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Memory and Aging

The memory is where we store all the ideas, thoughts and experiences in our brain, so we don’t lose them. We are bombarded all day, every day by sights and sounds. But where are these memories stored exactly? Once recorded, a memory is then stored close to the same part of the brain where it entered in the first place. For example, memory of a song will be stored close to the auditory cortex. Memory of a burn, a broken bone or other pain will be stored near the sensory cortex. For multiple types of sensations, such as the birth of a child (for women), where emotions and physiological experiences are involved, the memories are distributed across multiple cortical areas.

One of the most serious dangers to our brains and memories in particular is Alzheimer ’s disease. This begins with short-term memory loss, with simple symptoms like constantly losing your car keys or mislaying your eyeglasses. Patients of Alzheimer’s may find themselves forgetting even a loved one’s name, or forgetting words for ordinary objects. Sad to say, it can become even more serious and life threatening if not treated.

Have you ever experienced the temporary loss of a vital piece of information-information you know you possess? But, what happened, where did it go? Baby Boomers simply laugh and refer to it as a ‘senior moment.’ Many of us suffer from these ‘senior moments.’ These momentary lapses are not to be confused with Alzheimer’s.  A word or a name just escapes you for a moment and usually returns a little while later. You should not worry unduly about these temporary lapses, everyone experiences them at one time or another.

You’ve probably heard people use expressions like, “my memory is like a sieve.” Or, maybe the lament that “my memory must be failing.” This attitude that the memory is hopeless only perpetrates the misunderstanding about aging and memory loss. No matter what your age, you can attain any intellectual goal you care to set for yourself and improve your memory. You simply must exercise your brain. You wouldn’t attempt to run a marathon without advanced physical training; why would you expect your brain to perform feats of intellect without advanced mental training? Remember the old saying that if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.

So, you have all these wonderful memories stored within this marvelous machine, just waiting for you to tap into them, or access the files, to use a computer analogy. That’s what your brain actually is, an amazing memory bank of information. But how, you ask, can we do that?

In the late 1950s, Dr. Wilder Penfield, at the Montreal Neurological Institute was trying to cure epileptics by applying electrical stimulation to certain areas of his patients’ brains. The slight current the doctor used brought out very precise, very vivid memories. His patients were able to relate certain memories, in great detail. The memory evoked depended on the part of the cortex, or the outer layer of brain cells being stimulated.

Another method of stimulating these deeply buried memories is hypnosis. Hypnosis allows the subject to recall in minute detail every aspect of an experience. Sometimes, a person can recall conversations, recall a scent or sound connected to that experience. Think those old memories are forgotten, lost forever? They’re not lost, just mislaid, filed away in that marvelous machine in your head.

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About Leon Edward

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  1. Keep this going please, great job!

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