Have you ever walked into a room to get something, and then realised that you have forgotten what you walked in to get?

If that has happened to you before, you need to do something about your working memory.

You need to enhance your working memory if you want to remember more effectively. You can do this by playing brains games and eating the right foods that will strengthen your memory.

Let’s look at working memory and how to improve it.

What is working memory?

Working memory is a cognitive system that can hold information temporarily and is used for reasoning and decision making (Miyake and Shah). Some researchers consider working memory as a cognitive load that your brain is holding while you are doing a task.

You can easily enhance your working memory. But why would you want to do this? Because with an enhanced working memory, you can process information faster, make better decisions, solve problems efficiently, and be more effective at work.

In the old days, you were told that you can hold around 7 items in your head (Miller). Recent research suggests that you can hold only 2 to 4 chunks in your working memory (Cowan et al.). By enhancing your working memory, you will probably to be able to hold even more chunks.

You can enhance your working memory in 2 ways:

1. You can strengthen neural networks through practice. This means using games and activities to build this skill. For example, if you want to be good at playing cards, a good working memory is a must.

2. You can strengthen “real-time” holding capacity with chemicals. Some chemicals, like nicotine, can enhance working memory (Lecacheux et al.). Other chemicals, like glucose, can support memory too (Gibbs et al.). Unfortunately, these two chemicals are not good for health if taken in excess. A better chemical that will help working memory is dopamine (Brennan et al.).

How to enhance your working memory

Enhancing your working memory is quite easy. You can try playing brain training games or increase your level of dopamine.

1. Play brain-training games

Playing brain-training games will do wonders to enhance your working memory. One of the best websites for working memory is Cogmed. They have many programs and activities that support brain development. If you have friends or relatives who do not have a good working memory, get them to visit this website and get some braining training programs from the website.

Here is a video on brain exercises that you can try:

Brain Education TV: “6 Brain Exercises” (YouTube Creative Commons license)

2. Increase dopamine

Dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and feeling good, can also enhance working memory. What you need to do is to think of ways to bump up your dopamine levels.

Since dopamine is released when you feel good, try these activities to increase your dopamine:

Exercise: Your mood tends to improve whenever you exercise and this increases dopamine. (Hansen et al.)

Go out in the sun: Exposure to sunlight increases dopamine (Tsai et al.). So go outdoors more during the day.

Sleep: Research has shown that when you don’t get enough sleep, your level of dopamine drops significantly the next day (Volkow et al.). So, get 7-8 hours of sleep each night.

Music: Listening to music increases activity in the pleasure areas of the brain that are rich with dopamine receptors. These receptors stimulate the release of dopamine. (Salimpoor et al.).

Meditation: People who meditate have more dopamine (Kjaer, Bertelsen, et al.). Learn how to meditate and do this everyday.

Food: Certain high-protein foods can produce dopamine (Fernstrom et.al.). These foods include beef, eggs, and turkey. A high intake of these foods has been found to promote deep thinking and improve memory (Fernstrom et al.; Colzato et al.).

To sum up

You can enhance your working memory by increasing dopamine. You can do this by playing brain games or taking part in activities that will give your good feelings, like a walk in the park or listening to music. You can also eat certain high-protein foods containing tyrosine and phenylalanine to increase dopamine.

In short, by simply enjoying your work and your life, you are likely to increase dopamine making you a better thinker with a good working memory.


References:

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  • Colzato, L., de Haan, A. M., Hommel, B. “Food for Creativity: Tyrosine Promotes Deep Thinking.” Psychological Research, vol. 79, no. 5, Sep 2015, pp. 709-714.
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