Remember the Alamo

A researcher explores the mechanics of memory.

Eat Blueberries, Remember More?

Memory improvement made simple.

Looking for any easy way to improve your memory? Try eating more blueberries or other "brain foods" believed to be effective at decreasing the forgetfulness that occurs as we age. Stuffing yourself with blueberry smoothies, pies, and cobblers could be the key to a better memory.

Before you go running to the grocery store, you might want to think about how well easy solutions have worked for another problem that plagues many Americans: obesity. Improving your memory is a lot like losing weight. There are a few basic rules to follow. To lose weight you need to eat less and exercise more. To improve your memory you need to pay attention, think deeply about the information you want to remember, form associations between concepts stored in memory, use visual imagery, and practice, practice, practice. Sounds pretty simple. So why are we all still looking for a magical solution, a pill to take or a food to eat, that will immediately make us thin and beautiful with the mind of a memory champion?

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When it comes down to it, the main problem our memories and our waistlines face may be our own laziness. I don't doubt that there are foods that may contribute to memory improvements or a revved up metabolism, but I don't think a complex problem like memory loss or obesity has such a simple solution. Memory enhancers may prove to be beneficial for people with severe memory impairments, but like other psychoactive pills, they would work best in concert with behavioral changes. For those of us who only have mild memory frustrations or a few pounds to lose, we might be better off taking the time and energy to try to tackle the problem ourselves rather than waiting around to see what food or pill scientists will be touting next.

Unfortunately, this strategy really takes the fun out of my next blueberry muffin.

Nicole Dudukovic is a memory researcher and lecturer in the Program in Human Biology at Stanford University.

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