Wondering how to improve short-term memory after brain injury? You’ve come to the right place!
In today’s article, we’re showing you 9 unconventional techniques that will help you boost your short-term memory skills.
Let’s get started!
How to Improve Short-Term Memory After Brain Injury
Short-term memory loss is the most common memory problem after TBI. But what is it exactly?
Short-term memory refers to a person’s ability to remember things that happened within the last 30-40 seconds. While that doesn’t sound like very much time, short-term memory is the reason most people can:
- Understand sentences, both written and spoken.
- Recall small sequences of numbers, like telephone numbers.
- Remember what’s on their grocery list.
Basically, short-term memory allows you to learn new things and interact with the world.
Cognitive Tricks to Improve Short-Term Memory After Brain Injury
Now that we know what short-term memory is, it’s time to learn how to improve it.
Here are some unconventional ways to stimulate your brain and boost your short-term memory.
1. Use Association
One of the best ways to improve your short-term memory after brain injury is to use association.
In fact, that’s the way all of us learned things when we were young! If you ever took piano lessons, you can probably still remember the notes of the musical scale by remembering the phrase “Every Good Boy Does Fine.”
You might already know this as a mnemonic, and it works by using the first letter of a word to remind you of a different word.
So next time you want to remember something important, try linking it to something else, like a word that rhymes.
While that doesn’t sound like it would help, making odd connections like that is actually the natural way your brain remembers things.
2. Use Vivid Images
Not all association has to be mnemonic. Those aren’t always very helpful when you’re trying to remember things like appointments.
But according to researchers on memory, association can still help you if you connect a fact with something concrete and vivid.
For example, if you need to remember that your doctor’s appointment is at 4 P.M, here are some tricks you can use:
- Remember that the car you will drive to the doctor’s office has four wheels, which is what time you need to be there.
- Shorten doctor to the word “doc” which rhymes with dog, which has four legs, etc…
- Imagine your doctor is a dog running around on four legs.
These examples are silly, but that’s the point! The crazier the image, the easier it will be for your brain to remember it.
These kinds of associations can be hard to do at first, but as you practice, they will become second nature.
3. Space Your Repetition
Repetition is the secret to learning pretty much anything, but you can’t just repeat something a few times and expect to remember it.
Instead, you need to space out your repetition so you can reinforce what you want to remember right when you’re about to forget.
One way to do this is to create some flashcards with whatever information you’re trying to learn.
If you remember the info, wait ten minutes, and then quiz yourself. If you get it right again, wait 40 minutes, then 60 etc…
The point is to keep challenging yourself.
It’s kind of like regaining the ability to walk after brain injury. Repeating the movement reinforces neural pathways in the brain until the action is fully encoded.
This means the more you rehearse a memory, the easier it will be to recall.
4. Listen to Music
Music therapy has many cognitive benefits for brain injury patients, but perhaps the most powerful benefit is how listening to music boosts memory.
So, if you want to remember something important, try singing it to the tune of your favorite song! You’ll be surprised how much more you’ll be able to memorize.
5. Write it Down
Writing down things you want to remember is usually used as a compensatory practice. You look at what you wrote to make sure you don’t forget it.
But it turns out that the act of writing something on paper also forces your brain to focus more, which in turn improves memory.
That’s writing notes is more effective for learning than typing on a laptop!
Healthy Habits to Improve Short-Term Memory After Brain Injury
If you want to permanently improve short-term memory after brain injury, you should do more than use a few mental tricks.
You’ll also need to cultivate healthy habits that promote good memory.
Here are just a few lifestyle changes you can make to improve your short-term memory.
Most memory problems after brain injury are caused by an overstressed brain. If the brain gets too tired, it can’t devote any energy to paying attention, which means it won’t be able to store any memories.
That’s why rest is so important after a brain injury. Rest gives your brain the energy to retain information.
Studies have also shown that sleep is the time when your brain consolidates memories. That’s when short-term memories stick and become long-term memories, according to researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
So make sure you are getting a good night’s sleep. If you have trouble staying asleep at night, talk to your doctor about taking melatonin supplements.
7. Try Meditation
Meditation is a great way to reduce stress on your brain, which will help it hold on to more memories.
Research has also shown that mindfulness meditation practice improves executive function, working memory, and attention skills.
Since attention and concentration are key to memorization, this means meditation can improve your memory abilities.
Meditating is hard work at first, but after enough practice, you’ll find it much easier to pay attention for longer periods, and you’ll start seeing improvements in your memory.
We talk a lot about how important exercise is for brain injury patients here, but did you know that regular exercise can also improve your short-term memory skills?
It’s true! According to several studies, aerobic exercise actually stimulates the growth of new brain cells and improves memory and cognition.
That’s why it’s so important to stay active every day, if possible. Even if you can’t visit your physical therapist more than once or twice a week, you can still try some recreational therapy activities.
There are even some home therapy devices like the FitMi that help keep you moving every day, even if you have severe physical limitations.
9. Eat Memory-Boosting Foods
Finally, you need to make sure you give your brain the right fuel it needs to function. The better your brain’s health, the better your memory will be.
This means you’ll need to avoid eating foods high in trans fats and processed sugar, since these foods cause the liver to produce fats that are damaging to the brain. These include:
- Processed meats
- Sugary desserts like donuts and ice cream
- Fried food
Instead, try to consume foods high in antioxidants and omega-3, such as those found in a ketogenic diet or the MIND Diet.
The MIND diet comprises ten brain-boosting foods, including:
- Green, leafy vegetables
- Whole grain
- Olive oil
Eating more of these foods for brain injury has been linked to better overall brain function, including memory.
Improving Short-Term Memory After Brain Injury is Possible
How the brain stores memory is a fascinating process. Hopefully, these tricks have shown you how to make the most of this process.
You might also want to try some cognitive training apps to help boost your memory. These can give you the practice you need to get back your short-term memory skills.
As with everything related to brain injury, the key to improving your memory is to rewire your brain through repetition.
The more you practice the exercises in this article, the better your brain will get at retaining memories.
We wish you luck with the rest of your TBI recovery.