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How Strengthening your Working Memory Improves your Life

Working memory represents the brain’s ability to hold and process the discrete information about what you are doing at the present moment.

Athletes — Athletes thrive on their ability to make split-second decisions. Working memory, which is crucial for performing under stress, is a tremendous asset on the sports field. “Athletes have to take in and hold onto different sets of information on the field or the court,” says Dr. Paul White, a clinical psychologist from Wichita, Kan. “Working memory impacts their ability to make decisions and be effective.”

Professionals — Professionals are challenged more than ever to stay on track, prioritize activities and overcome the persistent distractions that slow productivity. Working memory is crucial in this environment. Professionals with strong working memory capacity are efficient with their time and well equipped to multi-task. They perform well under pressure, remain organized and stay focused on the task at hand.

Aging adults — Working memory reaches its peak between 25 and 30 and then begins a gradual decline. Around the age of 55, impairments in working memory become noticeable in daily life. “It is natural for working memory to decline with age,” says Dr. Lee Hyer, a psychologist from Georgia who specializes in senior care. “As a result, it becomes more difficult to think, organize, plan and do several things at once. When you look at aging brains, there are the areas that are affected both by the normal aging process and other brain areas that, for many, represent a degenerative process, such as dementia. Working memory is almost always involved in all decline processes.”

Students — Nowhere is working memory more crucial than in the classroom. Math, reading and the processes we use to internalize information are utterly dependent on a healthy working memory capacity. Without working memory, learning could not take place. In her book, Working Memory and Learning: A Practical Guide for Teachers, Dr. Susan Gathercole a renowned expert from the University of York, calls working memory “the engine of learning” because it has shown to be the primary indicator of academic performance.

Timothy Hager

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