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A Neuro-developmental Way to Look at Memory
Memory appears to be always changing. As children grow older, memory normally improves with age. After a certain point in life, memory starts to get worse, especially short term memory. There are numerous ways to improve particular skills in memory (e.g., nutrition, mnemonics). Memory is also very susceptible to neuro-development. Memory is easy to measure and improvements can be observed overtime. In addition, there exists many resources to improve memory (e.g., books, computer games, board games, Internet).
Some aspects of memory may be hard to understand. Scientists still do not know everything there is to know about memory or where memory is stored in the brain. Certain toxins can effect memory temporarily and sometimes permanently. How these toxins affect memory is often unknown. Certain lesions in the brain will cause memory problems while other lesions do not. The focus of this article will be on memory enhancement through neuro-development. Other areas of this website discuss memory enhancement through nutrition.
For the purposes of this article, memory can be broken down into several types. Generally speaking, each type will have its own set of neuro-developmental exercises for enhancement. These subtypes are listed but not limited to as follows: auditory memory, visual memory, kinesthetic memory, long term memory, short term memory, sequential memory, spatial memory, and working memory. Math abilities require good long term memory (e.g., being able to memorize the multiplication tables), working memory (e.g., being able to hold and manipulate information in your head) and sequential memory for long division and algebra (the ability to remember the correct order of steps or sequences).
Math is not the only subject in school dependent upon memory. Among other skills, good reading ability requires good visual memory, short term memory, working memory and long term memory. Some reading problems occur when children are putting so much energy into decoding the words that they do not take time to remember what they are reading. Some individuals will have reading comprehension problems and will have to read something two or three times in order to remember what was read. There is an easy neuro-developmental exercise presented below to help these children.
Some people suggest that keeping memory abilities at a high level throughout life prevents the brain from degenerating. As a person gets older, the brain starts to shrink or degenerate. Neuro-developmental exercises for memory can enhance anyone's life by keeping active certain brain functioning. The worse thing for brain degeneration is not to use the brain in problem solving skills and memory skills. This often happens to adults who spend their time passively watching television. To retain good brain functioning throughout your life, we recommend being active in problems solving, using memory, and attempting to regain mental skills that are lost with the normal aging process.
As an adult ages, memory tends to decrease unless it is actively developed or maintain. There are other ways that an adult loses memory besides growing old. There are many medications that have as a side effect memory loss. Here is a list of 10 classes of medications that have been known to cause memory loss in some of the people who take them: anti-anxiety drugs known as benzodiazepine (e.g., Xanax, Valium, Ativan, Klonopin), Stantin drugs that lower cholesterol (e.g., Lipitor, Lescol, Pravachol, Zocor, Crestor), antiseizure drugs or mood stabilizers (e.g., Tegretol, Neurontin, Lamictal, Topamax, Depakote), tricyclic antidepressant medications (e.g., Elavil, Anafranil, Tofranil, Pamelor), narcotic painkillers (e.g., Percocet, OxyContin, Vicodin, Dilaudid, Avinza), Parkinson's drugs (e.g., Apokyn, Mirapex, Requip), hypertension medications or Beta-blockers (e.g., Inderal, Timoptic, Tenormin, Coreg), sleep medications or nonbenzodiazepine sedative-hypotics (e.g., Ambien, Lunesta, Sonata), incontinence drugs (e.g., Oxytrol, Enablex, Myrbetrig, Vesicare, Detrol, Sanctura) and antihistamines (e.g., Dimetane, Clistin, Chlor-Trimeton, Travist, Benadryl, Vistaril). If you feel your memory loss is due to one or more of these medications, investigate alternatives for those medications (e.g., under a physician's guidance using Niacin in place of a Stantin medication) or find ways to adjust to the loss of memory (e.g., keep a list of things to do and write down things that need to be remembered).
Children with developmental problems and/or learning disorders will often need to increase their memory. Some children may have well developed memory abilities in some areas (e.g., spatial memory) but not in other areas (e.g., sequential memory). Individuals with brain injury can often benefit from neuro-development of memory abilities. This article will explain the different types of memory, how to assess the type of memory and some ways to enhance the type of memory if needed.
Auditory memory is the ability to remember what you hear. As mentioned in the section on developing attention many children with an Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder have significant difficulty remembering what they hear. Some feel that it is because they do not attend well enough to here the information, others suspect is that they can attend to the information but can not remember what they hear. It is common for parents to complain about their ADHD children saying that they will give them an instruction and they will do something else and not even remember what was said to them. It is also a common observation that ADHD children score significantly higher on visual memory tests than they do on auditory memory tests. Other children and adults may be able to attend and focus well, but lack the ability to remember what is said to them. Auditory memory addresses the individual's abilility to remember what they hear.
A commercial program that works on auditory processing problems is Earobics. They have a couple exercises that focus on auditory memory. We have developed a couple of exercises to address auditory memory as well. One is called the Auditory Memory Game and the other is called the Command Game . The auditory memory games helps children be able to repeat back what they have heard. Mastery is achieved when the child can tell word for word a whole complex paragraph of what was read to them. The command game helps children remember instructions given to them. Mastery is achieved when a child can complete by memory 12 simple tasks and then 4 complex tasks.
Visual memory is the ability to remember what you see. Humans can see objects in thee dimensions and two dimensions. Two dimensional objects can be symbols, figures and words. Much of the visual information presented at school is two dimensional. Some may have a great visual memory for figures but a poor visual memory for words. In school, it is important to have a good visual memory for words.
Scientific tests have been developed to measure visual memory (as well as auditory memory). Not all psychologists or school personnel are familiar with specific tests for visual memory. If you want professional testing for memory, you may need to request the specific types of memory you would like tested. It may take some searching to find a professional that tests for that particular type of memory.
A parent can use an unscientific method to determine a strength or weakness in memory by having a child view a group of figures and/or words and see how well the child can recall them. The parent can have other children of the same age who do well in school look at the group of words, symbols or figures and see how many they can recall. If the child does significantly worse (e.g., 25% less) than the other children, it could mean that the child has a weakness in visual memory. Assuming that the child's eye sight is intact or well developed, the parent may wish to do some remediation in visual memory. If problems with eye sight are suspected, then it may be important to have the child assessed and treated for developmental vision problems and then retest the child on visual memory.
There are many professionally developed systems for improving visual memory. Some of our favorites include Structure of Intellect (SOI), Lumosity and Audioblox. Audioblox is a memory system that uses colored squares for children to remember what they see. It is a great remediation program that specializes in visual memory and spatial memory. It has many remediation exercises to help children with deficits in reading and math.
The Kim Game and Paragraph Reading Exercise are two examples of low cost remedial exercises that offer treatment or remediation for deficits in visual memory. Please follow the links to these exercises to learn how to do them. Improvements in visual memory should be seen within 30 days. If improvement is observed, we recommend to continue doing the exercises until mastery is achieved.
Another type of memory that is not used very much in an academic setting, but some may have problems with it, is remembering what they feel. This is called kinesthetic memory. It is much different than the use of fine motor skills (good fine motor skills is needed to be able to hold a pencil correctly and write well). Kinesthetic memory is remembering how things feel and learning a sequence of motor movements and how they feel (e.g., learning to ball room dance, playing tennis, aiming and firing a weapon). In the military, it is often referred to muscle memory. Muscle memory for firing a weapon is developed by practice over and over again, so that the soldier does not have to consciously think of the procedures and it becomes "automatic". It becomes "automatic" through the process we call neuro-development. The desired sequences of motor movements are practiced over and over again correctly so that they become automatic when a command is given or required in a specific situation that may be stressful.
Many children never learn how to hold a pencil correctly. Children will often learn a wrong pencil grip because they lacked fine motor skills when they were first taught to hold a pencil. The inappropriate pencil grip was used to compensate for their underdeveloped fine motor skills. In time their fine motor skills developed but they already had muscle memory for their inappropriate pencil grip. What is needed to correct the problem (and many would argue that it is a problem) is to use neuro-developmental techniques to develop kinesthetic memory for the correct way to write with the correct pencil grip. Many teachers, parents and students do not take the time and repeated practices to learn the new pencil grip and the new way to write to the point that it becomes muscle memory. They usually give up before muscle memory is achieved.
To develop kinesthetic memory, one has to insure that the motor skills necessary to do the task have all been developed. If not, the first step would be to develop the motor skills. Your child may benefit from occupational therapy or from physical rehabilitation services to develop fine motor skills. Once fine motor skills are developed, the next step is to learn correct pencil grip. The following two links teach the correct way to hold a pencil: 1. Handwriting without tears and 2. a handout from Handwriting without tears. Once the correct grip has been learned, the final step would be to perform correct pencil grip over and over again until it becomes automatic (i.e., kinesthetic memory has been developed). This may be hard for older children that have a habit of having a bad pencil grip. It could take them over 200 trials to unlearn the muscle memory of the bad pencil grip and trade it in for a new muscle memory skill set. Be patient. Lots of rewards for small gains may help the child learn faster. A neuro-developmental method to improve hand writing will be presented in the written language section. Kinesthetic memory is also important in learning the correct way to hold a musical instrument.
Long Term Memory
Long Term Memory is the ability to remember facts and information over a long period of time. Examples of long term memory include being able to tell other people your birthdate, phone number, and home address. Humans vary widely in their long term memory abilities. For some people phone numbers are not part of their long term memory. Some people with excellent long term memory can remember all the phone numbers they have ever had. Knowing the multiplication tables should be part of long term memory in every child from 4th grade on up. The multiplication tables are part of math facts that children need to know to be proficient at mathematics. If it is not, then nuero-developmental techniques should be used.
A simple way to determine if a child has good long term memory is to simply ask them what is 7 times 8? If they are unable to tell you without using their fingers, then they may be lacking in long term memory for the multiplication tables. They should not need to use their fingers in coming up with the answer if they have good long term memory. Other hard to remember math facts include 7 times 6 and 4 times 7. An easy math fact for most children to remember is 5 times 5. If children have the multiplication table memorized, chances are that they have adequate long term memory to succeed in school. If the child is struggling, look for other areas of weakness besides long term memory.
A good long term memory is a good thing to have. Similar to long term memory is rote memory, the ability to memorize things by repeating them over and over again. Rote memory is also a good thing to have. It is helpful for college and some high school classes. Children who memorize things when they are young using rote memory (e.g., memorizing the pledge of allegiance, memorizing poems, memorizing scriptures) will help them later in life memorizing things for school. Memorizing a poem or scripture per month from the ages of 6 to 12 will help them learn things later on in life. The more they memorize, the easier it will be to memorize things in the future. It is a neuro-developmental phenomenon. This ability to memorize things well will be helpful to them as they go to college.
There are mnemonic methods that help people memorize things faster and to store them in long term memory. The saying "Every Good Boy Does Fine" is a mnemonic device to help music students learn the names of notes in the spaces of a staff of music. Another mnemonic technique is the association method. These are great ways to memorize lists of things that appear unrelated (e.g., a list of grocery items, or objects in a Kim Game). It is a different neurological process than trying to memorize something with rote memory and is often much faster than using rote memory. However, we feel it is important for children to be able to develop their rote memory and not have to rely on mnemonic methods. That is why we recommend children memorize short pieces of important information (e.g., poems, scriptures). After a piece of written language has been memorized, it is good to relearn it periodically so that it will remain in long term memory. It usually does not take as long to relearn a piece of written language as it did the first time.
The Multiplication Table Exercise was developed to help children learn the multiplication table and at the same time develop long term memory. It usually takes about 2 to 4 weeks before the multiplication table is firmly stored in long term memory using this exercise.
Short Term Memory
We use short term memory when we have to dial a phone number. We remember the number in our head just long enough to make the call. When the task is complete, we forget about the number. If we call the number many times, we have a natural tendency to store that number in long term memory. If it is in long term memory, then we are able to dial the number without having to look it up and put it in short term memory. It could be argued that auditory memory and visual memory are subsections of short term memory. The information learned in the remedial exercises of visual and auditory memory are not to be remembered for an extended length of time.
Short term memory is also influenced by personality. On the Meyers Briggs Personality Type Inventory, individuals who score high on S (Sensing) will usually have a better short term memory than someone who scores high on I (Intuitive). People who score high on S usually pay attention to details and facts while someone who scores high on I is usually looking at the big picture and sometimes misses the facts and details of their environment. Their short term memory may not be as good as someone who scores as an S on the Meyers Personality Type Inventory.
There are many games designed to improve short term memory. One Internet company called Happy Neuron offers memory games, games to improve attention skills, language, problem solving and spatial skills. AARP offers some of their brain games for free on their web site. Other websites that have several memory exercises and other neuro-developmental exercises include: Postitscience and Lumocity. There are even apps designed to improve short term memory. The apps can be figural, symbolic or semantic in nature. The exercise listed above in the sections of visual and auditory memory will also develop short term memory.
Sequential memory is the ability to remember sequences or steps. When students know their math tables well but struggle with long division and algebra, the deficiency is usually sequential memory. They just cannot remember the order of steps to solve the math problem. They get confused and ultimately are unable to finish such a problem. Many intelligent students are unable to get a high school diploma because of their inability to do algebra because of a weakness in sequential memory.
The solution for these students is to obtain sequential memory and then learn how to do algebra. Most of these students are taught and re-taught algebra over and over again without an ability to learn it because of poor sequential memory. Our approach is to stop the algebra instruction, work on sequential memory until mastery and then re-teach algebra. Most of them will be able to pass a state algebra test and be able to graduate with remediation of sequential memory.
Audioblox, is a comprehensive memory learning program that has instructions for improving sequential memory. Audiblox is a package that contains plastic squares to use in their exercises and complete instructions on how to improve sequential memory as well as overcome other weakness and deficiencies related to learning. If you can afford it, we recommend purchasing a set of audiblox for working on many forms of memory. Audiblox does much more than remediate memory problems. It talks about exercises to remediate common problems with reading and math.
Remediation for sequential memory is relatively simple with the Sequential Memory Exercise, especially if the other memories have been developed. We recommend insuring that the other memories have been developed before working on sequential memory. For children who make A's and B's in regular math but fail algebra, it is generally an indication that their other memories have been adequately developed. The Sequential Memory Exercise should be helpful. Otherwise, it will be necessary to work on the other types of memory first and once they are developed, focus on sequential memory.
The Sequential Memory Exercise is not to be used with children in grades 1-4. It is designed to be used with children who are struggling to learn algebra or long division. Hopefully most children learn algebra in middle school and that is a great time to master sequential memory. This exercise can also be used with adults.
Spatial Memory is the ability to remember things in their relationship to other items in space. It is a good thing to have when figuring out geometry. It is also related to being able to locate things in a large store or knowing where you are in a store. It is also helpful when driving around town in a car.
Structure of Intellect (SOI) and Audioblox are good commercial remedicaiton programs that include remediation for spatial memory deficits as well as other deficits related to spatial skills. Most people experience improving spatial memory as fun and challenging. An example of a remedial exercise is The Spatial Memory Exercise. The exercise will assist in the development of spatial memory abilities.
The ability to hold something in your head and manipulate it in some way, is working memory. It is helpful for math. Psychologists and anyone else can screen for gross deficits in working memory by a little mental status screen called serial 7s. The participant start with 100 and takes away 7 and gives the answer. Whatever the answer is take 7 away from that. This procedure is done 5 times observing if the participant tells the correct answer 5 times and how they arrived at their answer (e.g., did they use their fingers, were they fast, slow). Some children have significant problems with the serial 7s. An alternative to the serial 7's is to spell WORLD backwards. Children in second grade or lower may not be able to participate in these two exercises unless they know how to spell WORLD forward. Individuals 8 or older should be able to do these two exercises. If they can not, it could indicate a need to improve working memory.
Rx Learning has some great remedial interventions to improve processing speed and working memory. Their program is designed to remediate reading problems and improve attention and concentration. It is a great program and they generally get good results.
Working memory can be very straight forward in remediation. You can have a person start with any number and do the serial 7s. Do a serial 7's on a daily basis. With time, the participant should get better and better. Mastery is achieve when they can do a serial 7's (five trials) within 30 seconds without the use of fingers or writing anything down. Repeatedly spelling words backwards could be another remedial exercise if it was done daily and as the participants abilities improved, the coach would give increasingly difficult or longer words. Another working memory exercise would be to do math problems inside one's head. A young child could do addition or subtraction without the use of their fingers or writing things down. After 1 colomn of numbers is mastered, the participant could go to two column numbers and then 3 column numbers. Mastery would be to be able to do math problems in one's head that are assigned in class to do on paper. For adults mastery of working memory for math problems would be long division up to 3 decimal places (e.g., 129 divided by 24 = 5.375) and to do it quickly wihtout the use of any aides. Having a great working memory can be viewed as fun and challenging. It will help keep the brain sharp and healthy.
In Summary, there are many aspects or subtypes to memory. A person can be strong in one area of memory and weak in another. Some individuals have strengths in all areas of memory and some are weak in all areas of memory. A good memory adds to the quality of one's life. It is believed by some that keeping a gook memory will prevent or slow down dementia, Alzheimer's Disorder and maybe even Parkinson's Disorder. There are numerous resources and exercises that can be used to improve memory. A good memory is a valuable asset in education. Many individuals should improve their memory skills. This is especially true for aging adults. Because a good memory adds to the quality of a person's life, it is worth the time and effort to develop good memory. We feel neuro-development is a useful tool to increase memory skills. It is hoped that this article will encourage people to assess their memory and try various exercises to improve their memory. It is hoped that people will be able to keep their memory thoughout their life through the application of neuro-development.
For more information on neuro-development, please follow the links below:
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