Just as physical exercise and green coffee extract keeps us fit and mobile as we age, so a mental workout can hold off senility and dementia. Mental inactivity prompts us to shed brain cells like shriveled leaves, but memory games, crosswords or flapping our arms at bingo can keep our minds evergreen. Even the tortuous task of untangling that metaphor may have delayed the onset of senility.
According to studies conducted by Dr Florence Shadlen, from the University of Washington, “Puzzles, board games and activities like dancing seem to be protective against dementia.” She’s clearly never heard of Richard Whiteley.
“Treat the brain as a muscle – it needs exercise to stay toned,” agrees Mensa chairman Sylvia Herbert. But don’t wait until you qualify for a bus pass to fight future marble misplacement: get back to school now.
Researchers at the University of Columbia found that people who had received eight years of education or less were twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s as those with eight or more. Similarly, subjects who had been employed in menial jobs were more likely to develop the disease than those who’d worked in more mentally challenging positions.
Master your memory Over to memory champion Tony Buzan, inventor of Mind Maps, president of the Brain Foundation and author of Master Your Memory (BBC, £7.99). “There are 12 techniques to assist memory,” says Buzan: Synaethesia: To increase your memory, you have to become more aware of your hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch. All great mnemonists (memory masters) develop extra sensitivity in each of their senses and blend them for enhanced recall. Movement: With any image, movement adds a giant range of possibilities to ‘link in’ and thus remember. As you remember, make your images three-dimensional, and so more vivid.
Association: Whatever you’re memorizing, associate or link it to something stable in your mental environment. Try linking to your friends and family as these are consistent.
Sexuality: We all have virtually perfect memory in this area. We are more likely to remember images through this as it incorporates all the senses. Humor: The more ridiculous, absurd and funny you make an image, the more memorable it is.
Imagination: Knowledge is limited, imagination embraces the entire world and stimulates progress. The more you apply imagination to memory, the better yours will be.
Sequence: If you combine sequence with other principles, it allows a much more immediate reference and increases the brain’s possibilities for random access.
Positive images: Better for memory, as the brain wants to recall them, while E it may block negative images.
Exaggeration: In all of your images, exaggerate size, shape, colour and sound, as it will make the image more memorable.