How your brain’s executive function works — and how to improve it | Sabine Doebel

What are the best methods for drastically improving your memory at any age?

The best strategies for improving long-term memory vary depending on the individual

and the context of their life. However, some general tips that may be helpful for

improving long-term memory include:

1. Establish good sleep habits

Good sleep habits are key for improving both short-term and long-term memory.

Sleep deprivation has been shown to have a negative impact on both short-term

and long-term memory, as well as other cognitive functions. Furthermore, getting

enough sleep can help to decrease stress levels, which can also have a positive

impact on memory.

2. Practice cognitive stimulation

Cognitive stimulation is important for both short-term and long-term memory

because it helps to increase activity in the hippocampal region of the brain. This

region is important for memory and for the formation of new memories.

3. Eat healthy foods

Eating healthy foods can help to improve both short-term and long-term memory

because they contain nutrients and antioxidants that can help to improve

cognitive function. Additionally, eating healthy foods can help to reduce the risk of

developing chronic diseases, which can also have a positive impact on memory.

Watch this short video of Ron White, a leading memory expert, recommending 10

best brain foods to improve memory.

4. Reduce stress levels

Too much stress can have a negative impact on both short-term and long-term

memory. In addition, chronic stress can lead to a decrease in the production of

brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is important for the formation of

new memories. What are the benefits of maintaining good memoryThere are numerous benefits that come with maintaining a good memory. Here are a few more:
5. Enhanced productivity: The ability to recall important information and details quickly and easily can lead to increased productivity. This is especially true in the workplace where employees with good memory are able to complete tasks faster and more efficiently.
6. Improved learning: Memory is closely linked to the ability to learn and absorb new information. Having a good memory can help individuals remember key facts and concepts, making it easier to understand and retain new information.
7. Better problem-solving skills: When faced with a problem, individuals with a good memory can draw upon their past experiences and knowledge to find solutions. This is because they are better able to remember how they solved similar problems in the past and can apply those same techniques to the current situation.
8. Increased confidence: Having a good memory can lead to increased confidence, both in the workplace and in social situations. This is because individuals with good memory are able to recall important details and facts quickly, which can help them feel more prepared and knowledgeable.
9. Reduced stress: Forgetting important details and information can be stressful, especially in high-pressure situations. Maintaining good memory can help reduce this stress by ensuring that individuals are better prepared and able to handle challenging situations.
Overall, maintaining good memory can have a significant impact on both personal and professional success. It can lead to increased productivity, better learning, improved problem-solving skills, increased confidence, and reduced stress.?

Executive Function and the Challenges of Learning to Drive: Insights from a Cognitive Scientist

Transcriber: Leslie Gauthier Reviewer: Joanna Pietrulewicz So I have a confession to make. I only recently learned how to drive. And it was really hard. Now, this wasn’t an older brain thing. Do you remember what it was like when you first learned how to drive? When every decision you made was so conscious and deliberate? I’d come home from my lessons completely wiped out mentally. Now, as a cognitive scientist, I know that this is because I was using a lot of something called executive function. Executive function is our amazing ability to consciously control our thoughts, emotions, and actions in order to achieve goals … like learning how to drive. It’s what we use when we need to break away from habit, inhibits our impulses, and plan ahead.

Exploring Executive Function: Key to Success in Life and How to Improve It

But we can see it most clearly when things go wrong. Like, have you ever accidentally poured orange juice on your cereal? (Laughter) Or, ever start scrolling on Facebook and suddenly realize you’ve missed a meeting? (Laughter) Or maybe this one’s more familiar: Ever plan to stop at the store on the way home from work and then drive all the way home instead on autopilot? (Laughter) These things happen to everyone. And we usually call it absentmindedness, but what’s really happening is we’re experiencing a lapse in executive function. So we use executive function every day in all aspects of our lives. And over the past 30 years, researchers have found that it predicts all kinds of good things in childhood and beyond, like social skills, academic achievement, mental and physical health, making money, saving money and even staying out of jail. Sounds great, doesn’t it? So it’s no surprise that researchers like me are so interested in understanding it and figuring out ways to improve it.

How your brain's executive function works -- and how to improve it | Sabine Doebel

Why Brain Training Won’t Improve Your Executive Function: The Importance of Real-World Contexts

But lately, the executive function has become a huge self-improvement buzzword. People think you can improve it through brain-training iPhone apps and computer games, or by practicing it in a specific way, like playing chess. And researchers are trying to train it in the lab in the hopes of improving it and other things related to it, like intelligence. Well, I’m here to tell you that this way of thinking about executive function is all wrong. Brain training won’t improve executive function in a broad sense because it involves exercising it in a narrow way, outside of the real-world contexts in which we actually use it. So you can master that executive function app on your phone, but that’s not going to help you stop pouring OJ on your Cheerios twice a week. (Laughter) If you really want to improve your executive function in a way that matters for your life, you have to understand how it’s influenced by context. Let me show you what I mean.

Dimensional Change Card Sort: A Test for Executive Function in Young Children

There’s a great test that we use in the lab to measure executive function in young children called the “dimensional change card sort.” In this task, kids have to sort cards in one way — like by shape — over and over until they build up a habit. And then they’re asked to switch and sort the same cards in another way, like by color. Now, really young kids struggle with this. Three- and four-year-olds will usually keep sorting the cards in the old way no matter how many times you remind them of what they should be doing. (Video) Woman: If it’s blue, put it here. If it’s red, put it here. Here’s a blue one. OK, so now we’re going to play a different game. We’re not going to play the color game anymore. Now we’re going to play the shape game, and in the shape game, all the stars go here and all the trucks go here, OK? Stars go here, trucks go here. Where do the stars go? And where do the trucks go? Excellent. OK, stars go here, trucks go here. Here’s a truck. (Laughter) Stars go here, trucks go here.

Context Matters: Improving Executive Function in Real-World Situations.

Here’s a star. (Laughter) SB: So it’s really compelling, and it’s really obvious when she fails to use her executive function. But here’s the thing: we could train her on this task and others like it and eventually she’d improve, but does that mean that she would’ve improved her executive function outside of the lab? No, because in the real world, she’ll need to use the executive function to do a lot more than switching between shape and color. She’ll need to switch from adding to multiplying or from playing to tidying up or from thinking about her own feelings to thinking about her friend. And success in real-world situations depends on things like how motivated you are and what your peers are doing. And it also depends on the strategies that you execute when you’re using an executive function in a particular situation. So what I’m saying is that context really matters. Now let me give you an example from my research.

Marshmallow Test with a Twist: How Context Affects Kids’ Delay of Gratification and Executive Function

I recently brought in a bunch of kids to do the classic marshmallow test, which is a measure of delay of gratification that also likely requires a lot of executive function. So you may have heard about this test, but basically, kids are given a choice. They can have one marshmallow right away, or if they can wait for me to go to the other room and get more marshmallows, they can have two instead. Now, most kids really want that second marshmallow, but the key question is: How long can they wait? (Laughter) Now, I added a twist to look at the effects of context. I told each kid that they were in a group, like the green group, and I even gave them a green T-shirt to wear.

Peer influence affects children’s ability to delay gratification, according to a marshmallow test study

And I said, “Your group waited for two marshmallows, and this other group, the orange group, did not.” Or I said the opposite: “Your group didn’t wait for two marshmallows and this other group did.” And then I left the kid alone in the room and I watched on a webcam to see how long they waited. (Laughter) So what I found was that kids who believed that their group waited for two marshmallows were more likely to wait. So they were influenced by a peer group that they’d never even met. (Laughter) Pretty cool, isn’t it? Well, so with this result I still didn’t know if they were just copying their group or if it was something deeper than that. So I brought in some more kids, and after the marshmallow test, I showed them pictures of pairs of kids, and I told them, “One of these kids likes to have things right away, like cookies and stickers.

Context Matters: How Group Dynamics Influence Executive Function in Children

And the other kid likes to wait so that they can have more of these things.” And then I asked them, “Which one of these two kids do you like more and who would you want to play with?” And what I found was that kids who believed that their group waited tended to prefer other kids who liked to wait for things. So learning what their group did make them value waiting more. And not only that, these kids likely used executive function to generate strategies to help themselves wait, like sitting on their hands or turning away from the marshmallow, or singing a song to distract themselves. (Laughter) So what this all shows is just how much context matters. It’s not that these kids had good executive functions or bad, it’s that the context helped them use it better. So what does this mean for you and for your kids? Well, let’s say that you want to learn Spanish.

Context Matters: Strategies to Improve Executive Function in Specific Situations

You could try changing your context and surrounding yourself with other people who also want to learn, and even better if these are people that you really like. That way you’ll be more motivated to use the executive function. Or let’s say that you want to help your child do better on her math homework. You could teach her strategies to use the executive function in that particular context, like putting her phone away before she starts studying or planning to reward herself after studying for an hour. Now, I don’t want to make it sound like context is everything. Executive function is really complex, and it’s shaped by numerous factors. But what I want you to remember is if you want to improve your executive function in some aspect of your life, don’t look for quick fixes. Think about the context and how you can make your goals matter more to you, and how you can use strategies to help yourself in that particular situation.

Understanding Context for Personal Growth: The Importance of Knowing Thyself in Cognitive Stimulation Practice

I think the ancient Greeks said it best when they said, “Know thyself.” And a key part of this is knowing how context shapes your behavior and how you can use that knowledge to change for the better. Thank you. (Applause).

Read More: Eat An Apple On Going To Bed And You’ll Keep

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