Tips for Boosting Your Memory: Running, Blueberries?
By KI MAE HEUSSNER
Jan. 22, 2010
Could you run your way to a better memory?
Earlier this week, scientists published a study adding more fuel to the
growing belief that exercise boosts brain health.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences and conducted by the U.S. National Institute on Aging in
Maryland, found that running led to the growth of new brain cells and
Henriette van Praag, a scientist the National Institute on Aging, said
that though scientists previously observed the effects of running on
brain health, it was never clear that there was a causal relationship.
With this study, she said they "got a little closer."
The scientists observed two groups of mice -- one group had access to a
running wheel, the other did not. At first, during a training run, the
mice were shown two boxes on a touch screen computer. If they touched
the left box, they were given a sugar pellet. If they touched the right
box, they were given nothing.
Then the mice were subject to a memory test involving the same squares.
The more they touched the correct box, the higher they scored.
As the trial continued, the boxes were moved closer together and van
Praag said that's when the effects of running were most visible.
"When we brought them close together, the effect of running kicked in
at that time," she said. "Animals that did best on the test also had
the greatest number of new neurons."
She said research has long shown that exercise is beneficial for brain
function and memory this study helps show why.
John Grohol, a clinical psychologist and founder of the online mental
health resource PsychCentral.com, said that exercise is one of the best
things you can do to keep your brain healthy.
"This study just adds to the evidence that physical activity can
enhance and keep our brains healthy," he said.
Improve Your Memory With Diet, Meditation?
So what are other potential memory boosters?
<span style="font-weight: bold;">Blueberries</span> This week,
scientists published research suggesting that antioxidant-rich
blueberries could improve memory in older adults.
The study, involving scientists from the University of Cincinnati, the
U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Canadian Department of
Agriculture, included volunteers in their 70s. One group drank the
equivalent of 2 to 2.5 cups of blueberry juice every day for two
months. The control group drank a blueberry-less juice.
The scientists said the group that drank blueberry juice demonstrated
improvement on memory and learning tests. "These preliminary memory
findings are encouraging and suggest that consistent supplementation
with blueberries may offer an approach to forestall or mitigate
neurodegeneration," the report said.
<span style="font-weight: bold;">Diet</span> A study in the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in January 2009 found a
definite link between caloric restriction and mental function.
But though experts say the phenomenon makes sense from a physiological
perspective, the number of participants in the program was small, which
makes it difficult to determine how the program would affect a wider
<span style="font-weight: bold;">Meditation</span> "People who
meditate, research has shown, have a better ability to cultivate
positive emotions," Grohol said. "In doing so, they help maintain their
own emotional stability which helps with overall well-being and brain
In May, Psychological Science published a study indicating that a
certain type of meditation may help the brain hold on to images for
<span style="font-weight: bold;">New Experiences</span> "The brain
seems to really benefit from novelty and new experiences," said Grohol.
But instead of paying money for so-called brain games that may or may
not be effective, Grohol suggests people can just do crossword puzzles
or play Sudoku games. Learning new languages and other similar pursuits
are also good for the brain.