Tag Archives: memory

Do you remember as well as you think?

Contrary to what you think, you probably do not remember things as accurately as you think. A study done in 1988 by Ulric Neisser proved that many of our memories change overtime and become somewhat inaccurate. Neisser handed out a survey to some of his students following the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. He asked them where they were when they heard, who they were with, and what they were doing. Neisser followed up two years later asking the students the same questions. He ranked their accuracy on a scale of 7. On average, students got less than 3 with 25 percent receiving a zero.

Scientists think memory begins with encoding. The memory is then consolidated until reaching the final step remembering or retrieving the memory. Each and every time you remember something, the neural pathway to that memory gets stronger. This could be why the students were inaccurate in remembering where they were or who they were with. I would assume that the students did not access those memories frequently so, the neural pathway to those memories was not strong.

This could be why many studies have shown it is better to study for 2 to 3 hours and then take a break instead of cramming for 8 hours. The more times you revisit the learned information the stronger the neural pathway. This makes the memory easier to retrieve come test time. If you are just cramming the information over and over again you are not allowing the information to go through the cycle of formation. When you access that information so quickly after introduction, you are not fully retrieving it.

In all, I found this video most helpful in beginning to understand the complexities of memory.

Is Your Brain Weird?

It is, according to this Buzzfeed article. The article is entitled “11 Memory Facts That Prove Your Brain Is Weird.” The article talks about weird memory phenomena, like false memories and context-dependent memories. Along with each fact is a description and a nifty GIF of a fuzzy animal or a movie quote. So that’s pretty cool. But even cooler, unlike many social media mentions of cognition, this article actually backs its assertions up with real cognitive research! I’ll take you through a few of the mentioned memory facts, summarizing their points, and then I’ll analyze their respective research articles.

open-door-day-samo-za-vjesti-1First, the Buzzed article talks about that familiar sensation of walking into a room and totally forgetting why you had to go to that room. In this study by Gabriel Radvansky, participants were given tasks to complete in a virtual reality comprised of many rooms. Each room had two tables with an object on one table. They had to carry the object to the other table or into another room, but once holding it, they couldn’t see it any longer. They would be tested frequently on which object they were holding and which they had just put down. Participants performed much more poorly on memory tasks when they had just crossed through a door than when they had traveled the same distance but remained in the same room.

This study made me think of memory tasks where participants forget details of a story (the bus driver example) because their brain automatically makes the call about what information is important and what isn’t, without the person actually deciding, and doesn’t encode the irrelevant info into long term memory. Similarly, in this study, participants’ brains recognize the doorway as a marker of the end of an episode. The door serves as an event boundary, so the brain decides which information is no longer likely going to be relevant, and it is dropped from the working memory in preparation for new, more relevant information in the new room. This is an example of our brain jumping the gun and automating a process to save us time, attention, and effort. When it works to our advantage, it’s great, and we don’t notice it. When it doesn’t, however, we forget why we came into a room and get really frustrated!

RV-AB577_WEEKIN_DV_20110208191537Another weird memory fact mentioned in the Buzzfeed article is that closing your eyes can help you remember more effectively. In a recall study, participants were shown a video and then reported on it (free or cued recall). They were tested a few minutes later and again a week later. Some participants had their eyes open during recall tests, and others had their eyes closed. The study found that eye-closure had no effect on recall in the first test, but increased accuracy on the second test by 37%. It even helped participants recall things they hadn’t reported the first time.

What is causing this phenomenon? My first inclination is to think it has something to do with attention. We learned in class that attention is a resource (why else do we say “pay” attention?). This resource is limited, and our brains can only consciously focus on so many things at once. Perhaps something about closing our eyes helps limit which stimuli are demanding our attention, and allows us to focus inwardly and more effectively recall previously encoded information. The study mentions also that eye-closure only helps us with “fine-grain visual details,” not overall big picture, or even auditory details. This indicates that the effectiveness of eye closing has to do with how we encode information. When the information we encode is very visual (the example in the study is “she elbowed him in the face”), closing our eyes allows us to relive the moment and re-visualize what occurred. This improves recall.

I found this article to be very interesting. Memory is complicated and messy, and that makes it always worth studying. I especially appreciated the references to how our brain automates complicated processes in order to make our experience more simple and streamlined. We’ve learned a lot about this trend in class, and seeing it at work in memory was interesting. In some ways, it departed from the usual social media science article, which tends to throw out crazy facts with vague research backing it up. The article provided direct links to cognitive research that supported its assertions. My only issue with the article was the way it approached some of the research findings. It seemed that the author was more focused on the “wow” factor of its studies than in actually imparting the main points of the research studies. In the eye-closing study, for example, many interesting findings were left out of the Buzzfeed summary in favor of the more simple, attractive finding. Overall, however, I liked this article.

Can Art Improve Cognition?

Being interested in art and music has many more positive sides than many people would believe. Something that intrigues me is the idea that art, music and performing arts could improve cognitive functioning. Could engaging in visual arts or music have an effect on cognition?

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The answer is yes! There are many benefits of art for the brain and cognition. The arts can influence many cognitive processes. An extensive amount of research has been done by several scientists teaming together, and there is a lot of evidence to support the idea that art and music really effectively help improve cognitive abilities such as learning, attention, motivation and intelligence. The first finding was that performance in art leads to higher motivation in individuals and in turn produces sustained attention. This higher motivation and attention can lead to better performance in school. These qualities in kids were found to lead to better performance on intelligence test scores. Another finding was that high levels of music training lead to a vast improvement in working memory and long-term memory and an ability to manipulate the information in each domain.

Another finding of the scientist’s studies was that practicing music could lead to greater skills in geometrical representation, greater reading skills, and sequence learning. It has also been found that early music training leads to earlier ability to read and greater phonological awareness or speech production and perception. Training in acting was found to lead to better memory, specifically improvement of semantic memory.

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Other studies have found that there was a significant improvement in psychological resilience as well as increased levels of functional connectivity in the brain amongst people who participated in the visual arts. Also mentioned was that making art could even delay or reverse age related decline of many brain functions.

Art can help improve so many cognitive skills such as reading, math, critical thinking, memory and attention. So why are schools not as focused on art education as we are in other fields? According to all this research, it would be incredibly beneficial for schools to keep art and music at the forefront of education along with all the other important subjects that we learn in school like English and math, since art can help you with other domains of school. Finally, art can even improve mental and emotional health.

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Art has been found to decrease negative emotions and help reduce stress, anxiety and depression. This is the reason art therapy can be so useful to people struggling with mental health issues. Doing art helps reduce so many of the negative symptoms associated with mental illness.

So, as we can see from overwhelming evidence from many studies, participating in arts- whichever one you enjoy most: visual arts, performing arts, or music is highly beneficial for the brain, cognition and health in general. So whichever art form is your favorite, make sure to continue with it because it has so many positive effects on many aspects of your life!

Sources:

http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~lds/pdfs/DanaSpelke.pdf

http://web.stanford.edu/group/co-sign/Sussman.pdf

http://www.dana.org/Publications/ReportDetails.aspx?id=44253

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/08/how-art-changes-your-brain_n_5567050.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2804629/

Mondays Aren’t As ‘Blue’ As We Think

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Happy Monday!  Or should I say ‘Blue Monday?’  After looking through various websites for a blog post topic to write about, I came across an article talking about why people associate Monday’s as gloomy or unpleasant.  The (old but interesting and relevant) article discusses how cognitive heuristics, memory, and decision-making all play a role in why most people consider Monday as the ‘worst day of the week.’  The peak-end heuristic is at play, which is the tendency to emphasize peaks and recent experiences when summarizing a period of time.  An example of this is the large change in mood from Sundays to Mondays in which people who work weekday shifts experience.  Memories also play a big role in the ‘Blue Monday’ belief.  Researchers conclude that if we have experienced something unpleasant on a Monday, it may lead us to associating Monday with the memory of the mood/emotion we felt on the past Monday.  Decision-making plays a role in the fact that it allows us to draw knowledge from our past experiences.  For example, experiencing an unpleasant medical test on a specific day will determine we choose to do that procedure again.

Arthur Stone conducted a research study in hopes of finding evidence that Mondays were in fact much more ‘bluer’ than other days in the week.  They conducted live phone interviews with people across the United States asking about their mood in the prior day.  With this information, he and his research team were hoping to find day-of-week (DOW) effects on both positive and negative moods.  Overall they found evidence that there were more positive moods on weekdays and Fridays.  With that being said, they did not find any evidence to support the ‘Blue Monday’ belief.  They also found that DOW effects were gender-blind; women were more likely to assess their moods negatively than men, but day to day changes were similar for both sexes.  In addition, Stone also conducted a study that examined the expectations about mood and day of the week.  He found that two-thirds of the participants voted Monday as the ‘worst’ day of the week, even if they may not have felt gloomier that day. 

Knowing and understanding why most people believe in the ‘Blue Monday’ or feel that Mondays are the ‘worst’ day of the week is interesting.  We know that in classifying Monday as ‘Blue Monday,’ there are many cognitive principles that apply to how we do so.  Heuristics play a big role in associating Mondays with unpleasant and gloomy moods.  For example, both peak-end heuristics play a role, as discussed in the article, as well as availability heuristics, discussed in class.  I gave the example for how peak-end heuristics play a role in ‘Blue Monday.’  The availability heuristic plays a role in ‘Blue Monday’ because if an unpleasant and gloomy mood is what is easily available to us on what happened on a Monday, then we are more likely to associate Monday with that mood.  In addition to that, if that is the memory we have with Mondays, that situation is more likely to stick to our memory, resulting in Mondays being associated with a ‘Blue Monday.’  As discussed in class and the article, we know that memory can be flawed, which may be one of the reasons why people most associate Mondays as the ‘worst’ day of the week, when in fact, they do not feel gloomier or less pleasant on that day.

I thought this article did a great job in explaining why people most associate Monday as the ‘worst’ day of the week.  Like most people, I myself associate Monday as the ‘worst’ day of the week and dread Mondays.  After reading this article and Stone’s study, it gave me a better understanding of why people may seem to think this way even though Mondays actually is not a more gloomier and unpleasant day in comparison to the rest of the week.  The article did a nice job in including many different concepts in helping explain why Monday is considered as ‘Blue Monday.’  The article introduced a new type of cognitive heuristic in which I was not aware of, which I enjoyed learning about.  I think that the article gave great examples in helping explaining how the cognitive principles applied to the ‘Blue Monday’ belief most people have.

After reading the article and relating it to past research and what we have discussed in class, I have a better understanding on why we believe in a ‘Blue Monday,’ how that belief is created, and how it may be flawed as a result of memory.  The article discusses how because our memory is flawed, it may be a result of our association of Monday with a ‘Blue Monday.’  This makes me wonder, what if this whole time ‘Blue Monday’ may have been a ‘Thank God it’s Monday,’ but it is not due to our flawed memories of Mondays being gloomy and unpleasant rather than joyful and happy.  I think that the research done on ‘Blue Mondays’ is very interesting and helpful in understanding why the majority of people do consider Mondays as the ‘worst’ day of the week.  I also thought it was interesting to read that the research found that retirees did not make much of a distinction between weekends and weekdays.  With that being said, do you think that people are only ‘blue’ on Mondays because they have to go back to work and/or school on Monday?  What about people who have different work schedules?  For example, if someone had a Wednesday to Sunday work-week, would they consider Wednesdays as their ‘Blue Monday?’

Amazing Memories and the Potential Future of Memory Research.

memory

Imagine being able to remember everything you have ever said or done. If you’re like me, I barely remember what I said two days ago let alone everything I’ve ever said. Though, I’m sure it would get rather annoying to our partners if that were the case. There are those rare individuals who have a gift (or curse) which is called “Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory” or HSAM for short. These individuals have the uncanny ability to remember more personal and emotional memories. Memories referred to as episodic memories.

Episodic memories are just that, memories that have personal meaning that are tied to emotion. The other type of memory is called semantic memory. Semantic memories are not tied to emotions, they’re just facts. So if I ask you, who was the first President of the United States? Or, what is the capital of the United Kingdom? There probably is not much if any emotional ties to these answer, yet you were able to remember them. This is your semantic memory. Don’t worry, there are semantic memory champions as well:

So, it seems as though you can’t have it both ways, but that you can at least practice really hard and become good at your semantic memory. But how does memory really work? There are two ways that we’ll talk about it, the first will be cognitive and the other will be more neuroscience.

Cognitive psychologist use the Modal Model of Memory, which follows a path from sensory input, to sensory memory, to working memory, and then into long-term memory (LTM). Working memory is sometimes referred to as “short-term memory” though that term is not used as much anymore. From working memory, it has three places to go, the memory can decay, it can move into long-term, or the individual has to keep the memory active through rehearsal. Working memory has a capacity though, it can hold 7 items (plus or minus 2) within. It also has a time limit which is roughly 30 seconds, though if you believe old Hollywood movies, it’s more like 5 minutes. Once the memory goes into LTM, cognitive psychology doesn’t go into how it is stored, just mainly into how it is retrieved. For this, we turn to a more neuroscience approach:

According to Neuroscientists, forming a LTM starts this chain of neurons connecting that otherwise don’t normally connect. The example used above is building a bridge between two areas that weren’t previously connected. So, let’s take the example of the rats, when the tone is played, they receive a shock. After the first time, neurons are being connected to tell the rat, this tone equals a shock. After it is done a few more times, the connection between the neurons is stronger (long-term potentiation) and the signal is able to travel quicker when recalled.

This is only at the cellular level and does not fully explain the entire purposes, but it goes far enough for our purposes in this post because there has been a study done recently that challenges this school of thought. Neuroscientists have recently found that memories may actually exists within the neurons themselves. The implications of this, if supported, has not only the potential of changing the way in which we think about memory, but it could mean hope for those suffering from illnesses like PTSD and Alzheimer’s.

For PTSD sufferers, this could potentially mean that we could do a “Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and zap the neurons and get rid of the memories in which the individuals are having the problems with. For Alzheimer’s, this could mean that their memories are truly lost and that they could, with further research, regain some of the previously thought lost memories. The research is really still new and definitely needs further testing to gain any sort of support and I remain skeptical as one critic suggested that the “results were observed in the first 48 hours after treatment, a time when consolidation is still sensitive.” Consolidation refers to the process in which working short-term memory becomes long-term memories.

As this is the last post that I’ll probably be making on this blog, I leave you with this scene of Eternal Sunshine of the spotless Mind:

Study Tip: Spatial/Relational Studying

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always had a problem with flashcards. Teachers would tell me to make flashcards for vocabulary words, for example. I found that once I’d written the words on the card, and added their definitions, I could already remember which definitions matched which words. Since I could match the words and definitions accurately, studying the flashcards no longer felt necessary. The whole process felt redundant and unhelpful to me. But the problem was that just because I knew which word went with which definition, that didn’t mean I understood the term.

In class, we discussed maintenance rehearsal versus elaborative rehearsal. Maintenance rehearsal is rehearsing a piece of information enough to keep it active. In this rehearsal, it doesn’t ver really move into long-term memory. Elaborative rehearsal, however, is rehearsal that involves processing. It helps us move information into long-term memory. Learning isn’t just about repeated exposure (think of the penny or the Apple logo). Learning needs deeper levels of processing. This might involve imagery, meaning, or personal tie-ins. Learning that involves surface details or sound patterns just doesn’t stick as well. Research supports the textbook and the discussion we had in class. In a study by Craik and Tulving (1975), participants were asked to answer questions about words. Sometimes, the participants answered about the meaning of the word (deep). Other times, they answered about the sound/structure of the word (shallow). They were then asked to pick the original words out of a longer list. While the deep processing took longer, the subjects who semantically processed the words showed greater performance on the recall task.

My original study tip is developed from several sources: my personal study habits, our class discussion, the research, and a technique mentioned in class by a fellow student. In a discussion about the problems of flashcard usage and maintenance rehearsal, this student mentioned how one could create flashcards using class notes etc., but then instead of engaging in repetitive and rote memorization with those cards, attempt to categorize them instead. I felt that this would be a much more meaningful way to interact with the material. As I thought about this suggestion, and pondered my own study habits, I came up with my suggested study tip: Flowcharts

You’ll need a whiteboard (a gallon plastic bag around a white sheet of paper works, but the bigger the board the better. In the ITCC, there are tons of big white boards free for our use!), dry erase markers, and small cards/sticky notes. First, write out important pieces of information on the cards. These bits of info can be definitions, theories, categories, relationships, tasks, people, ideas, studies, aspects of studies, etc. For example, if you have notes on a scientist who did two studies, each of which had two main findings, write out a card for the scientist, each study’s basic details, and details on each of the findings. When you’re done with the information for the chapter, shuffle your cards. Next is the fun part.

diagram-empty-2Now, you want to take your cards and start sorting them into a flow chart! You can stick them up on the board, and use the markers to draw connecting lines and arrows. The most important part here is to emphasize relationships. Thinking about how your concepts interact is important for making them stick in your long-term memory. It’s much more effective than just memorizing!

flowchartPractice putting your cards in a linear/chronological flow and drawing arrows between steps. Show what came first conceptually, and influenced later steps. Then try a hierarchical structure. What are the overarching themes and categories, and the subcategories and details? How do they relate to each other? Don’t be afraid to draw tons of arrows! The more times you engage with the pieces of information in different ways, the more comfortable you’ll be with them.

Good luck studying!

We Don’t Always Remember Public Tragedy Very Accurately

A September 11th memorial in West Orange, New Jersey. (Photo: Glynnis Jones/Shutterstock)

A recent article written by Nathan Collins discusses the idea that although when we recall events that we just KNOW are accurate (we’d even be willing to be our life on it) we are often actually wrong.  This has been found to be the case even in public tragedies that have nationwide or world wide effects.

This article particularly focuses on the attacks that occurred on 9/11/2001. A longitudinal study showed that there was a large difference in the recall of participants between the month after the tragedy and the year after the tragedy.

The memories of events like 9/11- “flashbulb memories”- are ones that we tend to think will never change. We claim that we “remember it like it was yesterday”. We claim that we can see ourselves in that exact place, and we can feel the mood we were in when it happened. But how true is this, really?

In the previously mentioned study, a research team led by William Hirst and Elizabeth Phelps issued a survey to a few thousand participants within the first few weeks of the September 11th tragedy. This survey asked questions such as, “how did you find out about the tragedy?”, “what do you know about the events about the attacks?”. The researchers followed up these questions in August 2002, 2004, and most recently, 2011.

Results showed that in August 2002 (less than a YEAR after 9/11), the participants’ recall pertaining to their location had changed from the first survey, which was collected only a month after 9/11.

In one case, a participant said (in survey 1) that he had been in the kitchen making breakfast when he heard the news. However, in August 2002, (survey 2) the same participant claimed that he’d been in his dorm room folding laundry. THEN, interestingly enough, in 2004 and 2011 the same participant stuck with his second memory, saying that he had been in his dorm room folding laundry on the morning of the attacks.

General results showed two trends…

1. The most dramatic changes in participants responses to the surveys occurred between the survey collected the month after 9/11 and the survey collected in August 2002. This trend suggests that the memory stabilized after the first year.

2. Inaccurate memories (such as where the planes crashed, and how many plans were involved) were often corrected. However, inconsistent flashbulb memories were not corrected. By the time the results came in for the 2011 survey, the participants involved in the study had repeated more than 60% of the inconsistencies that had been revealed after the August 2002 survey.

The findings of this study suggest that our minds are reconstructive.  We do remember, but our memory is often influenced by perception imagination, semantic memory, and beliefs. Also, confidence of a memory is not (AT ALL) correlated with the accuracy of the memory. People may believe their memory could never have errors during recall, but the truth is, memory is subject to all kinds of errors such as individual perception, social influence, and general knowledge.

I was in the 2nd grade when the attacks on September 11th occurred. I remember that I was sitting in my music class when we were told the news. My school was on lock down, and more than half of the students were picked up by their parents. However, my mother was (and still is) a teacher at that school, and I was one of the few that didn’t leave because my mother couldn’t either.

Are those memories of my experience on 9/11 actually accurate? That is something I will never know. This is the beauty and mystery of flashbulb memories!

Interference: what is it? & possible solutions

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I dread getting the email from the helpdesk@umw.edu saying “UMW’s policy requires users to change Active Directory (AD) passwords every 90 days and your password is set to expire in 10 days.” I feel as if I just had changed my password and was finally starting to remember it and now have to remember a brand new password. Therefore, I decided to make a meme describing my struggle and possibly other students struggle here at Mary Wash!

Since we are required to frequently changing our password at UMW, I am continuously struggling with proactive interference.  Before I get into what I mean by this, what is interference?

Interference is the competition between targets for activation of retrieval cues and there are two types of interference: retroactive and proactive. Retroactive interference is when new information inhibits our ability to recall old information. For example, say your family moved a few years ago to another state. You most likely have your current house address memorized and it may take you a while to remember what your old house address was where you use to live because your retrieval cue for your home address actively retrieves where you live currently since you use your current home address for mail services, shipping, bills, GPS, etc.

In my case, and I assume other UMW students have the similar struggle I have, proactive interference is when the old information inhibits our ability to recall or remember new information. We use EagleNet, Canvas, and Windows in the UMW labs, library, convergence center, and offices everyday (or at least I do). So when we have to change our password every 90 days, the first few days, week, or even month we may enter our old password because we were so use to typing our old password for logging into UMW systems every day.

Some tips to maybe help fellow UMW students out if they are struggling with proactive interference? I know my computer and tablet that I use to log on to EagleNet and Canvas give me the option to “automatically save this password for this site?” or “update this password for this site?” and I always do it for my devices to help me out so it’s quicker when I use my devices in my room or on campus. I also make a password that is somewhat sequential. For example, say  I started off with “MaryWash17A” for my first password, then the next 90 days when I have to update it I would change my password to “MaryWash17B”, “MaryWash17C”, ….etc. For some reason that helps me out so when I type in my old password at the library and it says “invalid password” (proactive interference) I know that I probably just have change the last letter of my password to the next letter in the alphabet. Some people put their passwords in a notes app in their phone so when you update your password, put it in your notes in case you keep putting in your old password you know where your new password will be!

I hope you guys enjoyed my meme! If you have any other tips on how to remember new passwords please comment; I’d love to hear your ideas!

The Forgotten Childhood: Why Early Memories Fade

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http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/04/08/299189442/the-forgotten-childhood-why-early-memories-fade

As adults, we all try to remember certain memories from when we were young but somehow can’t manage to remember what happened.  As we discussed in class a few weeks ago, we call this phenomenon childhood amnesia.  After discussing childhood amnesia and false memories in class, I couldn’t help but feel intrigued to find out more information on childhood amnesia.  I came across this article, which is a year old, but I thought it was still appropriate because it discusses childhood amnesia, and answered some questions I had regarding childhood amnesia.  As we have discussed in class, we know that we have little memory before the age of 4 years old and that on average, the first memory we have is around 3 and a half years old.  This article discusses when childhood amnesia starts, which memories from our childhood persist, and how the power of the memory can determine whether we remember or forget that childhood memory. 

This article discusses multiple research done related to childhood amnesia.  Specifically, the article discusses research in relation to when childhood amnesia starts, which childhood memories persist, and the power of memory.  In terms of research done on when childhood amnesia starts, the article discussed research done to see what happened to memories of children over time.  They recorded 3-year olds talking to their parents about a specific event that happened.  A few years later, researched checked back with the children to see if they remembered the events.  Children who were 7 recalled more than 60% of the events while children who were 8 or 9 only recalled less than 40% of the events.  In terms of which childhood memories persist, the article discussed research done by Carole Peterson who studied children who were hospitalized in emergency rooms as young as 2 years old for injuries.  Because these memories were emotional and significant events, Peterson concluded that children had good memory of those events, even up to 10 years later.  Lastly, in terms of the power of the memory, the article discussed how researchers found that parents play a big role in what children remember.  Specifically, they found that, parents who help shape, structure, and context to a memory, the memory is less likely to fade.

With the many different research done on childhood amnesia, we can figure out specific ways to make memories from our childhood stronger.  The article discusses the findings from research which relates to how we can make our childhood memory stronger.  The researchers discussed reasons as to why our childhood memories from such a young age aren’t always remembered.  Specifically, they concluded that because our brain systems are so immature at such a young age, they may not be working as efficiently as they could, especially in our older, adult years.  The article discussed how childhood memories are more likely to survive if those memories involve a lot of emotion.  For example, we’re more likely to remember events that involved us breaking a bone rather than a memory on what we did for our 4th birthday.  Lastly, our childhood memory is likely to survive if our parents help us make the power of that memory stronger.  For example, if parents help us shape and structure and add context to the memory, we’re more likely to remember it when we’re adults.  All this information and research are all helpful information in trying to understand childhood amnesia.

When I came across this article, I had a lot of questions in which I hope the article would answer.  After I had read the article, I did learn more information about childhood amnesia, on top of what we’ve learned in class.  I think that the article did a wonderful job in explaining childhood amnesia, when it starts, which childhood memories persist, and how to make our childhood memories more powerful.  This article gave me a deeper understanding of childhood amnesia in which we didn’t discuss in class.  I think that the research done was very helpful in giving me a better understanding of what childhood amnesia is.  I liked how they had examples of instances when childhood amnesia occurs and ways to enhance childhood memories. 

After reading the article and relating it to what we’ve discussed in class about childhood amnesia in the last couple weeks, I have gained better knowledge on childhood amnesia.  I think that childhood amnesia is such an interesting topic to talk about and learn about.  As an adult, I often don’t remember certain events from my childhood, except for maybe a small handful.  Not being able to remember these memories at such a young age is a little bit frustrating, especially when family members all know of that one embarrassing memory they have of you, which you have no recall of.  I think that research being done on childhood amnesia is great because the more we’re able to enhance childhood memories, the better.  Being an adult now, that research may not be beneficial to me, but at least they’ll be beneficial to children today.  Unlike us, maybe when they’re adults, they’ll recall of that oh-so embarrassing memory of themselves that everyone else remembers. 

Feeling Down? Head to the Gym!

brain-on-exerciseWouldn’t it be nice if there was a guaranteed method to alleviate depression, improve memory, de-stress, focus, and stick to your goals? It sounds like a cognitive miracle, doesn’t it? Research has shown that exercise can do just that. This article in Women’s Health Magazine lists these five outcomes as the direct result of exercise. The article claims that increased exercise results in increased blood flow to the brain; this apparently helps cognition, memory, and stress levels. The article cites several medical and psychological studies to support its assertions, which is certainly pretty convincing.

First, the article asserts that exercise alleviates depression. Besides the experiment cited in the article, I found research, including the following study, that supports this assertion. The study states that changes in baseline physical activity levels were associated with changes in mental health. The relationship was strong in the between person conditions, but not as strong in the within person conditions. This likely indicates that depression and mental health are not solely dependent on activity levels, but are more holistically affected. However, the relationship did exist in both conditions.

The article next contends that exercise can help us de-stress. The above study on “mental health” included anxiety as well as depression. The study found that changes in exercise levels certainly related to changes in anxiety. Another study  found similar results: those who participated in Qigong exercise reported significantly lower levels of anxiety after a session of exercise.

The article also states that memory is improved by engaging in exercise. Many studies have shown this to be true of both rats and humans; in particular, a study of rats round that exercise facilitated memory acquisition, memory retention, and reversal learning. All three of these demonstrations of memory were improved after rats exercised regularly.

The last claim in the article is that exercise helps with attentional focus and sticking to goals, because exercise is often unpleasant and laborious and requires significant commitment, focus, and organization in order to go through with it successfully. This was a much more difficult assertion to validate with research. It assumes several steps of relation — first, that those who exercise do so with successful focus and perseverance. Second, it assumes that they are then able and willing to apply those skills to other situations, outside of their exercise habits. If both of these premises are true, then it might follow that the individuals who learn how to focus and persevere due to exercise then tend to demonstrate these abilities in other aspects of their lives. If that is the case, it seems inaccurate to me to attribute these outcomes directly to the exercise, but rather to simple learning.

Overall, I think the article that I found, though found a more of a mainstream popular culture magazine, was fairly accurate and well-researched in its claims regarding the cognitive benefits of exercise. The article was rather brief in its descriptions of the studies involved and the potential outcomes, but linked out to other articles providing further information on each claim, which I thought was very helpful.

I find this topic fascinating — I always feel like a better version of myself when I’ve been exercising regularly. My mood and overall sharpness seem higher. I find myself wondering if there are other benefits to exercising. Other studies have found that exercise may improve our ability to think creatively.  Do any of you find this to be true for you? What other cognitive benefits do you see in your life when you exercise regularly?