Remind Me... What Memory Games?

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

My desk is full of post-its (nasty purple ones, but that's an issue I'll take up with our supply company). And not because I'm particularly organized... it's actually the opposite. I'd forget my name if weren't written on my NPR ID. Right now, there's a post-it on my keyboard that says, "General 9AM" to remind me to call Gen. Joseph Hoar this morning. Another note says something about NASA, one about Larry Craig's press conference last week (apparently I also never throw anything out), one that just says "Fri, 27th" that I have no idea what it means. There are more, but you get the idea. I babble all of this because we're talking about memory today, or the lack of it, and if there's any way to get it back. Nintendo, Mattel, online software companies, and I'm sure there are others all have games that claim to exercise your brain. And improve sharpness and memory in the process. I tend to be skeptical of just about any claim like this, but we found people who have tested these games to see if they work, and they'll tell us what they found today. Have you tried any of these games? Do they work?



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Toastmasters Speaking club will be helpful in a variety of ways to those interested in improving/maintaining memory functioning. In Toastmasters, people practice giving prepared speeches, extemporaneous speaking, etc. This international non-profit group is also a great way to meet some very nice people on a regular (usually weekly) basis.

Worldwide, there are several hundred thousand members of Toastmasters International. By going to the Toastmasters International website, you can find a club near you.

The charge for membership is about 30 dollars for 6 months, but there is no charge until you officially join and you are encouraged to try a variety of meetings and clubs before you join.

As a psychologist, I recommend this approach highly!

Sent by Caleb Burns, PhD | 2:54 PM | 9-3-2007

As a former program officer at the National Institute on Aging I was involved in or aware of the development of many of the cognitive intervention programs.

I believe the increasing number of commercially available programs is at least partially due to the convergence of: 1) cultural belief backed by scientific evidence that there is lifespan brain "plasticity" that allows new learning and skill acquisition on into old age; 2) a push within the scientific community toward translation of what has been learned in the science lab into treatment, information, or programs that can be used by the public; 3) a world-wide increase in the number of older people and the number who wish to maintain cognitive performance; 4) and the desire of the cognitive improvement program designers to capitalize financially on the products that can be developed. None of these motivations are necessarily negative ones. Science frequently needs a push to the point where research is made useful the general public.

I believe, and research supports the notion, that activity fostering social or cognitive engagement, while at the same time providing a sense of reward and accomplishment, is good for the soul and the brain. It is not just the activity itself that is important, but the sense of accomplishment and reward often leading to greater willingness to engage in the activities of life. This feeling of increased "self-efficacy" can occur even when the specific effects of training are minimal.

That said, there is no "freelunch." All the programs require investments of effort and time and maybe some lifestyle changes. None of these programs will be as effective under conditions of insufficient sleep, high stress, little exercise, and poor nutrition.

Jeffrey W. Elias, PhD. UC Davis School of Medicine; Editor Experimental Aging Research.

Sent by Jeffrey W. Elias | 4:01 PM | 9-3-2007

The show about memory was interesting. Recently I was diagnosed as possibly having thyroid problems. After doing some research I found a symptom of thyroid problems was short term memory loss. Strange but that was just one of the problems that were listed on a web site for an herbal thyroid treatment. Instead of going through the usual blood testing for thyroid disorders I purchased an initial bottle of herbal thyroid medicine to try. After just two weeks my thinking was sharper and my memory was getting clearer every day. Your show was missing the information about chemical causes for memory loss and the ways now available to restore memory function naturally.

Sent by Tom R. Di Eva | 11:06 PM | 9-3-2007

I have reviewed a lot of recent research on how to improve everyday memory ("Thank You Brain for All You Remember;" Memory games and intellectual stimulation in general help memory, along with healthy lifestyles, and good practices for rehearsal and association.

W. R. Klemm, Professor of Neuroscience, Texas A&M University

Sent by W. R. Klemm | 2:29 PM | 9-4-2007

"Can Exercises Help Us Hold On To Our Memories?" Yes."

I agree totally with what Jeffrey W. Elias, Ph. D. has to say on this blog about how important a sense of accomplishment is in playing these games and that this feeling can occur even when the effects of training are minimal.
--Rohn Kessler, Ed. D.

Sent by Rohn Kessler, Ed. D. | 12:06 PM | 9-7-2007

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