears (Britney), Hughes (Howard),  Kidman (Nicole), Brokaw (Tom), Parton (Dolly), Picasso (Pablo), Armstrong (Louis), Beethoven (Ludwig Von), Mozart (Wolfgang), Warhol (Andy), Hoffman (Dustin), Bancroft (Ann), Brooks (Mel), Allen ( Woody), Gable (Clark), Cooper (Jackie), Marx (Groucho, or Chico, or Harpo), Streep (Meryl), Redford (Robert), Reiner (Carl or Rob), Seinfield (Jerry), Bonds (Barry), Castro (Fidel), Lee (Robert E), Aaron (Hank), Williams (Ted), Mantle (Mickey), Jeter (Derek), Rodriguez (Alex), Torre (Joe), and Sinatra (Frank).  Former Presidents can also be used, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, Eisenhower, Truman, Roosevelt (Franklin or Teddy), Lincoln, Washington.  They key here is that you be able to form a clear image of the former President or any famous person you are using to help you remember the name.  You form an image of the person you are trying to remember with the famous person sharing the same name.  There is no need to match for sex or age, all you need to is to form an image so that when you see the person, it triggers the image and you are able to recall the name.  Do not overlook the obvious.  If the name is meaningful, associate the person with an image of the sound of the name.  If the person shares a famous name, form an image of the person interacting with the famous personage.

            Still, there will be many names that are new and strange and do not immediately suggest an image.  These names require a little work in recoding the sound of the name so that a meaningful image can be formed.  Consider the recodings for the following names:

Dembowski                 a donkey (Dem for Democrat) with a bow on a ski

Rudolph                      the red nosed reindeer

Wellington                  imagine beef Wellington if you can’t imagine the Duke

Gibbons                       imagine primates playing

Rossitter                      someone sitting on roses

Lewyckyj ( pronounced loo wit ski)   someone in the lou drinking whiskey wearing skis

Bordelais                     a lay of flowers placed on a border

Lembo                         someone dancing the limbo

Harrington                   someone issue a harangue from a ton of steel

Leifester                      someone lying faster and faster

Now try generating your own images based on the sounds of the following names:
















If you had problems with any of the above, here are some suggestions

Altman            an old man

Caldwell          a cold well

Eckstein          ink making a stain

Forbes             four bees

Hamilton         hammering a ton

Ingram             pouring ink on a ram

Lieberman       a man laboring, a labor man (union organizer?)

Nugent              a new gent (a new gentleman to whom you have been             introduced)

Pomerantz       a palm tree surrounded by aunts

Zimmer            a pot simmering

Kim                 imagine your next of Kin with M&Ms

Ku                   image a coup

Yu                   imagine a large letter “U”

Rodriguez       picture a rod reeking of gas

Lopez              picture someone who lopes

Remembering names will not only prevent embarassments, but the attention you exert in remembering the names will also likely contribute to your memory’s health.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.