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Forget What You Got Up to Get?

Forget What You Got Up to Get?

Do you sometimes feel like you have the memory of a mosquito—especially when you walk into a room and immediately forget what you came in for? Here's how to get your brain power back.

Forgetting what you got up to get is something we, you and everyone from China to Chicago has done more often than teenage girls giggle. Luckily, two memory experts have figured out why such memory lapses happen and published their findings. They call it (try to remember this) "the doorway effect."

Example: You walk across the room to get the newspaper. No problem. Walk through a doorway into another room to get it and—zap!—your memory is Windex'ed. You arrive clueless.

Why? When you cross the room, your surroundings don't change. But when you go through a doorway, you enter a new space. Your brain auto-purges info from the old room (go get the newspaper) so it can cope with the new room's demands (watch out for the cat!).

Way back, this was handy if you were leaving your safe cave for T-rex territory. It still is if you're leaving your desk for a tense meeting, or your cozy bedroom for a slippery bathroom to stop the twins' water war. But going to get the paper? Not so much.

"So," you ask, "what's the fix, YOU Docs?" We didn't forget that. There just isn't one, short of never exiting a room without writing down why. Yeah, we're not doing that either. (Mental clutter can clog anyone's brain. Here's how to do some housecleaning upstairs to help you remember.)

Walk today for a better memory tomorrow.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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