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3 tips to improve memory

Published Feb. 21, 2012

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Ask actor Marilu Hennerabout a lunch date with 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl almost 20 years ago, and she can recall not only the date (June 1, 1993) and the restaurant (Aureole in New York) but also what she ate (salmon).

Henner is one of a handful of people who have superior autobiographic memory, the ability to remember, in vivid detail, almost every day of her life. If you're struggling just to recall where you parked your car, here are a few tricks that can help you learn to be more like these memory geniuses.

Rehearse: It's the simplest way to retain new information, such as the name of a new acquaintance. Repeat the name when you first hear it and then again in the context of conversation, as in "How long have you lived in the neighborhood, Karen?"

Visualize: Create an image or a "video" in your mind incorporating items you need to remember. Say you are going to 76 Forest Avenue with instructions to take a left on King Street and then a right on Forest Avenue. "Imagine a king hopping on his left leg and then falling to the right into a forest of trees planted in the shape of the numerals 7 and 6," says Cynthia R. Green, author of 30 Days to Total Brain Health.

Downsize: Memory champs break up long strings of numbers into shorter units, which they then associate with something easy to recall. For example, your wedding was in 1962 and your first grandchild was born in 1993, so make your debit card pin 6293.

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