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Mentalrobics™

You exercise your body to stay physically in shape, so why shouldn't you exercise your brain to stay mentally fit? With these daily exercises you will learn how to flex your mind, improve your creativity and boost your memory. As with any exercise, repetition is necessary for you to see improvement, so pick your favorite exercises from our daily suggestions and repeat them as desired. Try to do some mentalrobics every single day!

Misattribution is a memory problem that becomes more common with age and refers to when you forget where a memory comes from. For example, have you ever started telling someone a joke or story and then had them tell you that they were the ones who told it to you in the first place? This is because the source of that memory was lost or misattributed to someone else.

Older memories are particular prone to being misattributed due to their transience. Sometimes people can even think that something happened to them, when in fact it happened to someone else in the family. This is especially common for older married couples that have heard each other's stories many times over several years.

One way to help prevent misattribution is to stop and think carefully about a memory when you are recalling it. Try to think about who told it to you, when it happened, who else was there and why this is important to remember. Don't jump to conclusions. When you are making a new memory, focusing on the details will help you prevent misattribution in the future.

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Transience refers to the fact that memories fade with time. Different memories fade at different rates for different people. This is mostly due to the frequency with which the memories are remembered.

Each time you recall a memory the neural pathways that make up that memory get triggered. This causes these neurons to strengthen and ensures that this memory will stick around a bit longer. If you rarely recall a memory, it will naturally fade into the background because it is probably unimportant.

This fact is why repetition and review are such important steps to do if you want to remember something. This is especially important for new memories, which are very fragile and can fade quickly unless you strengthen them.

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Cramming for a test usually results in very short lived learning. After cramming, you can almost feel the material leaking out of your brain! This is because you have under-learned the topic and your mind has very little reinforcement of the facts.

Suppose that you study something just to the point where you can recall it without aid and let's say that this takes 1 hour. These facts have barely made it into your long-term memory. If you want to keep them there, you'll need reinforce them with a little over-learning. Aiming for at least 50% over-learning will give you a much better chance at recalling the facts correctly. 50% over-learning in this case would be an additional 30 minutes of study.

Over-learning can also increase your confidence in the material, which has been shown to improve recall.

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If you are trying to remember a list of items, the order of your list makes a big difference. Many studies have shown that items at the beginning and end of a list are easier to remember than items in the middle. You can use this fact to your advantage by placing the harder or more complex items at the end of a list. You could also spend more time on the items in the middle.

For example, suppose you want to memorize some French phrases before going on a trip to France. Try putting the longer and more difficult phrases at the beginning and end of the list and the short simple phrases in the middle.

Another method of making sure you give equal attention to all the items in a list is to use flash cards and shuffle the order every time.

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Have you ever remembered a phone number by visualizing the pattern of telephone button pushes or by using a little math (416-2550: 4 squared is 16, 25 doubled is 50)? If so, then you have already used patterns to help you remember a fact.

Looking for patterns in dates, phone numbers, addresses, etc. will give you a much better chance at remembering the information later. This is because you've instantly made the information more meaningful, you've concentrated on it long enough to push it into long-term memory, and you've chunked it.

In the above example, you only need to remember "4 squared, 25 doubled" which is, at 4 chunks, much easier to remember than the original 7 chunks.

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