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Scientists Have Discovered A Simple Memory Trick That'll Stop You Forgetting Your Umbrella

Take that, rain

If you’re prone to leaving your brolly at home, listen up.

The next time you hear about the possibility of rain on the weather forecast, try imagining the umbrella tip being lodged in your home’s door lock, blocking you from locking it.

This mental exercise could prevent you from leaving home without an umbrella, scientists have said.

According to a new study, imagining an action between two objects (the umbrella being lodged in the door lock) and a potential consequence (not being able to lock the door) may help people improve memory relating to objects.

This finding is part of an in-depth study into a natural memory strategy, termed “unitization”, which was used by an individual with amnesia who was able to create new memories despite his condition.

According to Dr Jennifer Ryan, senior scientist at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute, better understanding of unitization could allow it to be used in personalised memory rehabilitation to help older adults and those with amnesia bypass gaps in their abilities.

“Previous research has shown that imagining two objects fusing into one will help people work around these memory deficits, but our work demonstrated that understanding the relationship between the two items is also important,” Dr Ryan said.

“We know that cognitive function is impaired during ageing and this strategy could be one workaround for minor memory problems, depending on what you need to achieve.”

The study evaluated the performance of 80 healthy older adults (between the ages of 61 to 88) on a memory task.

The group members were first trained and tested on the task to gather initial results, then split into sub-groups.

The sub-group who were taught to imagine an object with an action and consequence showed the greatest memory improvements.

“We are trying to understand what’s important to unitization and what people need to learn in order to benefit,” said Dr Ryan.

“There is no single strategy that will fix your memory, but one method may be more be suitable than another.”

Next steps for the research will be to explore how the brain’s systems support different memory strategies.

The Baycrest Health Sciences research was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care and the Canada Research Chairs Program.

The full research is published in the journal Memory and Cognition.

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