Can't remember what you were just about to say?
Japanese researchers at the University of Kyoto pitted young
chimps against human adults in tests of short-term memory-and
overall, the chimps won. Tetsuro Matsuzawa, a researcher in the
study and a pioneer in studying the mental abilities of chimps, was
shocked and thinks one factor plays a major role: age.
Memory for images dissipates with age, leaving you having
trouble "placing the face" or remembering names of people you have
To see how your short-term memory stacks up, here's a quick test
from Dr. Jay Gottfried, Ph.D., assistant professor of neurology and
psychology at Northwestern University in Chicago and a neurologist
at Northwestern Memorial Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's
Disease Center in Chicago.
If you answered 'yes' to three or more of these questions, it's
time to give your short-term memory a boost.
A study from the University of Wales Swansea Department of
Psychology found missing breakfast can lead to a sluggish
mid-to-late-morning memory. But, a breakfast of foods with the
flavanol quercetin protects your memory from age-related wear and
tear, say researchers from the Human Nutrition Research Center on
Aging at Tufts University in Boston. Aim for eating one cup of
foods with quercetin a day. Onions and apples have the highest
amounts, but you'll also find it in blueberries, broccoli and
Play the number game
Pick a phone number you just can't seem to remember and repeat it
to yourself at least 10 times in a row. Gottfried says doing this a
few times a day reinforces the number and exercises your short-term
Scrabble, chess and even brain teasers all give your short-term
memory a good workout, Gottfried says.
Mix it up
Breaking out of your daily routine exercises your brain and memory.
Brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand, reverse the order you
do things in the shower or take a different route to work. "These
require you to stay alert and challenge your memory to store new
ways to accomplish tasks," Gottfried says.
And don't panic if your short-term memory seems to fail you.
You're not going crazy. "It just means your memory needs a
tune-up," Gottfried says.
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