Minding Your Memory

Memory Keepers

The Basics

WHAT: Three techniques helping to reverse the memory loss.

SOURCE: Studies by Dr. Cho, The Harvard Medical School

GREAT FOR: Brain Health, Prevention, Dementia, Memory, Wellness


Everyone experiences the occasional “senior moment” as they age. You may misplace everyday items, fail to recall the name of someone you just met, or forget to do something. While these memory slips can be embarrassing and stressful, they usually don’t mean that you are on a path to dementia.

Blocking. This is referred to as the “tip of the tongue” phenomenon when you can’t recall a name or specific detail. “You know the information, but you can’t immediately place a label on it,” says Cho. “This happens to everyone at times, no matter a person’s age, and isn’t cause for concern unless it becomes a more frequent occurrence.”

What you can do: Recalling the names of people is the most common type of blocking. Cho suggests trying to associate a person with something that may help remember the name like his or her hobby, work, background, or spouse. How many times we know more details about the person but never the name? Another option is to associate the person with someone who has the same name or a similar one, like a relative, celebrity, or movie character. What I can suggest is to repeat the name of the person when speaking to it at least 3 times during a conversation. 

Transience. Transience is the loss of certain memories — typically facts or events — over time. “The brain decides what information becomes less crucial or integral,” says Cho. For instance, you can memorize a phone number to use immediately, but then you don’t retain it because it’s no longer needed.

What you can do: If you want to retain certain memories, try to put more emotions around the memory. “If you believe it’s important, your brain will likely hang on to it longer,” she says. You can do this by revisiting the memory through sharing it in conversation, recording it for future reference, and reviewing photographs.

Misattribution. Here, you recall accurate information from an event but can’t assign it to the correct source, or you recognize a familiar face but place the person wrongly. Another type of is misattribution is false recognition. 

What you can do: If you have trouble connecting information with a source, write down the details of an event when they occur. You can record the information by taking pictures or videos. The most important is what you know rather than where the information coming from. Make sure your focus goes to that.

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