We all have that one teacher that made us feel powerful. Mine was my seventh grade teacher Mrs. Hooper. To this day, I still don’t know why she took a special interest in me, but I will be forever grateful that she did. Not to get to personal, but I struggled with subjects like science and math. Knowing this, and who I was as a person, Mrs. Hooper pulled me aside and challenged me to a game of Mix and Match. You know, the card game where you pick a card and have to find it’s match. But there was a twist. Every card I picked up I had to explain to her what was on the card. During those games, I learned more about meiosis and mitosis and fractions then I ever did during the actual classes. Playing a game to help my memory on subjects that I struggled with dramatically improved my test scores and my confidence. So the question comes to mind: can playing games strengthen your memory? The answer is yes!
There’s no way around the fact that memory erodes as we get older. The hippocampus, the area of your brain responsible for building memory, loses 5 percent of its nerve cells with each passing decade. But there is good news to be shared: over the past few decades, scientific research has been conducted proving that adults’ brains are still able to form new, memory-building neural networks in a process known as neuroplasticity.
Your brain is basically an organic storage device. It’s believed to be able to retain up to 2.5 petabytes of information- that’s the equivalent to nearly three million hours of television. Imagine how hard your brain has to work to retrieve all the knowledge you attain. Again, fear not! With very little effort, anyone can boost their power of recollection. How? By playing games that challenge our minds to work harder.
One that note, here are three games that will strengthen your memory forever:
- Jigsaw Puzzles: These are a great tool that engages our short-term memory muscles. While playing with a jigsaw puzzle our brains are forced to sift through a series of colors and shapes in order to create the visual picture. The higher the piece count, the harder your brain has to work and the greater the reward. Getting the correct piece in the correct spot has been shown to produce dopamine, which helps increase our concentration.
- The Tray Game: If you’re a fan of the TV show Criminal Minds, you will know what this game is. A serial killer on the run teaches this game to his partner to help them remember what they see out of an apartment window. Kind of a creepy example but hey, I’m a fan of the show and I remembered it (haha)! Here’s how it works. Ask a friend to grab a serving tray and 5-7 random items from your junk drawer. Come on, everybody has a junk drawer. Have your friend place the items on the tray behind their back. Then at the count of three, look at the tray for five seconds. The goal is to remember the size shape and color of each item in only five seconds. This takes a lot of concentration, but over time your mind will become accustom to seeing the items and remembering what they were.
- BRAIN YOGA: Take your left hand, make a fist, and extend your thumb; do the same with your right, only extend your pinky. Now switch them so it’s left pinky and right thumb. Not so easy, huh? The coordination involved will strengthen neural connections, which will help both memory and other gray matter functions.
It takes time to strengthen your memory. These three games are just a few of many that you can play to improve your memory muscles. Mrs. Hooper’s personalized lesson plan for me was just the thing I needed to learn math and science. She made it into a game!
Brain Awareness Day At The Leonardo
On Saturday March 18th, we are celebrating International Brain Awareness Day at The Leonardo. I encourage you to bring your entire family to the museum and get up close and personal with REAL HUMAN BRAINS. I mean this is both a literal sense and a figurative sense. Our friends from the University of Utah will be at the museum all day giving lectures, playing games and letting the public touch actual human brains. Come see what a healthy brain looks like compared to a damaged brain. There are activities for people of all ages and what better way to learn about the most complex and mysterious organ in the body then coming face-to-face with one. I really hope to see you there!