It fades in the best of us.
Diminishing memory–usually thought to be a factor of age, our hectic multi-tasking lives prematurely ‘age’ us. It is a common mis-perception that humans use only a percentage of their brains, but when put under the stresses of modern life, is it the hormones flooding the system that in fact produce a scrambling effect? One can no longer ‘think clearly’.
With the aid of brain imaging techniques, such as electroencephalograms (EEGs), positron emission tomography (PET) scanners, and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machines, researchers have succeeded in localizing a vast number of psychological functions to specific brain areas. Detailed mapping now possible through these modes has revealed no “quiet areas”—that is, brain regions lacking perception, emotion or movement. There are no inactive brain regions. Even simple tasks generally require contributions from virtually the whole brain.
It used to be that each of us memorized a multitude of numbers. Phone numbers, addresses, drivers license numbers. Our minds bore the weight of memorization. Do we rely too heavily on our computers, phones and PDAs to remember for us? Would mnemonic or visual associations help? Most assuredly.
But is that a bad thing? Under the ‘use it or lose it’ philosophy, the brain needs to remain active to remain sharp. Not unlike our muscles, providing daily activity actually strengths acuity. So concerned are we that we shall succumb to Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, brain exercising programs have been developed.
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Is it the plethora of useless information that is spewed at us each day clogging the memory pathways? Is it hormones used to raise our meat? Are their toxins in the environment that we are unaware of as causing this deterioration? Time and science may one day have the answers.
In the meantime, if there is no cerebral spare tire waiting to be inflated, what can you do to maintain or increase your mental acuity?
Studies have shown that keeping a sense of self efficacy, that one has control over his life and future, aids in maintaining memory into old age as it does in lessening the stress a loss of control engenders.
Maintianing memory is often associated with a good retrieval of information ability when in fact good learning is actually the key. Being able to form a strong association when acquiring new information upon which one can hand one’s mental hat aids in recall.
As science progresses keeping memory intact will no doubt become clearer. In the meantime, researchers suggest to avoid excessive stress, lead an active lifestyle and keep engaged with the world will decrease risk of memory loss.
“Visualizing and repetition are key. The brain is hungry for new information.” – Emma Shulman, a 95-year-old lecturer and Senior Family Counselor at NYU’s Silberstein Institute
Keep on learning new things, seeing new places, solving new challenges.