Posts Tagged ‘Healthy_Memory’

Harry Lorayne: Ageless Mnemonist

March 29, 2010

I was most pleased to come across Harry Lorayne’s book, Ageless Memory: Simple Secrets for Keeping Your Brain Young. Harry Lorayne is probably the foremost mnemonist and advocate of mnemonic techniques. Mnemonic techniques are techniques designed for improving memory. A mnemonist is an expert practitioner of mnemonic techniques. He has demonstrated fantastic memory feats on television and throughout the world. The Book of Genius (Stanley Paul Publishers, 1994) discusses his record of having met and remembered the names and faces of more than 7,500,00 people. He has written many books on memory techniques, the best known being probably being the best seller that he wrote with basketball great, Jerry Lucas, The Memory Book. Ageless Memory discusses most, if not all, of the techniques in The Memory Book, plus a few more. There is a chapter that applies mnemonic techniques to computer tasks. Each chapter includes a “Special Mind-Power” Exercise.

Lorayne provides two reasons for using these techniques. One is the most obvious one, they can improve your memory. The second is that using these techniques can keep your memory healthy and young. Readers of the Healthymemory Blog will recognize that one of the themes of this blog is devoted to memory techniques, and the justification for this theme is the same as Harry Lorayne’s. They will not only improve your memory, but they should also foster brain health and keep your brain young as you age. There is also reason to think that you can improve your memory as you age, so that it is better than you were young.

Healthymemory Blog has three themes. One theme is titled “Human Memory: Theory and Data.” This theme presents data on human memory documenting its fallibility. Your memory was probably never as good as you thought it was. It is important to have a good understanding of memory so that you can be aware of its shortcomings and biases so that you are able to compensate for these shortcomings and biases and to take remedial action.

The second theme is mnemonic techniques, that we have already discussed. Here you can find a wide variety of techniques that not only will improve memory, but will also foster brain health.

The third theme is transactive memory which explores how both technology and fellow humans can aid and enhance memory.

The blog postings under these categories can be found along the sidebar. If you cannot see these categories along the sidebar, type healthymemory.wordpress.com into the URL space for your browser and hit enter.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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An Interesting Article on Boosting Brain Health

March 16, 2010

There is an interesting article in the March/April AARP magazine. It is written by a physician, P. Murali Doraiswamy, and is titled “Boost Your Brain Health.” This article has been cited in previous postings. It points out our memory strengths as we age. Our crystallized intelligence, our vocabulary and knowledge, can continue to grow and increase. Some impressive examples are cited of memory performance being maintained in spite of large losses in the physical brain. Losses in speed of processing do occur, but they can be mitigated through training and practice.

What I find most impressive about this article is that it does not propose one specific magic bullet for boosting brain health. We are constantly bombarded with adds regarding specific pills that will solve the problem. Or that there is a specific game you can play to maintain cognitive functioning. Avoid gimmicks. No product builds extra brainpower instantly or effortlessly. Both the brain and memory are way too complex to be amenable to a simple solution.

The article recommends the following ten helpful habits: 

  1. Walk and talk. Find a walking partner and a topic to discuss during your walks.
  2. Vary your routine. Try new things. Seek out novelty.
  3. Get smart. Be a lifelong learner and go beyond superficial learning.
  4. Play games. Pick games with several levels of difficulty. Look for timed games where you need to beat the clock.
  5. De-stress. Engage in activities that reduce stress. Meditate, walk, focus and relax.
  6. Sleep. Your brain remains active when you sleep continuing to process and relate the information of the day.
  7. Imagine. Be creative, paint, write (or employ mnemonic techniques). Visit new websites or build your own.
  8. Party. Meaning do not be a loner. Engage socially.
  9. Eat right. You have heard this before. To keep oxygen flowing to the brain consume a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains and fish.
  10. Watch your numbers. Blood pressure, weight, blood sugar, and cholesterol.
  11. The Healthymemory blog strongly endorses these recommendations. It provides direct support to habits 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7.

Many scientists believe that the buildup of a “cognitive reserve” wards off mental decline. The Healthymemory Blog strongly subscribes to this view. It supports three themes to this end.

The first theme can be found under the category “Human Memory: Theory and Data.” You will find posts here that will build your understanding of how human memory works. You will also learn of fallacies, biases, and processing errors that are common to all of us. Learning about them will allow you to avoid them. So your performance will not only improve, but will also help you avoid decision making errors that can have adverse effects on your finances.

The second theme can be found under the category of “Mnemonic Techniques.” Here you will find specific techniques for improving your memory. These techniques have the potential not only of improving your memory performance, but of also providing exercises that improve brain health.

The third theme is transactive memory. This little known concept has two parts. One is the reliance upon your fellow humans for improving your memory and brain health. The other is the use of technology for improving your memory and brain health.

To access these themes, click on the appropriate links under Categories on the sideboard.  (If you don’t see the Categories link on the sideboard, then go to healthymemory.wordpress.com)

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Boost Your Cognitive Reserve

March 1, 2010

 There is an interesting article in the March/April AARP magazine. It is written by a physician, P. Murali Doraiswamy, and is titled “Boost Your Brain Health.” He relates the story of an accomplished mathematician in his early 70’s. His wife had referred him to Gary Small, M.D., who is the director of the UCLA Center on Aging. He had become cranky and was having some difficulties performing certain calculations. Dr. Small put him through a battery of tests and the man maxed all of them including a memory test and a score of 140 on his IQ test. But when he examined the patient’s brain scan it had all the markings of full-blown Alzheimer’s disease. This case, while unusual, was not unique. Yaakov Stern, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist at Columbia University School of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City noted that up to 20% of people autopsied who had no major memory problems are discovered to have had Alzheimer’s.

Of course, the question here is “How can this be?” Usually activities that are good for your brain are also good for your heart, your immune system, and the rest of your body. Doraiswamy report a recently published study of 2,500 people ages 70 to 79 found that 30% of the group saw no delcine in their mental performance or actually improved on cognitive tests over the course of eight years. People in this group were more likely to have some or all of the following healthy traits:

exercised at least once a week

had at least the equivalent of a high-school education

did not smoke

worked or volunteered

lived with at least one other person

Many scientists believe that the buildup of a “cognitive reserve” wards off mental decline. This Healthymemory blog strongly subscribes to this view. It supports three themes to this end. The first can be found under the category “Human Memory: Theory and Data.” You will find posts here that will build your understanding of how human memory works. You will also learn of fallacies, biases, and processing errors that are common to all of us. Learning about them will allow you to avoid them. So your performance will not only improve, but will also help you avoid decision making errors that can have adverse effects on your finances.

The second theme can be found under the category of “Mnemonic Techniques.” Here you will find specific techniques for improving your memory. These techniques have the potential not only of improving your memory performance, but of also providing exercises that improve brain health.

The third theme is transactive memory. This little known concept has two parts. One is the reliance upon your fellow humans for improving your memory and brain health. The other is the use of technology for improving your memory and brain health.

To access these themes, click on the appropriate links under Categories on the sideboard.

The next several posts will address improving attention and cognitive control. These are skills that tend to decline as we age and deserve special attention.

The Healthy Memory Blog

February 11, 2010

Welcome to the Healthymemory Blog. As the name implies, one objective of this blog is to provide information to aid in keeping memory healthy. But we aspire to go beyond keeping memory healthy and pursue means of enhancing and growing memory. To this end, this blog pursues three themes: Human Memory: Theory and Data, Mnemonic Techniques, and Transactive Memory. You can locate the blog posts under each theme by clicking on their titles under Categories on the sidebar.

Human Memory: Theory and Data provides information on how memory works. Having a basic understanding of how memory works is important to maintaining a healthy memory. You might discover that the memory difficulties you are having are normal. Aging Baby Boomers might discover that memory lapses they attribute to aging are not due to aging at all. Here you will also find information on logical errors and biases as well as on health statistics and how to interpret them. You will see that logical errors and biases are the result of a certain type of processing. There are also limits to short term memory that can contribute to erroneous and biased processing. Other errors are due simply to not having the appropriate information in memory or having erroneous information in memory.

Mnemonic techniques are techniques for improving memory. Obviously they address the problem of memory failures directly, but they also have a secondary benefit. The secondary benefit is that they provide good exercises for memory. The call upon using your imagination and recoding information into a more memorable form. You can find a memory course in this category.

Transactive memory is a little known topic. It refers to memories stored outside your individual biological memory. There are two types of transactive memory: human and technical. You do not need to hold all information in your head. You can also get by with a little help from your loved ones and friends. Technical transactive memory includes all the information stored in all types of technology from note pads to books, to the internet. Technical aids can benefit memory recall, but the vast resources on the internet provide a splendid opportunity to cognitive and personal growth.

There is much to read on the Healthymemory Blog. Read what you need and what interests you. Please feel free to ask questions and make comments by clicking “leave a comment.”

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Confirmation Bias

January 30, 2010

If we want to determine if something is true, we have a strong tendency to look for evidence that confirms that something. This confirmation bias was introduced in the “Mindware” post. Remember that mindware is a term Stanovich uses to refer to specific skills or knowledge that have been acquired through learning.1 This is the strong tendency to fail to look for alternative hypotheses or explanations. A strong component of scientific mindware is the requirement to look and look hard for alternative hypotheses. Indeed, scientists try to falsify hypotheses. Logically, one cannot prove something, because there is always a possible unknown or unarticulated hypotheses that is more correct. However, one can disprove a hypothesis by finding one disconfirming instance. This is not the natural way we think, though. This is a discipline that needs to be learned (according to Stanovich, acquired mindware).

Peter Wason has designed a four card selection task that demonstrates the inherent fallacy in the way we naturally tend to think. Each card has a letter on one side and a number on the back. The hypothesis to be tested is, “If there is a vowel on one side of the card, there is an even number on the other side.” One of the four cards shows a K, another an A, a third an 8, and the fourth a 5. Now which card or cards needs to be turned over to determine the truth of this hypothesis. Think about this for a while before reading further.
50% of the people answer the A and the 8, which is a clear indication of the confirmation bias. They are seeking to confirm that there is an even number on the other side of the A, and that there is a vowel on the other side of the 8. The second most common answer is to turn over the A card only. This provides even stronger evidence for the confirmation bias.

Only 10% of the people choose the correct cards, the A card and the 5 card. If an odd number is found on the other side of the A card, the hypothesis will be disconfirmed. Turning over either the K card or the 8 card tells you nothing as the hypothesis states nothing about what is on the back of the consonant cards. They could have even numbers also or a mix of even and odd numbers.

It is important to be aware of these biases so that they don’t adversely affect your reasoning. As you become older, you should become wiser. Increased wisdom is a good indication of a healthy memory.

1Stanovich, K. E. (2009). What Intelligence Tests Miss: the psychology of rational thought. New Haven: The Yale University Press.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2010.. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.