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Text A Never forget gacts and figures

Have you ever struggled to remember a fact or figure? Perhaps it was a famous date in history. Or maybe it was a song that hit number one, the name of a chemical compound or the capital of Sweden. Whatever it was, that particular fact or figure has buried itself deep within your memory and you just can’t seem to retrieve it.

My advice is, don’t put up with having an average memory. Improving your memory is a skill. If you master some basic techniques, remembering facts and figures can become a stimulating mental exercise - not to mention a chance to show off in conversation! Plus, a good memory for facts and figures can help you to sail through exams. People think that because I can remember so many facts and figures I must have a photographic memory. This isn’t the case. There was a time when I struggled to remember seven or eight digits in a row, let alone 20 or 30 and now I’m the eight-times winner of the World Memory Championships. I didn’t just wake up one morning with the ability to remember. I simply studied the techniques for making my mind more supple and put them into practice. Here, I reveal these methods, sharing with you my specially devised exercises that will help you never forget facts and figures.

Text B Drugs to boost brain power will become 'as common as coffee'

Powerful stimulants that improve memory, intellectual agility or other aspects of mental performance will almost certainly be developed over the next 20 years. They will have few side-effects, little or no addictive properties and could be used for boosting exam performance, making better business decisions or even eliminating bad memories.

'In a world that is increasingly non-stop and competitive, the individual's use of such substances may move from the fringe to the norm, with cognition enhancers used as coffee is today, says the Foresight report of the government's Office of Science and Technology. 'Cognition enhancers are likely to be developed to treat people who need to improve attention, memory or wakefulness and to help people forget, sleep more efficiently and be less impulsive.

Drugs that help people to forget disturbing experiences raises the prospect of a future portrayed in films such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, where characters are able to forget painful relationships. But the possibility raises disturbing practical, ethical and social issues. 'It is possible that such an advance could usher in a new era of drug use without addiction,' says the report. 'If we ever find ourselves in a society that embraced cognition enhancers, "mental cosmetics" could become accepted and raise expectations about the performance and behaviour of individuals and groups.'

Text C Food for thought

Increasingly, it is recognized that diet plays a vital role in exam performance. According to senior nutrition consultant Lorraine Perretta, the brain needs fuel just like any other organ.‘Without the correct diet, it cannot give its peak performance,’ she says. ‘Eating the right foods can dramatically improve learning, concentration and memory.’ Patrick Holford, author of Optimum Nutrition for the Mind, points out that the brain uses a quarter of all the carbohydrates you eat under normal conditions, rising to around 40 per cent at times of intense concentration. ‘During an exam, your legs don’t need the energy as you are sitting down. Your brain uses it all and that’s why you are starving at the end of an exam. You would train your body for a physical exam, so why not do the same for a mental test?’

In order for the brain cells to communicate 20 effectively with each other they need neurotransmitters, the messengers that carry information. Acetylcholine (ACh) is the neurotransmitter responsible for memory, and studies have found that people with Alzheimer’s 25 may have less of it. Foods rich in the vitamin complex needed to make ACh include egg yolks, peanuts, liver, broccoli, fish and cheese.

Drinking water is also important. The brain is 70 per cent water, and when it is dehydrated it 30 works more slowly. This is particularly true of memory; a dehydrated brain releases the stress hormone cortisol, which adversely affects the brain’s ability to store information. Too much coffee will also slow down the thinking process 35 and make you feel foggy.

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