Memory is a highly complex process, with various stages and pathways. Many nootropics claim to improve working memory, but what exactly is working memory? How is it unique from other forms of memory, such as long-term? Majority of nootropic users are looking to improve their immediate memory function, which is often referred to as one’s, ‘working memory capacity.’
This memory is often referred to as one’s short-term memory or fluid intelligence. This allows us to absorb various pieces of information at once. Once this information is inputted, the information is used to make a larger connection. The brain then stores that information, along with other similar memories. In the future, these memories will be used to help plan and problem solve.
Working memory is linked to focus and attention span, as it’s vital that we absorb the right information. When supplementing, you can essentially enhance your working memory. Let’s take a closer look at working memory within the brain, and how nootropics can increase effectiveness.
How Does Working Memory Function?
It wasn’t until the late 1960’s, that researchers first compared the functioning of our brains, to computer processing. The way in which computers retrieve and then store information, gave insight into our memory. This insight created a model for human intelligence.
Before this connection was made, one’s short-term memory was based on recently acquired information. It was believed that short-term memory was simply retrieving recently processed information. Researchers began suggesting that information was manipulated, not just recalled. This was first noticed by Atkinson and Shiffrin in 1968 (which lead to the multi-store model).
According to this model, short-term memory is able to hold pieces of information for a limited time. During this time, there is little processing occurring. Working memory is essentially short-term memory, but it is broken down into two sub-memories: visual-spatial memory and auditory memory.
When you suffer from a weak working memory, you’re unable to hold onto information. This is especially troubling for reading, math, and overall learning. Typically, your working memory is able to hold around seven items or less at once.
During this time, these pieces of information are readily available. However, they’re only available for a short period of time (approximately 10 to 15 seconds). Working memory is the necessary step when moving towards retention and long-term memory. Once information is transferred to one’s long-term memory, it can be permanently stored.
How Is Working Memory Limited?
As mentioned, majority of individuals can only hold around seven pieces of information in their working memory at once. This could be in the form of pictures, digits, words, or other pieces of information. The fact is, we cannot hold too many bits of information at once.
Some researchers believe that chemical imbalances may hinder these pathways. This is because inhibitory and excitatory chemicals are essential when delivering various messages throughout the brain. Our working memory also appears to decline as we age. This is why supplements are great when attempting to prevent cognitive conditions, such as Alzheimer’s.
How Do Brain Chemicals Affect Memory?
Brain chemicals, also known as neurotransmitters, are the body’s way of communicating and triggering vital reactions within the brain. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that provides many benefits when elevated. It can actually increase the growth of new neurons and synapses, improving overall brain function and health.
Some of the other common chemicals, such as epinephrine, serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, also help create increased mental energy. When this occurs, focus, attention span, memory, and other cognitive functions begin to improve.
For one’s working memory to function properly, these chemicals need to be at healthy, stable levels. These chemicals help to fuel and manage working memory systems. When there is a lack of neurotransmitters that aid in memory, individuals can experience degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s; or attention disorders like ADHD.
How Can Supplements Help Improve Working Memory?
When focusing on supplements, there are many you can take which naturally work with your brain chemistry. If there is an imbalance in chemicals, supplements can assist in correcting this issue. Many nootropics directly affect acetylcholine, which is highly beneficial for memory.
This racetam was one of the first nootropics to be released, and is currently the most well-known. By improving the efficacy of acetylcholine transmitters, brain communication is enhanced. When taking any racetam, it’s beneficial to take a choline supplement as well.
This can improve mental focus and spatial memory, while minimizing side-effects. For example; potential headaches from racetams. These headaches are generally due to an acetylcholine deficiency. Since choline is a precursor to this neurotransmitter, it can help boost levels, minimizing these negative effects.
Ginkgo Biloba is one of the oldest natural supplements, which helps to boost working memory. By improving overall circulation, the brain is supplied with higher levels of oxygen and nutrients. When taking this supplement, one’s attention span is improved, as well as the ability to memorize facts.
This supplement is often replaced with Bacopa Monnieri, which also provides powerful cognitive benefits. The easiest way to consume this natural supplement, is within the nootropic stack, known as Alpha Brain.
Coffee and tea are so commonly consumed, that many do not realize that they’re drinking beneficial nootropic ingredients. Caffeine is known to boost mental power. When it is taken in a stack with L-Theanine (which is found in green tea), any jittery side-effects are eliminated. This stack helps improve visual memory processing, while allowing the user to stay focused.
Improve Your Working Memory
When focusing on working memory and mental functioning, it’s important to view them as an active process. Information not only needs to be stored, but manipulated. Calculations, reasoning, and the ability to make associations are vital.
Making decisions and solving problems, are highly reliant on healthy brain chemistry. When relying on one’s diet alone, it is often not enough to influence these chemicals. This is why supplementation is highly recommended.
Nootropics can not only boost cognitive functioning, but protect brain health as well. The nootropic community is based on improved brain health and working memory, which is why many are beginning to recognize their incredible benefits. When working memory is improved, individuals can maintain focus and learn more effectively.