Boosting your brain power
By Duruthu Edirimuni
Most people don't forget; they never take the trouble to remember, according to Professor Lakshman Madurasinghe. Addressing the 'Memory Plus' programme, sponsored by The Sunday Times Business Club, he explained the importance of living a memory- healthy lifestyle, being organised to boost brain power, improving retention of facts, technical data and effective ways to enhance work performance.

"The success formula is to define your outcome, or know what you want, take action, have sensory acuity or feedback and have the ability to adapt," he said. He explained that the essential traits in the formula are passion, belief, strategy, values, energy, bonding power and communication.

Clarifying the left and right brain dominance, he said the left brain deals in sequential, linear, digital, time-based, analytical, verbal, rational and factual thinking. The right brain deals in intuitive, holistic, spatial, timeless, synthetic thinking and feels music. He said playing bridge, scrabble, puzzles, and drawing things and listening to baroque music activates the right side of the brain.

There are several differences in male and female brains. The male brain is better in mathematics, in three dimensional recognition, at reading blue print, taking more interest in objects and uses more narrow vision. The female brain is better in remembering conversations, grammar, vocabulary and sensory awareness, and takes more interest in people and spelling and sees the broader picture.

Explaining the memory fallacies, Professor Madurasinghe said that there is no mystery formula, easy street, memory super law or a memory cure. He said that the 'old geezer theory,' which says that one keeps forgetting, when getting older is also incorrect. "People of all ages can remember better simply by practicing better memory habits and the key to memory is the willingness to learn and to change," he said.

However medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, Parkinson's, thyroid imbalances, vitamin B 12 deficiency weakens memory. There are four stages in memory. Unconscious incompetence, which is the first, is when you do not know that certain things exist.

Conscious incompetence is when you know there are certain things, but cannot comprehend them. Next is conscious competence, which is when you learn certain things and become familiar and good at them. The fourth stage is unconscious competence which is when you keep doing something regularly and it becomes a reflex action.

Professor Madurasinghe explained the three vital steps that the brain engages in are acquisition, storage and retrieval. He explained the A and M theory, where paying 'attention' to what you are doing and finding the 'meaning' to it, helps you to retain it.

The brain thinks in pictures. "What you visualise, you actualise and getting a mental picture of information is an effective way of improving the ability to recall it later," he said.

There are many techniques in recalling memory. Professor Madurasinghe explained that among them repetition, link method, story telling, connection, rhyme technique, first letter association, journey method, roman rooms, alpha method, numeric method, phonetic method, concept map and mind map are the best known techniques.

Using an internal memory technique is one of the ways to maximise memory fitness. Internal memory techniques work by giving meaning to information one is trying to remember. The connection technique involves making a connection between something one tries to remember and something that one already knows.

Participants at the packed event were given several exercises on the connection method, phonetic method, mind mapping and journey method of recalling memory of names and important numbers.

He said that developing good stress management habits is an essential part of any overall wellness plan to keep individuals in control both at work and at home. He identified sources of stress as having an uptight feeling, a feeling of tenseness, being in a pressure situation or a conflict situation, and being anxious or frustrated.

Increasing stress tolerance includes exercising regularly, eating right, getting enough sleep, not smoking, taking a break, making a concern list, prioritising values and evaluating relationships and commitments. Professor Madurasinghe explained the need to have a holistic approach, like taking an interest in a variety of things, so that they stimulate the brain and alleviate stress.

He said nutrition plays a major role in memory. Professor Madurasinghe advised to cut back on fat, avoid too much sugar, limit Sodium intake (300mg daily), eat a variety of foods (more fresh vegetables and fruits), take Calcium or Serotonin, Selinium (Gotu-kola) and cut down on starch.

He said reviewing one’s work every five to ten minutes, taking breaks in between, not smoking, exercising, organising material, keeping to regular study periods and not studying when tired are some of the 'study secrets,' which are practiced by many. The Memory Plus programme was held last Saturday, at the Trans Asia hotel, attended by over 80 participants.

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