Author Archives: mgoad

Give your brain a workout!

For a couple of dfinal blog imageays, I felt like I was forgetting everything.  What that person’s name was, what I told myself to remember, and little things here and there.  I feel like I have a sharp memory, I am very good with names and moments some people think are irrelevant.  After getting frustrated with myself, I decided to research what you can do to improve your memory.  With my family history, this is very important to me and I wanted to start doing these tips as soon as possible.  I came across this article from HelpGuide.org, http://www.helpguide.org/articles/memory/how-to-improve-your-memory.htm, and decided to see what I can do, or if it was even possible, to improve my memory.

Neroplasticity is this ability of the brain to adapt and change, so it is definitely possible to enhance your ability to learn new information by forming new neural pathways.  These neural pathways help you recall information, but using different pathways stimulates your brain even more.  The more you use these different pathways, the better you will be at recalling and processing information. The next question is how can you strengthen and change these pathways?

Learning something new and challenging is one of the best ways to boost your brain.  Choose an activity that you have always wanted to try and learn how to do it to improve your memory by developing new skills and keeping your mind engaged.  There are plenty of brain training television shows and games, yet these activities have not been proven to increase you memory.  Don’t waste your time on these gimmicks and pick something like learning how to play the piano instead.  Another way to improve your memory is to exercise.  Not only is exercise good for your physical health, it is good for your mental health as well.  Exercise can wake you up if you are tired, get your blood pumping, and requires using your motor skills, all of which are connected to your brain function.  The next way to keep your brain working at its best is to get enough sleep.  Sleeping eight hours each night can help you consolidate memories, which will help you when you want to retrieve those memories when you wake up.  There are many other tips to help you improve your brain functioning, which will in turn improve your memory because you are continually training your brain.  If you are having trouble remembering what you were supposed to do before you left for class or what that song was, try some of these helpful tips, and overtime your brain will thank you.

50 First Dates and Anterograde Amnesia

As soon as we learned about anterograde amnesia in class, the movie 50 First Dates came to mind.  In the movie, lead character Lucy, played by Drew Barrymore, was in a car accident that caused her to not remember anything after her crash.  She would wake up every morning thinking that it was October 13th, and then go to sleep and forget everything that happened the day before and relive what she thought was October 13th all over again.  Lucy has anterograde amnesia because she is unable to remember anything after her accident, but like in all movies, there are some accuracies and flaws in the depiction of this example of cognition.

The article comparing the truth about anterograde amnesia and the depiction in the movie is found here, https://cognitioninfilm.wordpress.com/2014/11/23/anterograde-amnesia-and-50-first-dates/.  The article gives background information on both the movie and anterograde amnesia, including the case of H.M., which I thought was impressive because this case study could have been easily overlooked and not included in this article, yet the author chose to use it as a comparison.  The article gives the definition of anterograde amnesia as, “a form of amnesia where new memories are not encoded into long-term memory”.  People with this type of amnesia suffer an organic disruption to the memory process and cannot explicitly remember experiences after the event that caused their memory disruption.  The article accurately described the definition of anterograde amnesia and introduced H.M., whose temporal lobe was removed and he suffered anterograde amnesia where his memory only lasted 30 seconds.  Because of H.M., the idea of explicit versus implicit memory is included because his ability to form new explicit memories was damaged, yet evidence for the possible retention of implicit memories was seen through H.M.’s name recognition of his neuroscientist.  This information was important when examining the accuracy of 50 First Dates.

The movie was surprisingly more factually correct than I would have imagined.  The movie states the correct part of the brain where damage usually leads to anterograde amnesia, the temporal lobe.  The temporal lobe is also where H.M. had damage which caused his memory problems.  The character 10-second Tom was accurately portrayed as a patient with anterograde amnesia.  Tom’s memory only lasted for 10 seconds, after which he would forget what had happened in the previous 10 seconds.  There were also links to the idea that people with anterograde amnesia could still form implicit memories, with the example that although Lucy could never remember meeting Henry after she woke up the next morning, she would dream about him and draw pictures of him.

Of course, there were false representations in this movie as well.  Lucy is able to remember everything from the day until she goes to sleep, and then forgets it all the next day.  This entire idea is untrue and not possible.  Since anterograde amnesia patients are not able to create long term memories, it would not be possible that Lucy could remember the whole day because she is not able to convert the short term memories she makes into long term to remember them throughout the day.  It is also not likely that sleeping could make Lucy lose her memories from the previous day because sleeping is known to help form and strengthen memories.  The last inaccuracy in the movie is that they created a false diagnosis for Lucy, naming it Goldfield syndrome.  Some of her symptoms and area of the brain that was damaged align with anterograde amnesia and anyone with access to the internet could do some quick research to find out that Goldfield syndrome is in fact a fake disease.

This movie does a decent job of introducing to the audience what anterograde amnesia is like in reality and the article does an even better job of providing the reader with accurate information and comparisons of what is true and not in the movie.

Brain Games: Explained

This article was written by Susan Whitbourne, who holds a Ph.D. in psychology, and she explains five of the popular cognitive theories behind the television show, Brain Games, of which I will discuss three.

The first is called the Decoy Effect, which was introduced in one of the Ted Talks we listened to earlier, titled “Are we in Control of our own Decisions?”.  The decoy effect is explained in both cases as manipulating a choice between two options.  It is harder to choose if you want a more expensive item that is better quality or a cheaper item that is not as good quality, but when you add in a third item, the decision becomes clearer.  The article it uses wallets an example, which Choplin and Hummel (2002), explained by attribute-value evaluation.  If you have a good quality 50 dollar wallet and a 30 dollar lower quality wallet it is hard to decide which one you want, but when a 60 dollar wallet that is lower quality that the 50 dollar one is present, research suggests that people are most likely to buy the 50 dollar wallet.  An option people are the least likely to buy is added not because it will be profitable on its own, but because it will help sell the other item that is more expensive.

The second cognitive theory explained is Choice blindness, also called Change Blindness, which is when you are not able to detect a change between two items.  In class we talked about this as an example of a person not being able to detect the difference between one person you were talking to, and then a change of scenery occurs or the person leaves and comes back, but now it is a different person.  Johansson et al., (2005) tested choice blindness by asking people to rate two females on perceived attractiveness, for some people, when asked to defend their choice, the researches switched the participants result, telling them that they had actually chosen A instead of B.  For about 75 percent of the trials, the participants did not realize that the researches had switched their answer, so the participants ended up defending the female they originally thought was less attractive.

The third theory proposes that visual illusions, such as the Muller-Lyer illusion we learned in class, are due to time.  Mark Changizi (2008) believes that our perception in our brain is about 1/100th of a second behind the stimulation that our retina receives.  This minute gap in time causes us to believe that we see the stimulus differently than it actually is.  In the Muller-Lyer example, that small gap in time could be the reason that our eyes are drawn toward the ends of the arrow, making us believe that one line is longer than the other when they are actually the same length.

This article from Psychology Today, a well-known magazine in print and online that discusses a wide range of topics in psychology.  Because this article was written by a woman with a Ph.D. and included research from other psychologists I think it accurately describes these common topics in cognitive psychology.  This article helps people who watch Brain Games understand the cognitive theories behind the TV show that might not be explained to this extent on the show.  This is important because people are now more informed and can have a deeper understanding of how their brain thinks and perceives things the way it does, and how some things may seem to be tricking your brain.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201309/5-your-brains-most-fascinating-games-decoded

Short Term Memory and Cookies

http://www.buzzfeed.com/nathanwpyle/can-you-remember-where-the-cookie-jar-is#.syQ5NNd2n6

This Buzzfeed test is supposed to help you test how good your short term memory is.  A GIF is shown relating a day of the week to a specific cabinet holding a cookie jar.  After watching the GIF, you can scroll down the page and see if you can remember which day of the week goes with which cabinet.  I watched the GIF five times, took the quiz, and got five out of seven correct.  This quiz is similar to the memory span ZAPS we did testing our short term memory.  Short term memory is the place that you hold information while you are working to transfer it into your long term memory, if you do not forget it first.  The modal model shows how information is processed and can go from incoming information, to short term memory, and then possibly long term memory.  Short term memory is often called working memory because it is a constant activity, if you see or hear anything, it enters into your working memory, how long it stays in your memory is not as easy though.  This test aligns with the magic seven rule that states that a human can only store between five and nine things in their short term memory.  This quiz can be interesting for a person to see how good their short term memory is in this situation, but there are some flaws.  In order to test if your short term memory truly is the best, this quiz would have had nine items instead of seven.  If someone were to score all seven items correct when the maximum is actually nine, they would not know the full potential of their short term memory.  Another flaw is that the GIF showing the correct answers in the beginning is on an infinite loop.  One could watch it for an hour until they memorized the positions of the cookie jar on each day of the week and get every answer correct, but this would not be testing their short term memory.  To improve this, I would have the GIF on a limited time loop, so the quiz would accurately test one’s short term memory.  Another question arises from this quick quiz, can someone’s short term memory be better or worse, or does it depend on the information?  It turns out that many things can affect your short term memory, and how well it performs.  The primary effect states that it is extremely likely that people remember the first few words or numbers in a list when asked to recall them, but it is also very likely that people are able to recall the last few words or numbers on the list as well, called the recency effect.  How fast or slow the information is presented to you also has an effect on how much of the information you retain long enough to recite it, and how soon after you have to recall can be the difference between remembering more or less information.  In this quiz, there was immediate recall and I remembered more items towards the end of the set, following the recency effect.  This was a good example of short term memory on the internet and even though it has some flaws, it can help introduce people to the workings and theories of short term memory.