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7 Interesting Facts About Memory

The professor’s hippocampus (a critical memory structure) based off of his MRI

Yesterday, I attended a day long seminar on memory.  Professor Craig E. L. Stark, an engaging and immensely knowledgeable presenter, packed in an incredible amount of information into that time period. It is regrettable that it was only 6 hours long!

Here are some of my favorite take-away concepts from the seminar:

1. Memory is the imaginative reconstruction of our attitudes and past reactions with bits of actual fact added to the mix.   Most of us are quite certain that our memories are crystal clear from a factual standpoint when in fact, they are quite susceptible to our own mental filters.

2. Lack of sleep impairs memory function. What’s more, positive memories are more likely to be lost than negative ones.   Depression is a frequent symptom of sleep deprivation.   Could our affected memory be part of this?

3. The risk of Alzheimer’s disease is 50% after the age of 85.  No foods or supplements appear to stave this off.  What appears to be effective is this:

  • Optimal cardio-vascular health.
  • Cognitive stimulation
  • Social stimulation
  • Physical exercise

3. The adult brain develops to age 25 or later.  Time and dynamic challenge refine the brain.  As a young adult, what you do now as far as cognitive challenge shapes the brain you will have in the future.  Memory is also affected by focus and concentration which are executive prefrontal cortex skills. With better focus comes better memory skills.

4.  There are several strategies to improve memory including:

  • Depth of processing.  The more actively you process information, the more likely you are to remember it.  Work with the information beyond the surface level.
  • Develop expertise.  Expertise in any area will help “hook” information into memory.
  • Spaced practice.  Practicing something several times with a break in between rather than all at once enhances memory.  Cramming information into memory generally does not work. It’s even true at the level of the sea slug!
  • Emotion, stress and arousal will enhance memory.  If you are trying to teach something, make it interesting!
  • Repetition does work
5.  Our memories are easily swayed by misinformation and how a question is posed to us.   
6. Caffeine doesn’t help maintain memory performance only alertness.
7.  Dori from the movie Finding Nemo is a pretty accurate depiction of an individual with amnesia!
There was much more information from this fabulous seminar than I am listing here, but these were some of my favorite points!


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