You saw that it was that dear friend’s birthday, but you only remembered to send the message days later? Did you set up a virtual meeting and got scared when the link arrived because you had already forgotten about the appointment? Welcome to the group! You are not alone, and the Covid-19 pandemic has greatly boosted these processes.
After all, it’s not simple to remember all the facts while watching the news, watching updates on social networks, talking on the phone, listening to music and even taking care of the house, all at once.
“The excess of information makes it difficult to focus attention, in addition to overloading our memory fixation pathways, which naturally leads to greater fragmentation of what we are able to memorize”, explains the neurologist and sleep doctor Samir Magalhães.
According to the expert, the processes of acquisition, processing and recallo (remember) are extremely complex and involve different areas of our brain.
So, for this machine to work well, we need to make it as likely as possible to receive, work and get these memories. But several situations can weaken these functions.
“Emotional stress and the loss of memory clues that the routine offers us are fundamental sources of problems for this not to occur properly”, warns the neurologist.
Also according to him, the development of symptoms related to mental disorders, such as anxiety, sadness, social isolation, feelings of emptiness and insomnia, exacerbate memory and attention difficulties.
The Challenges of Multitasking
And that’s where the pandemic has taken a toll on us. “We’re not exactly forgetful anymore, we’re more exposed to information and the need to function in a ‘multitasking‘”, explains Samir Magalhães.
The many activities requested, however, come up against one productivity limit and, of course, quality. Therefore, according to the neurologist, in general, we are doing more processes, with less quality and efficiency, simultaneously.
“Functional MRI brain studies demonstrate that individuals, when undergoing a single repetitive task or multiple tasks, have greater activation of frontal processing areas when subjected to multiple activities, which generates greater metabolic consumption and greater neural activation in a diffuse manner than when repeating a single task. Thus, the multiplicity of tasks compromises the benefit of efficiency and automaticity of being focused on a single task”, he theorizes.
Another thing that scientific studies have confirmed is that women are more susceptible to health problems such as depression, generalized anxiety, panic and memory and attention difficulties, although men usually suffer with the greatest severity of cases.
“The female predisposition to these disorders is explained by several factors, from genetic attributes to cultural and social issues”, points out the specialist.
When to seek help
But the difficulty of remembering facts of life can occur in healthy people and does not necessarily imply a health problem, according to Samir Magalhães.
“We should be concerned when these forgetfulness have a relevant impact on the individual’s daily activities. Therefore, it is very important to observe the limitation resulting from this type of symptom”, he says.
If the disorder is linked to a reversible clinical picture, such as a thyroid problem, a vitamin deficit, or other treatable body dysfunction, the neurologist indicates that there is improvement after the disorder is corrected.
Likewise, if forgetfulness is associated with stressful events, chronic sleep deprivation and environmental factors that may be corrected, the specialist also sees a reversal of the condition.
“On the other hand, the forgetfulness associated with degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s dementia, Lewy dementia or even vascular dementia can be treated to help control the symptom, however, so far we have no treatments that modify the course of the disease,” he explains.
Thus, the professional recommends that whenever symptoms are persistent – not being visualized from an easy and briefly reversible cause, such as, for example, a week with sleepless nights -, the individual should look for expert help.
To prevent or cure, the neurologist’s tip is worth: working the mind does not mean exclusively doing mental activity.
The realization of pleasurable physical activities, especially aerobics, according to him, are very important in this process.
So let’s check five strategies recommended by the doctor to improve memory and concentration?
1) Board games are very interesting for reasoning and for working visuospatial skills;
2) Cooking, following or not recipes, requires concentration and creativity;
3) Gardening is relaxing, provides contact with nature and encourages physical activity;
4) Playing a musical instrument favors focus, fine motor learning, rhythm and has a playful character;
5) Reading or watching movies and then making a brief summary on paper or narrated to someone favors ways of evoking memories, synthesis capacity and social interaction.