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BHS 499-07
Memory and Amnesia
Memory Improvement
Memory Improvement
Improving normal memory
Improving memory in those with brain
• What works, what does not.
• Unlike previously thought, research in the
past 15 years shows that memory can be
Functioning can also be improved.
What Does Not Work
Hypnosis and new age approaches:
• Suggestive Accelerated Learning and
Teaching Techniques – SALTT
No evidence supporting value of physical
relaxation techniques, alternation of active
and passive review accompanied by music,
suggestions that learning will be fun, songs
and rhythms, cooperative learning, frequent
self-testing – exam scores 40% below normal.
What Works
Organizing the material to be learned.
• Establishing a link between the items to be
learned, so recall of one will cue the others.
Tree diagrams that capture a conceptual
framework – use table of contents of book.
PQ4R method – elaborative rehearsal
based on meaning (like PQRST).
• Preview for structure, then read for answers
to questions, repeatedly review.
Interactive imagery – bizarre is better.
First-letter mnemonics – Real Old Yokels
Guzzle Beer In Volume (spectrum).
Rhymes – a before e, except after c.
Reduction mnemonics – strings of letters
represent info in acronym or acrostic.
• STOMACH – symptoms of anxiety disorder.
More Mnemonics
Method of Loci – picture items in a
familiar location.
• Simonides remembered where guests were
sitting after the roof collapsed.
Peg-word system – items are linked to a
series of pre-learned pegs.
Face-name mnemonic – combines
imagery with parts of face.
More Mnemonics
Keyword method – link new vocabulary
in a foreign language to some familiar
• Herisson (hedgehog) = hairy son + hedgehog.
Yodai mnemonics – think of parts of a
binominal as wrestlers in a match:
• (a + b)(c + d) becomes ac + ad + bc + bd
Memory and Practice
Distributed practice is better than
massed practice.
• Massed practice shows some benefits if there
is a lengthy rest period afterward.
This doesn’t happen with “cramming”.
Lag effect -- spaced repetition helps but
not simple repetition.
• Encoding variability may be occurring, which
strengthens memory.
Effects of remediation are modest, but
very important to those with brain injury.
Ignorance about amnesia prevents use
of residual memory capacities.
• Because procedural memory is spared, a
person with amnesia can learn to program a
Support Memory With Devices
Label drawers and cupboards.
Put reminder signs up in visible places.
• Put things by the front door to be taken out.
Use a wall chart to show days of week
and upcoming events.
Use a diary and write notes.
Make locations distinctive – paint doors
different colors.
More Suggestions
Put a flow-chart on the wall with
instructions for searching for frequently
lost items (e.g., keys).
Stick to a regular routine and keep the
environment the same.
Keep a notepad by the telephone and
use speed-dial features.
Display photos labeled with names.
External Aids
External cuing devices must provide the
reminder as close as possible to the time
something is to be done.
It should specify what is to be done.
Timers with specific messages are ideal.
• Knotted handkerchiefs are useless.
Is Memory Like a Muscle?
Does repeated practice strengthen
memory abilities?
• No evidence of this – it improves a specific
task but it does not generalize.
Teaching patients to use mnemonics
produces better results.
• However, patients do not seem to use these
spontaneously in everyday life.
Other Approaches
Expanded spaced retrieval – gradually
expanding the time between spaced
rehearsals showed improvement.
Vanishing cues – start by presenting
prompts which gradually fade away.
• Initially seemed promising but tests show no
advantage over rote rehearsal.
Memory Groups
People find out they aren’t the only ones
having difficulty, gain support from
sharing their problems with others.
No direct benefit in improving memory.
Members share their tips for coping with
daily life, which is very useful.