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Science and Your Memory: August 28, 2011

When it comes to unlocking your brainpower, studies focus on three different aspects of mind.

“One is related to processing speed; how fast you can do things, another related to reasoning skills, which are the skills you need to do a jigsaw puzzle or the Suduko game, and then memory skills which are training yourself to be better focused,” says Dr. Michael Raab, a geriatrician with the Memory Clinic at Lee Memorial Health System.

Dr. Raab specializes in memory and the aging brain. He believes we can train our brain to save more information.

“The brain stores about seven pieces of information at a time, but you can link those together and make the seven into 30 or 40 by creating associations.”

Another brain booster relates to reasoning skills. Research shows even small things like reading and puzzles can have a big impact.

Take 84-year old Darrell Holland who works crosswords in his spare time.

“I give the puzzle to my wife to work and sometimes she can’t finish it and she gives it to me and sometimes I can’t finish it either but if we get together it seems to work.”

It’s never too late to start either, picking up puzzles in your 70s or 80s may lower your chance of memory loss by one-third. Researchers also suggest tweaking your brain by switching hands to do everyday tasks like teeth brushing. Maybe the best brain builder of all: exercise.

“Exercising your body and increasing the number of new nerve cells in your brain, now you have something to work with,” says Dr. Raab.

“I think the more active you are, the body the mind, will follow as well too,” says Darrell.

The key is giving the brain a workout to keep it in top form.