No products in the cart.

No products in the cart.

How to Improve Short-Term Memory After Brain Injury

caregiver helping brain injury survivor practice short term memory exercises on tablet

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 can help you boost your short-term memory skills. You’ll also learn some healthy habits to cultivate to improve your memory in general.

Let’s get started.

Understanding Short-Term Memory After Brain Injury

One of the most common memory problem after TBI is short-term memory loss. But what is it exactly?

Long-term memory is the type of memory that allows you to store information for an extended period. Short-term memory, on the other hand, refers to a person’s ability to hold information for about 30 seconds.

While 30 seconds might not sound like 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

Essentially, short-term memory allows you to learn new things and interact with the world. This can explain why behavior changes after TBI are quite common.

For example, TBI patients with short-term memory loss might forget important details of a conversation, lose track of time and feel unsure of what day it is, or be unable to retrace a route they took earlier that day.

A person with severe short-term memory problems also could not follow a conversation, because they would forget what the person speaking to them just said.

Causes of Short-Term Memory Loss After Brain Injury

Several brain regions help process and encode memories, and damage to any of these areas can cause short-term memory loss. Some of the main areas of the brain involved in memory include the:

Even if a brain injury does not directly damage these areas, research has shown that prolonged levels of stress can shrink the hippocampus. This helps explain why even individuals with mild TBIs or concussions can experience memory loss.

It’s also important to note that short-term memory loss is different from confabulation, a condition where a person creates false or inaccurate memories without the intent to deceive. If you’re concerned about the possibility of confabulation in a loved one that suffered a brain injury, talk to their doctor for a diagnosis.

Cognitive Tricks to Improve Short-Term Memory After Brain Injury

Now that you understand what short-term memory is and how brain injury can affect it, it’s time to learn how to improve your memory.

The following are some unconventional ways to stimulate your brain and boost your short-term memory after TBI:

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 most people learn things. For example, 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.

Therefore, next time you want to remember something important, try linking it to something else, like a word that rhymes.

While that may sound too simple, making odd connections like that is actually the natural way your brain remembers things.

2. Use Vivid Images

brain injury patient sitting in a chair surrounded by colorful paint to symbolize vivid imagery

Not all association has to be mnemonic. Those aren’t always very helpful when you want to remember things like appointments.

But according to research 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 dog is driving your car, which has four wheels.

These examples are absurd, 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 almost anything. However, you can’t simply repeat something a few times and expect to remember it.

Instead, you must 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.

This is similar to 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

tbi patient wearing headphones and listening to music to improve short-term memory after tbi

Music therapy has many cognitive benefits for brain injury patients, but perhaps the most powerful benefit is how listening to music boosts memory.

Not only does music help brain injury patients recover old memories, it even helps people retain new information.

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 why writing notes is more effective for learning than typing on a laptop.

Healthy Habits to Improve Memory After Brain Injury

If you want to permanently improve short-term memory after brain injury, you must 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.

6. Rest

woman sleeping in bed with eye mask on for deep rest

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. In other words, during sleep, short-term memories stick and become long-term memories, according to researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Therefore, make sure you get enough rest throughout the day. If you have trouble staying asleep at night, talk to your doctor about taking melatonin supplements.

7. Try Meditation

Meditation can reduce stress on your brain, which will help it hold on to more memories.

In fact, research shows 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.

8. Exercise

woman walking through the park during autumn

Regular, non-strenuous exercise is one of the best activities you can do to improve short-term memory after brain injury.

According to several studies, aerobic exercise actually stimulates the growth of new brain cells and improves memory and cognition. It also increases cerebral blood flow, which brings more oxygen to the brain structures in charge of memory.

Want 25 pages of TBI recovery exercises in PDF form? Click here to download our free TBI Rehab Exercise ebook now (link opens a pop up for uninterrupted reading)

That’s why it’s so important to stay active every day, if possible. If you can’t visit your physical therapist more than once or twice a week, you can still take part in recreational therapy activities.

There are even home therapy devices such as FitMi that help keep you moving every day, even if you have severe physical limitations.

9. Eat Memory-Boosting Foods

Finally, to improve short-term memory, you must give your brain the fuel it needs to function. This means improving your brain injury recovery diet.

Start by focusing on what not to eat. Specifically, try 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.

Instead, try to consume foods that are known to help with TBI recovery. Specifically, focus on consuming foods high in antioxidants and omega-3s. These foods have been linked to better overall brain function, including memory.

Improving 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 restore your memory.

With enough practice and with healthy living habits, you should begin to see an improvement in your short-term memory. Good luck!

Keep it going: Do you know these 15 essential TBI recovery tips?

If you like our content, you’ll love our ebook and newsletters! Get instant access to our TBI recovery tips ebook with 20 pages of helpful advice by signing up below.

You’ll also receive our emails that share survivor stories and more useful TBI recovery tips, which you can opt out of at any time. (We know you’ll love them, too.)

We will never sell your email address, and we never spam. That we promise.

More Ways to Recover with Flint Rehab:

Download Free TBI Recovery Tips!

15 Things Every TBI Survivor Must Know

Discover Award-Winning Neurorehab Tools

You're on a Roll: Read More Popular Articles on TBI Recovery

Do you want to sharpen your cognitive skills after a TBI?

Time with a speech therapist is extremely valuable during recovery, especially if you struggle with communication, critical thinking, or memory after brain injury. Insurance typically covers speech therapy for a fixed amount of time. But once it’s over, recovery is in your hands.

That’s why a team of neuroscientists and clinicians from Boston University created the CT Speech & Cognitive Therapy app. Designed for those recovering from stroke, TBI, or living with neurological conditions, the app contains over 100,000 cognitive exercises that are all available right from your phone or tablet. That’s like having a speech therapist by your side whenever you want!

This app is the perfect fit if you want to improve your speaking, memory, or general mental sharpness. And, it’s affordable at just $29.99/month!

Click here to learn more about the CT app

See what Miriam said about the CT Speech & Cognitive Therapy app:

“For the past 6 months, my son has used the app about three times a week. The app is like a virtual therapist, it’s very easy to use, and it gives him immediate feedback.

He now understands things faster, can make decisions with less hesitation, has improved recognition of words, and his confidence is higher. I also find it easy to get in touch with customer service; they pleasantly help out. The whole experience has been great.”

— Miriam

It’s like having a virtual speech therapist available anytime you want

With the CT App, you can get the guidance you need right from your phone or tablet. You can use it on your own or in between sessions with your speech therapist.

Whether you struggle with aphasia, memory loss, or critical thinking, the CT Speech & Cognitive Therapy App can help.

“The CT app has helped me gather my confidence by building on and reinforcing old forgotten skills. It helps to see my percentages increase, and work harder when they decrease. It’s very self-motivating.” -Kathryn

We are confident that this app will help improve your speech and cognitive function after brain injury. Like our recovery tools, the CT App is also covered by our 30-day money-back guarantee.

15 Things Every TBI Survivor Must Know

Do you know these 15 TBI recovery tips?

Get a free copy of our ebook 15 Things Every TBI Survivor Must Know. Click here to get instant access.