Improving Memory and Disorders that Effect Memory

Topics: AmnesiaHealth

We have all experienced, whether it be personal or by witnessing it from others, a failure in memory. Three ways for an individual to improve memory that will be discussed are: using the keyword method (Scruggs, Utah State, Mastropieri & Margo, 1985), using production benefits learning (production method; Ozubko, Hourihan & Macleod, 2012), and strengthening, exercising, and cultivating natural memory (Collins, 2014). Three disorders that effect memory that will be discussed are: Alzheimer’s Disease, Amnesia–comprises Retrograde Amnesia and Anterograde Amnesia–and Korsakoff’s Syndrome (Feldman, 2017, pgs.


Improving Memory

The Keyword Method

Numerous studies have shown that the keyword mnemonic technique is effective for those who are in special education classes and is most commonly used to help students memorize vocabulary. A specific studied form of the keyword method, the peg word method, has been effective in teaching students the presidents of the United States (Scruggs, Utah State, Mastropieri & Margo, 1985).

The peg word method involves a rhyming scheme, which is a creative method that helps a learner memorize new information (Scruggs, Utah State, Mastropieri & Margo, 1985). For example, in math class teachers use the rhyme “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally” to help students remember the acronym PEMDAS for the order of operations. The acronym itself stands for parenthesis, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction.

Production Benefits Learning (Production Method)

Production benefits learning argues that reading information aloud helps to memorize information better than reading information silently to ourselves. This method had been previously studied by using an isolated word test in a study where the goal was to determine if production lasts after one session and whether this method could boost memory for complex material (Ozubko, Hourihan & Macleod, 2012).

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Three different experiments were preformed, where in the first experiment a one-week retention interval was established, and the production effect was observed. In the second experiment, a production effect was observed for both word pairs and sentence stimuli. In the third experiment, educationally relevant essays were read aloud, and retention was tested afterwards with a fill-in-the-blank test. These experiments showed that memory was far more superior for questions that inquired about information that had been read aloud compared to information that had been read silently (Ozubko, Hourihan & Macleod, 2012).

Strengthen, Exercise, and Cultivate Natural Memory

Natural memory does not require extra effort, as it is a process that already occurs for us as humans when we are learning new information. According to Collins (2014), this method of improving memory argues that it is more important for us to strengthen, exercise, and cultivate natural memory instead of creating/practicing synthetic memory systems for increasing retention.

In the late nineteenth century, authors of memory improvement texts emphasized more on enhancing our natural memory than previous years, where authors had focused more on creating synthetic memory systems. They also stressed that natural memory could be balanced with moral purposes through exercise, training, and discipline (Collins, 2014.) With memory, there is a large amount of controversy regarding whether certain methods truly improve memory. This view suggests that for improving memory, improving natural memory is superior.

An Argument Against Memory Improvement Methods

In the textbook Essentials of Understanding Psychology, there is a list of methods that can improve memory. The last method of improving memory on the list was, “Don’t believe claims about drugs that improve memory” (Feldman, 2017, pg. 221). There are several advertisements that lead readers to believe memory improvement drugs are an effective method for improving memory. However, numerous studies have shown that memory improvement drugs are not effective. In fact, no studies have shown this method to be effective (Gold, Cahill, & Wenk, 2002; McDaniel, Maier, & Einstein, 2002; Burns, Bryan, & Nettelbeck, 2006; Feldman, 2017).

Memory Disorders

Alzheimer’s Disease

One of the most commonly known disorders/illnesses that affects memory is Alzheimer’s Disease. Alzheimer’s Disease is a progressive brain disorder, which leads to gradual and irreversible decline in an individual’s cognitive ability. Alzheimer’s is the fourth leading cause of death in adults in the U.S. and affects approximately 5 million people (Feldman, 2017, pg. 219).

What causes Alzheimer’s is still widely misunderstood, however, increasing research shows that the disease results from an individual being inherently susceptible to a defect in the production of beta amyloid. Beta amyloid plays a major role in the maintenance of nerve cell connections in the brain (Feldman, 2017, pg. 220).

Amnesia – Retrograde and Anterograde

Amnesia is defined as memory loss without other mental difficulties and there are two specific types of amnesia. Retrograde amnesia, which is rare, is defined as memory that is lost for events that occurred before a certain event like a car accident where the driver or passenger(s) suffer a head trauma. Robert Feldman (2017) states in the textbook Essentials of Understanding Technology, that in retrograde amnesia some memories may gradually reappear, but full restoration of memories before the certain event can take several years. In certain cases, the memories may never return to the individual (pg. 220).

Anterograde amnesia is defined as memory that is lost for events that occurred after a certain event. In anterograde amnesia, information cannot be transferred from short-term memory to long-term memory. This results in an individual being unable to remember anything that was not stored into long-term memory prior to when the certain event occurred (Feldman, 2017, pg. 220).

Korsakoff’s Syndrome

Korsakoff’s syndrome (KS) is a disease that particularly affects individuals who are long-term alcoholics. While an individual’s intellectual abilities remain intact when suffering from this disease, they may display an array of symptoms including hallucinations. Another common symptom of this disease causes sufferers to repeat the same story repeatedly (Feldman, 2017, pg. 220).

Cohort studies of Korsakoff’s Syndrome suggests that there is a central role for the rounded bodies in the hypothalamus and mediodorsal thalamus in the disease, whereas quantitative studies suggest that damage to the anterior thalamus is required for the disease. Further studies will have to be preformed to determine the precise sites of the brain and extent of brain damage that causes the memory dysfunction of this disease (Kril JJ, Harper CG, Sydney Medical School & The University of Sydney; pgs. 72-80).


Overall, using the keyword method, using production benefits learning, and strengthen, exercise, and cultivate natural memory are three memory improvement methods. Alzheimer’s Disease, Amnesia–Retrograde and Anterograde, and Korsakoff’s Syndrome are three disorders that affect memory. Since many memory disorders are still widely misunderstood, understanding how our memory works and how these disorders specifically affect the brain helps researchers to further study possible cures for these disorders.


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Improving Memory and Disorders that Effect Memory. (2022, Feb 14). Retrieved from

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