Worth remembering

Kate Johnstone reviews 'How to have a better brain' on BBC Radio 4.

In this short series on BBC Radio 4, journalist, broadcaster and psychology graduate Sian Williams considers different ways in which memory can be improved, or how to have a ‘better brain’. Each of the programmes focuses on one particular aspect of lifestyle that can affect memory: exercise, relaxation, stimulation, sleep and diet.

Under each of these heading, Williams looks at the evidence for different techniques that might improve, or at least maintain, memory function. For example, in the programme on exercise, Williams attempts to memorise a list of unconnected words sitting down, and another list when walking around. Her later recall of the second list is more successful.

In each episode, Williams visits neuropsychologist Dr Catherine Loveday [University of Westminster and Chair of the Psychologist and Digest Editorial Advisory Committee] and her mother Scilla [pictured above], a former consultant psychiatrist, who has accelerated memory loss. These discussions are especially illuminating, and touching. Loveday applies her knowledge to create a lifestyle for Scilla that will help support and maintain her memory. For example one of the most successful techniques is Scilla’s nightly habit of writing down the day’s activities, and re-reading the previous day’s entry, as a way of consolidating her memory.

At only 15 minutes long, each programme can only be a whistle-stop tour of the latest research in that area. But as a resource for anyone who is looking for some practical advice to give a friend or relative who is worried about their memory – or if you are worried about your own – this is a great listen.

I All five episodes of How to Have a Better Brain are available on demand.

Reviewed by Kate Johnstone who is Associate Editor (Reviews)

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