OK, let’s start with some tough love: When it comes to photographic memory, you’re technically either born with it or you’re not. And even a lot of folks out there who claim to have “photographic memory” don’t actually have it. (The scientific consensus is that roughly 1 percent of the U.S. population has it.) But here’s the good news! If you’re interested in boosting your recollection skills, there are a ton of great measures you can take—foods to indulge, great brain exercises to take up—that will help your ability to recall things in much more vivid detail. Here they are! And for more ways to augment your cognitive function, don’t miss the 8 Cutting-Edge Video Games That Are Proven to Make You Smarter.
Train for an eidetic memory test.
It’s an adage as old as time (or at least Malcolm Gladwell): Practice makes perfect. And yes, this applies to your noodle, too. One way to practice is to take an eidetic memory—that’s scientific lingua franca for “photographic memory”—test. The test requires looking at two separate, yet wildly similar, images, and then trying to visually superimpose them on each other. To check out a practice test, the University of Iowa has you covered. Then, if that piques your interest, ask your doctor about taking a real, specialist-certified one.
Store up on omega-3s.
You’re likely well aware by now of the outsize benefits of the oils in fatty fish—like salmon or sardines. (Omega-3s are widely known to reduce both inflammation and blood pressure.) But did you know that those smelly oils can help your brain, too? According to a new study out of Harvard Medical School, omega-3s have been proven to reverse the decline of memory. As it so happens, salmon is one of the 50 Best Brain Foods of All Time.
Slow down—and repeat, repeat, repeat.
When it comes to digesting binders of information for future recollection, it’s tempting to mentally wolf the material down as expediently as possible. If this sounds like you (and college kids, in particular: ears up) we have two words for you: Slow. Down. According to research out of the UCLA, if you’re trying to memorize something, it’s best to break up the knowledge over several days—and to repeatedly go over the material. For example: If you’re learning French, instead of attempting to memorize several dozen adjectives by the end of the week, pick ten, and dedicate time to go over them on, say, Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday.
Pound the pavement.
But as it turns out, your cardio-obsessed coworker might be onto something more than just perfect running form. According to a study in Current Biology, if you learn something new and then exercise within four hours—at an intensity of about 80 percent—your hippocampus, the part of your brain responsible for remembering things, will experience more activity.
Don’t skip your morning coffee.
Good news: You’re likely already doing this one. According to research from the Radiological Society of North America, a mere two cups of coffee per day will boost your short-term memory function. So if you’re not getting your daily 16 ounces Joe each day, now’s the time to start. And for more on why coffee might be the most magical liquid of them all, check out the 75 Amazing Health Benefits of Coffee.
Keep your calendar packed.
Hey, busy bees: You’re in luck. According to a study in the Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, individuals with very little down time—the people who are so busy they can’t finish all of their tasks in a given day, per the report—have higher brain function when it comes to episodic memory. For the curious: That’s the type of memory involved in recalling times and places. (So, everything.)
Get your choline fix.
Choline (take heed: not chlorine) is a nutrient that, according to several studies, will instantly boost short-term memory. (In one experiment, college students who ingested choline outperformed those who didn’t in a subsequent memory test.) To get enough choline in your diet, turn toward some good old-fashioned eggs. Each yolk contains 115mg of the stuff.
Get tipsy. (Yes, really.)
We all know the feeling: Too much alcohol, and then… Ugh, what happened last night? But if you strike a healthy balance, wine, the ever-magical libation, can have the opposite affect. In fact, according to Nature, the resveratrol in red wine can reverse the effects of age-based memory loss. That “healthy balance?” You’ll be hopefully pleased to hear it’s about two glasses.
Adopt a heavy protein diet.
Gym rats, rejoice: All that protein you’ve been downing is strengthening more than just your sinew. According to research in Physiology & Behavior, a high-protein diet—because of the amino acids tyrosine and phenylalanine—is directly correlated with an ironclad memory.
Play the luteolin game.
New research indicates that the substance luteolin will fight brain inflammation as you age—and, in turn, help keep your memory sharp as a tack. You’ll find luteolin in celery. Sorry about that.
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