term memory is the ongoing storage of unconscious and
conscious information. It exists beyond your awareness but can be
called into focus as needed.
This type of memory can last for days - or
decades. It is created from short term memories which are replayed and
reconnected several times.
We can break down long term memories into two
resides in your conscious mind. It can either be episodic (such as your
first day at school) or semantic (such as the capital cities of the
world) and requires your conscious effort to recall.
is a largely unconscious or automatic response to your environment,
such as how to ride a bicycle or play the piano. You can recall
procedural memory without consciously thinking about it.
In this article, we'll look at the causes of long
term memory loss and how you can actively improve it through brain
games, memory supplements, and simple lifestyle changes.
What Causes Long Term Memory Loss?
Long term memories naturally fade as you get older
- this is completely normal. Generally the effect is exacerbated by
stress and illness, so it pays to create a healthy, low-stress
lifestyle and keep your immune system strong to fend off disease.
serious long term memory loss can be caused by brain injury, for
example as the result of a car crash. You may have trouble processing
and storing new information which makes it hard to form new long term
memories. Or you may have difficulty remembering certain tastes, smells
and sounds - it depends on what part of the brain has been affected.
Other causes of serious memory loss are
neurodegenerative diseases - including Alzheimer's Disease, Dementia,
Huntington's Disease, Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson's Disease. For
more information see The Wider Causes of Memory Loss.
How To Improve Your Long Term Memory
Here are some powerful ways to improve your long
Exercise Your Body
- Research has found a clear connection that exercise not only keeps
the body fit and strong, but reduces the chances of developing
dementia. That's because it improves the function of your
cardiovascular system - it keeps the heart pumping fresh oxygen to the
brain. It also helps regulate blood sugar levels (essential for diabetics coping with memory loss)
which affect the size of the hippocampus, part of the brain which is
critical to memory.
Exercise Your Brain
- Another study has found that seniors who do crosswords, puzzles,
read, write and play card games delayed the onset of dementia. It's
recommended you do this kind of mental exercise twice a day in order to
help prevent your mental powers from stagnating.
For memory improvement games, I
recommend Lumosity (right). They offer a
huge range of simple and scientifically-proven games designed for all
ages. By practicing daily, you can track your performance and monitor
your level of improvement in terms of memory, attention and creativity.
It's an excellent website for young and old to sharpen their memory
skills and improve their mental performance all-round.
Sleep Well - Ever
noticed how babies sleep far more than adults? That's because their
brains are rapidly developing, allowing their neuronal connections to
be remodeled during sleep. So if you are sleep deprived, you are also
depriving your brain from essential remodeling work and memory
Avoid Stress -
When you are stressed, the brain releases a chemical called cortisol
which adversely affects your memory and other brain functions. So if
you are frequently stressed out you will find it tough to recall long
term memories - you'll have that feeling that your mind has gone blank
- even when the answer should be obvious. Cortisol also diverts glucose
in the blood to muscles and away from the brain, so your hippocampus is
again deprived of oxygen.
Eat Well -
Sometimes memory loss can be attributed to a nutritional deficiency in
the diet. Experts recommend eating more nutrient-rich foods or specific
vitamin supplements to improve memory. This provides the brain with all
the nutrients it needs to function properly, including the way it
forges and retrieves memories. To find out what supplements may work
best for you, see Memory Vitamins.
Concentrate More -
Don't allow your brain to rot away by letting information and
opportunities wash over you. Take an interest in the task at hand and
give it your full attention. If you aren't mentally challenged by your
job, find new ways to stimulate your brain by taking up a hobby or
learning a new skill. It's essential that you actively engage your
brain in challenging tasks every day.
Use Mnemonics - A
mnemonic device is a clever way of engaging the brain and improve your
long term memory at the same time. It works by evoking vivid and
unusual mental imagery and emotions, thereby giving dry data meaning.
In my article on Mnemonic Devices I explain
various systems including The Linking System, The Name Game, The Loci
System and The Peg System. They can all help with long term recall
tasks like remembering news and phone numbers.
Replay New Memories
- If you are studying for an exam, review all your data several times
at different intervals to cement it in your long term memory. For
example, spend a few minutes reviewing your data about 10 minutes after
the initial lesson. This will keep it fresh for about 24 hours. So
review again the next day. Then again after one week. And finally
review again after one month. By this time it will take little effort
to recall the information from your long term memory.