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Archive for November 30, 2010

Brain Experts’ 6 Best Memory Tricks

Brain Experts’ 6 Best Memory Tricks

Wish your memory were a little sharper? Want to remember names and numbers as well as you could a few years back? Brain experts swear by the following six simple techniques.

1. Never forget a name: Look, snap, connect.

There are three steps to psychiatrist Gary Small’s favorite tactic, which he calls “Look, Snap, Connect.” The first is to tell yourself that remembering a particular name is a priority, says Small, who’s also the director of the UCLA Center on Aging and author of several books about memory and cognition, including The Naked Lady Who Stood on Her Head.

Step 1: Really focus (LOOK) on a name and face you want to remember.

Step 2: Create a visual snapshot (SNAP) of the name and face. Note a key visual characteristic: Big ears? Silver hair? Blue eyes? Dimples? Also create an image about the name: A cat stands for Mrs. Katz, a dollar bill for someone named Bill. “I sometimes see a famous person with a similar name,” Small says. “So Angela Shirnberger becomes Angelina Jolie wearing shined shoes and eating a burger.”

Step 3: Join the two images (CONNECT): Maybe blue-eyed Bill is a blue dollar bill, or Angela Shirnberger is a silver-haired Angelina Jolie with shiny shoes eating a hamburger. The simple act of thinking up these images helps cement them in your memory — and ups the odds that the new name will materialize for you the next time you encounter the person.

2. Another name trick: Use it before you lose it.
If a new name goes in one ear and out the other, try to trap it inside your head by using it immediately, suggests University of Wisconsin geriatric psychiatrist Ken Robbins, who’s also board certified in internal medicine. When you meet John Jones, Robbins says, deliberately repeat his name: “Nice to meet you, John.”

Then use his name in conversation every few minutes while you talk: “So John, how long have you been with your company?” And, “That’s a great point, John.” You might feel a little like a genial newscaster, but you don’t have to overdo it. Every few minutes is sufficient.

Remembering names is tricky because we’re distracted by the social interactions of the moment. And names are arbitrary, a type of information that’s harder to retain.

“Simply saying the name aloud a few times helps it stick,” Robbins says. As you walk away from the person, say the name again to yourself: “So that was John Jones of ABC Company.”

3. To remember to do something: Picture it.

Don’t want to forget to meet your friend for lunch? Need to remember to take your medicine? Create an image that associates the task with something else happening around the same time, and then picture yourself following through when you see that cue, suggests memory specialist Mark McDaniel, a professor of psychology at Washington University in St. Louis.

Say the mailman comes just before lunch. Now picture yourself getting up to go to lunch when you see the mail truck. Odds are good that when the truck appears, that’s what you’ll do.

“The concrete environmental event cues you. It triggers the intention,” McDaniel says. Studies have shown that women who visualize doing breast self-exams in the shower are more likely to actually do them. Diabetics are more likely to monitor blood glucose daily when the task is tied to another everyday event.

More examples: Remember to take a new morning medication by imagining yourself doing so when you sip juice at breakfast (if you have juice every day). Remember to drop off dry cleaning by picturing doing so as you pass a particular landmark at that intersection.

4. To remember where things are: Put them in your path.

Visual reminders are like crutches. Without them, we have to conjure up an answer from thin air (“Now where did I put my umbrella?”) or, worse, remember to remember the thing in the first place (“Darn! Forgot my umbrella again!”). Storing an umbrella (or keys, or sunglasses) right by the door makes you more likely to remember to find it and take it with you. Having a habitual storage spot, like an umbrella stand, is another memory booster.

“Leaving it where you can see it so you don’t forget helps your prospective memory, which is remembering to remember things, like where you put something,” psychiatrist Gary Small says.
But what if the umbrella stand becomes “invisible” to you because it’s sunny on most days, so you risk forgetting the thing when it rains? Again, use a visual reminder, Small says. Move the umbrella right in front of the door as soon as you see the rain forecast.

Similarly, leave papers you need to take home with you on the floor beside your desk, right in your footpath. Assemble ingredients on a counter before you begin cooking, so you’re unlikely to forget
any. Put a package bound for UPS in your car when you have it ready; don’t expect to remember to look for it when you’re leaving the house.

5. To recall important events: Do a nightly review.
Parents sometimes use a “review the day” tactic at bedtime to give young kids a warm, fuzzy feeling and to recap the day’s best teachable moments. A similar process can help your brain recap what’s important.

It’s easy: Before going to bed, run a mental review of the key things that happened that you want to
remember. You got a call confirming an appointment for tomorrow? Promised a friend you’d follow up about lunch? Made a new acquaintance? (What was her name? Her job? Her partner’s name?)

Better yet: Carry a small notebook into which you jot critical things to remember during the day. Review these notes at day’s end. “Most people find that the combination of writing and then reviewing really helps,” psychiatrist Ken Robbins says.

6. To recollect anything: Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

A tactic that goes by the fancy names of “spaced rehearsal” or “expanded retrieval” is a favorite because it’s so effective. Simply repeat something over and over at slightly extended intervals. Memory specialist Professor Mark McDaniel says the tactic is often used with Alzheimer’s patients. “And if it works for many of them, it can work for someone with a healthy brain,” he says.

To use it: Say you want to remember a name or a short grocery list, or — as is often the case for Alzheimer’s patients — you need to remind yourself or your loved one to check a calendar. Repeat the name or task to yourself. Wait 15 seconds. Silently say it again to yourself. (“Bob Smith” or “Check the calendar.”) Wait 45 seconds. Bring it back up. Wait 90 seconds, then repeat. “If you can remember it after five minutes, you’re in good shape,” McDaniel says. “It’s been well stored.”

“Spaced is the operative word,” says Martha Weinman Lear, author of Where Did I Leave My Glasses? The What, When and Why of Normal Memory Loss. “Rapid cramming — muttering someone’s name to yourself over and over in rapid succession — is not the best way to commit a name, or anything else, to memory.”

By Paula Spencer, senior editor was created to help you care for your aging parents, grandparents, and other loved ones. As the leading destination for eldercare resources on the Internet, our mission is to give you the information and services you need to make better decisions, save time, and feel more supported. provides the practical information, personal support, expert advice, and easy-to-use tools you need during this challenging time.

Understanding orchid breeding will help you be successful in life!

Understanding orchid breeding will help you be successful in life!

Recently I was in Singapore visiting my business partners, Amy and David, while conducting a training session.  We had a wonderful time together.  Singapore is an astonishing country full of life and vitality.  Although it is a very small country geographically, it is booming with great ideas and business ventures.  If you ever have the opportunity to visit there, I would certainly encourage you to do so.  It would be quite an experience for you to see what they have done with their limited natural resources.  Their creativity is amazing!
One afternoon we took a side trip to the orchid gardens.  I had no idea that there are so many different types of orchids!  The Singaporean government has graciously named many of the orchids after famous world leaders like Nelson Mandela, the Queen of England, and several United States presidents.  It was a very interesting experience.
As we were leaving, we passed a sign that said, “Orchid Breeding and Micro-Propagation.”  I was curious to learn more about that process.  The scientists in Singapore have discovered some unique methods of producing such a variety of orchids.  The one that interested me most was the “Shaker Room.”  There was a sign inside that room that read, “Shaking the tissue in the nutrient solution is to improve the supply of air and nutrients to the tissue.  Shaking also helps to confuse the tissue.  Without a sense of gravity, they do not differentiate between shoots and roots, but grow into more tissue.  When enough tissue has been formed, the shaking stops to let plantlets (with shoots and roots) develop.  A very large number of plantlets can be obtained from the clusters of tissue you see in the flasks.”  In other words, scientists have learned that if they shake the tissue, it will develop shoots and roots that can then be transplanted into the soil and begin to grow.  Rather than leaving that process to chance, the seeds can be developed through scientific research to produce new and different varieties of orchids.
I took a picture of the sign because I wanted to have a record of that information.  You might wonder why in the world I would want to know so much about orchids.  It was actually the process that the orchid seed goes through that intrigued me.
As I read the information about the orchid seed and tissue, I could not help but relate it to the process humans go through to become successful.  Life has found a way to cause us to “get off the dime” and make something of our lives.  It comes from the challenges and difficult opportunities that we are afforded each day.  Having to solve problems and create new solutions is the very hallmark of a free society.  It is what causes a culture or an individual to grow.  Facing difficult opportunities and looking for new and better ways to prosper is at the root of the whole way of life in Singapore and I believe it is what has made America great as well.
I re-wrote the “Shaker Room” information and put it into a personal formula for you and me.  I thought you might like to have a copy!
Shaking the human being in the everyday events of life is to improve the supply of new ideas and growth opportunities.  Shaking also helps to confuse the human being.  They find out that what does not kill them will make them stronger! Without a sense of being well-grounded, humans simply stay stuck in their present state without learning and growing.  When enough personal development has been formed, the shaking stops to let the human being (with new ideas and plans) develop.  A large number of successful endeavors can be obtained from the shaking opportunities in the human life as it relates to family members, friends, and co-workers! 
I know that you may think that I am pushing this illustration a bit too far, but honestly, I don’t think so.  If you had seen the way the machine was shaking the seeds and tissue in a gentle manner, you would see that it was not trying to destroy the life that was in the seed, but develop it to full maturity.  Life can be a more gentle experience if we will simply learn the lessons that come our way.  If we do not, then life can be harder on us, as I am sure we have all experienced.
Anyway, I thought you would like to know that I am continuing to learn and grow at every given opportunity.  If I can learn something from orchids to help me be a better person, then I am all for it and I am sure that you are, too!    
Have a great week!  God bless you!

Robert A. Rohm, Ph.D.
Personality Insights, Inc.

Copyright 2010 Personality Insights, Inc.  Reprinted with permission. You may subscribe to the  “Tip of the Week” for free at and receive Dr. Rohm’s weekly Tip every Monday morning.

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