Why can’t you suddenly remember your PIN or where you put your keys?
Can you sleep and eat yourself to a better memory?
Here are some answers from a couple of brain researchers.
- What role does memory play?
Memory is wrapped up in pretty much everything we do, and there are several different types of memory, each of which plays its role in our behaviour and thinking, e.g. the place memory that gives us the ability to remember where certain things are and the emotional memory that reminds us of what is good and bad and provides goals and direction in life.
Our memories are thus not only the prerequisite for us to remember the past, but also for us to be able to handle the present and prepare for the future.
- Why do we remember certain things better than other things?
We best remember what means something to us, as well as experiences that have either led to success or failure, or that have evoked an emotional reaction in us.
Are you, e.g. interested in football and know a lot about it, then you are better at remembering new information that has to do with football. While it may be harder to learn something new about electromechanics if one has never dealt with it before.
- Why do you suddenly forget the PIN code you have had for seven years?
We most easily forget everything that we find boring or indifferent. PIN codes are something we typically forget, and the reason is that four random numbers have no clear connection with our other knowledge. Therefore, there is no easy way to find them from memory if you have forgotten them. If it is a code that you have used for a long time, you will be able to remember the movements you make when you enter the code, and thus you may have a chance.
- Are there limits to how much we can remember?
Both yes and no. The physical limit of how much we can store in the brain is so astronomical that it has no significance in practice. The problem is that what we want to be able to remember must first be learned. In other words, it is learning that sets the real limit on our memory. Therefore, it is up to us to learn to remember better.
- What can make memory worse?
There are many different stimuli that have a negative effect on memory.
Alcohol is one of them. One of the reasons is that the areas of the brain that are primarily responsible for our learning are vulnerable to outside influences. They are therefore affected early when the brain is adversely affected. To the extent that memory is affected by age, it is rather a matter of changing the way we learn new and remember old.
- Why do you become more forgetful?
Stress, busyness and too little sleep can affect how well you remember. The brain needs to digest what it learns or experiences if you want to be able to remember it in the future.
- What can we do to train our memory? The short answer is: to use it! Typically, you only get better at what you actively train, and the brain benefits from being kept going. The more we read, learn new things, and use the knowledge we have gathered, the better we will undoubtedly beat remembering.
There are three basic principles for how we best learn:
1: Learning as an active process. We are far better at remembering what we have figured out by ourselves rather than what we have been told by others.
2: We are not good at learning just anything. Some information is easier to remember than other, and it also depends on what we already know.
3: Effective learning is not only about learning a lot but also about learning the right thing. A successful learning process must store the right and forget the wrong.
- Is there food that strengthens the memory?
In general, the answer must be a healthy diet. Fish oils are often highlighted as good for the brain. However, critical voices have questioned whether fish oil is the “miracle cure” for the brain, as it is sometimes called.
- What role does exercise play in our memory?
Exercise has a great effect on memory. One of the explanations is that in connection with exercise, a special substance called BDNF is released, which is beneficial for the nerve cells in the brain that are involved in the learning and storage of our memory traces. It takes relatively little before you can see an effect. Even just 20 minutes of moderately intense exercise a day has been shown to make a difference in how well one remembers everyday things.
- Can one sleep for a better memory?
A good memory is one of the few things in life you can get to sleep on. Sleep is crucial in how efficiently the brain stores what we have learned. While we sleep, the brain defragments and gathers the new knowledge together to make it easier to evoke every memory in the future. Even a short nap of 1-2 hours can do wonders for the memory.