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Eidetic Memory: Ways to Improve Memory

There are memory games and contests all over the world. Some people claim to remember every detail of every day. Some have an ability called eidetic memory, which involves visual memory and is very rare. Eidetic memory is related to the phenomenon called photographic memory.

Eidetic memory is another term for eidetic imagery, which is when someone can see vivid mental images that are clear enough to examine for at least 30 seconds. These memories and images are like pictures, and people with eidetic memory can examine them as if the image is right in front of their eyes. 

Everyone has some degree of eidetic memory. When you see an object and can still clearly visualize it a second or two later, this is eidetic memory. However, some people are better at recalling these images and for a longer time. They don’t use mnemonic devices to remember details the way people who use memory-enhancing techniques do. People with this ability are called eidetikers.

Although the terms eidetic memory and photographic memory are often used to refer to the same ability, they are slightly different. A person with a photographic memory can remember events and details without visualizing anything. Eidetic memory hinges on visualizing pictures and images to remember details. 

Some eidetikers have another rare ability called hyperthymesia. Hyperthymesia is when someone can recall large amounts of autobiographical information. The two don’t always go together. Not everyone with eidetic memory has hyperthymesia, and vice versa. 

People with hyperthymesia have what researchers call “highly superior autobiographical memories” and can remember what they were doing on any given day with extraordinary accuracy. They don’t necessarily have a photographic memory or even an eidetic memory, but they do have an almost perfect memory of aspects of their personal life, historical events, or both. They don’t have to use mnemonic devices to remember these details. 

While a few people in the world have an exceptional memory, most of us don’t. Some people experience frequent memory loss. Memory loss can be transient, meaning it resolves itself; permanent, such as after an accident; or progressive, meaning it gets worse over time. There are many reasons why you may experience memory loss.

Many people experience memory difficulties as they age. In fact, one study estimated that about 40 percent of people in the United States who are 65 or older have age-related memory impairment. Aging often comes with slower information processing, decreased formation of new episodic memories, and decreased working memory. Physical changes in the brain, such as deteriorating white matter and a decline in dopamine, could be linked to a decline in cognition and memory as we age.

Stress also has an impact on the retention and retrieval of previously stored memories. For example, people with post-traumatic stress disorder sometimes experience memory loss that makes initial information acquisition and learning difficult. Intense stress affects several areas of the brain, including the hippocampus, a structure in the brain that plays an important role in memory and learning. Stress has different effects on memory and retention for different people. Biological sex may also correlate with stress and memory. In one study conducted on rats, the memory of male rats was impaired after stress, while that of female rats was either unimpaired or had an enhanced performance.

Many illnesses and diseases correlate with memory loss. Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and different forms of dementia often come to mind when you think of memory loss. However, sexually transmitted infections like syphilis and HIV can also lead to memory loss. Depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other mental illnesses can also cause memory impairment. Some research has shown that autoimmune disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, have a link to dementia. One symptom of hypothyroidism is memory impairment, and consuming alcohol or experiencing alcohol poisoning could result in memory loss. By treating the underlying disease or illness, many cases of memory loss can be prevented.

If you’ve noticed memory loss in yourself or a loved one, you’ll want to act quickly depending on other risk factors. For example, if you’re older than 65 and experiencing memory problems, this could be a sign of underlying problems. 

If your memory loss is a new problem and its onset has been sudden, this could also hint toward other neurological or physical problems. As a rule, memory loss that interferes with daily living and begins to pose a significant problem is severe enough to consult a doctor. Family members of seniors need to be aware of neurological, cognitive, and memory problems and look for signs of potential issues including:

  • Forgetting important dates or events
  • Changes in mood and attention span
  • Confusion or disorientation

Whether your memory loss is a result of aging, illness, stress, or something else, an impaired memory doesn’t have to be permanent. Research has identified some things that can enhance your memory, including exercise and mental activity. 

Research hasn’t yet found one specific exercise that enhances memory, but balance training, long-term cardiovascular exercise, and aerobic exercise may have beneficial effects. The hippocampus shrinks as people age, which leads to memory issues and an increased risk of dementia. One study showed that exercise in older adults increased the size of the anterior hippocampus.

Other ways to improve memory include memory training exercises. These include word-list learning recall tasks and other mnemonic and mnemonic-imitation exercises. People who practice these may see improvements in their memory and everyday functioning. Overall wellbeing and a positive view on the effects of aging can protect you from many detrimental aspects such as memory loss.

Eidetic memory is a feat of the human mind, one of the most amazing phenomena that humans are capable of. If you’re wondering how to develop a photographic memory or dreaming of becoming a human camera with a perfect memory, the odds are a bit disappointing. On the other hand, learning how to improve your memory can help you stay cognitively healthy as you age.

Memory loss is not as uncommon as you might think, and you might be able to treat it by making changes in your physical or mental routine or seeing a doctor. With increasingly better medical treatments for memory loss and dementia, there are lots of solutions for cognitive problems.

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