"This is the story of how we begin to remember
This is the powerful pulsing of love in the vein
After the dream of falling and calling your name out
These are the roots of rhythm
And the roots of rhythm remain"
Under African Skies ~ Paul Simon

This morning I awoke, went to the kitchen to put the coffee on and saw that it was only 3:00 a.m.

I went back to bed, heard the grandfather clock chime 4:00, heard the half past chime and got up at a quarter to five and am now sitting at the computer groaning because I have a full day driving to a doctor appointment 2 hours away and back and then going to a sports bar owned by Democrats to listen to the returns come in from today’s elections. 

Stacey Abrams!

For perhaps the only time I am in agreement with Marco Rubio who wants to do away with Daylight Savings Time. I don’t know his reasons.  They are probably different from mine.  I just know that World War II is over.

As I stumbled to the kitchen at 3:00 a dream was fading that I had just had.  In that dream a woman that I do not know got a text that simply said, “Peligro!”  Somehow, in my dram, I knew that that word meant, “danger”.  I had one semester of conversational Spanish for Doctors and Nurses in which we learned to say things like, “where do you hurt”, and “stick your tongue out.” 

I don’t ever remember learning the Spanish word for danger.  I looked it up.  My dream was right.

This set me to thinking about how we remember. 

Everyone has experienced the irritation of trying to remember a word or fact and having it come later when we no longer need it, unbidden.  Actually, it isn’t unbidden.  Somehow, our brain has been working on that task undercover, in our subconscious mind.

The brain is still a mystery.  How can a crow or an African Gray Parrot have the I.Q of a five year old when it has an almond sized brain?  Why is an octopus smart when it is only going to live three or four years?  How can an octopus have independent control of each of its tentacles that still somehow talk to its central brain?

Why did our dog – who we took to the vet a couple of weeks ago to say goodbye – start forgetting things when she developed Canine Cognitive Dysfunction?

Why do some people remember what they see and others what they hear?

My own memory is primarily visual and I have almost no auditory memory.  I was always like the kids in the Peanuts comic strip who remember, “wah wah, wah wah, wah wah.”  Countering that lack of verbal rote memory, is the fact that an unusual amount of short term memory goes to long term memory compared to some other people.  That is almost a disadvantage because increasingly every experience triggers a memory of a prior experience.

An article in Scientific American, as usual, poses more questions than it answers, but Paul Reber, a psychologist at Northwestern University, offers some information understandable to someone who is not a neuroscientist. 

“You might have only a few gigabytes of storage space, similar to the space in an iPod or a USB flash drive. Yet neurons combine so that each one helps with many memories at a time, exponentially increasing the brain's memory storage capacity to something closer to around 2.5 petabytes (or a million gigabytes).”

One thing that I have recently become aware of (I can’t find the source) is that our brains remember in an economical way.  Remembering the experience of meeting the love of your life for the first time you may remember where you were, what he or she was wearing, even the music playing on the P.A. system, but you won’t remember the faces of the other people in the room, or the fact that the waiter was talking to the people at the next table unless that conversation entered, somehow, into meeting the other person.  In other situations that are life threatening you may even remember less because all of your attention was focused on the danger to you.

Also, we develop false memories, perhaps through the interaction of those neurons trying to make a supercomputer out of an iPod.  Those false memories become “the story” that we will swear is the truth.  Our memory doesn’t lie to us, we say, but it does.

So, where did peligro come from?  Why did my brain store it?  Where has it been all of this time?  Why was it accessible in a dream, but not in my conscious experience?

It’s 6:34.  I just heard my love interest stirring.  I remember what she looked like, sitting in a coffee shop with three other girls the day I first saw her about 54 years ago. I can remember what she was wearing. I remember Charlie Blackman saying, “let’s go meet them.”  I can’t remember a thing about what the other three young women looked like.

Views: 87

Comment by Ron Powell on November 6, 2018 at 6:30am
From Webster's:
  • : a curved elongated ridge that.   extends over the floor of the descending horn of each lateralventricle of the brain, that consists of gray .    matter covered on the ventricular surface with white .matter, and that is involved in forming,  storing, and processing memory
Comment by Rodney Roe on November 6, 2018 at 6:48am

Partly true.  The Hippocampus is where they are formed.  It is where short term memory is formed, and it is the area that suffers in Alzheimer patients.  Long term memory appears to be stored in various other parts of the neocortex, and a lot is in the temporal lobe. 

Penfield, a neurosurgeon from the past century, while working on patients who were awake, touched areas of the temporal lobe and elicited remarkably complicated memories.  One person, for example, heard an entire Beethoven symphony. 

Comment by koshersalaami on November 6, 2018 at 7:04am

Do you think the memory of what the other three girls looked like is actually stored in your brain but harder to access or do you think it’s just not there any more?

Comment by Rodney Roe on November 6, 2018 at 8:47am

That’s an excellent question. Like that word it could be there. In the movies hypnotidm is used to “unlock” repressed memory. Not sure whether that is done much. My sense is that a lot is repressed becsuse it would be impossible to function otherwise.

Comment by Tom Cordle on November 6, 2018 at 9:38am

"How can a crow or an African Gray Parrot have the I.Q of a five year old when it has an almond sized brain"

Those who know about such things tell us that it isn't simply brain size, it's brain size in proportion to body mass. I learned this watching a fascinating documentary on crows. Apparently, they have a very high brain to body mass ratio. This might be the docmuentary, if so, it's well worth watching:


Comment by Tom Cordle on November 6, 2018 at 9:48am

Memory is Chuchill's proverbial "a riddle, wrapped in a mystery ..." – obviously, my memory fails me on the exact quote. For most of my life I had almost instant recall of facts and trivia, but alas, when I turned 70, I began to experience what I call "Three-Miinute Jeopardy".

Comment by J.P. Hart on November 6, 2018 at 11:13am

No doubt somewhere maybe a kid can rote-quote Finnegans Wake. Perhaps this is why Chinese invented gun powder...what with the population scale and the propensity of incalculable numbers. Good genius colleague was possessed with edetic memory/recall. Per example, I'd (plausibly over rail a vodka) blurt questions like, who's that dude who did the poster of Hitler in that black VW bug...you know with the caption, 'Advertising Makes It Happen'? And he'd elegantly
'name that tune' while I'd order another round. We went on like that for a good while until (yeah) the lights came on and we'd have those whole limes from slices.
He died in SE Asia something like a week or two before the Embassy was evacuated. He'd been a 'chopper door gunner. I've saved his letters. Can't find them right now.

Comment by Ron Powell on November 6, 2018 at 3:19pm

Tom,  A form of Winston Churchill's quotation, made in a radio broadcast in October 1939: "I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle,wrapped in a mysteryinside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest."

Comment by Rodney Roe on November 7, 2018 at 5:38am

Tom, that video is similar to one that indicated that crows recognize faces and can somehow teach crows who have never seen a noxious person to beware of them.  I watched a special on crows that showed a species in, I believe, New Guinea making tools to get to food.  The relationship of brain/body ratio to intelligence is interesting.  In human brains there is no direct correlation of brain size to intelligence.  Anatole France had a small brain and a big intellect, for example.  Intelligence seems related to the rate of brain development.

The prefrontal cortex is the seat of memory, language and abstract reasoning. For those with lower measured intelligence, the prefrontal cortex grew thicker with neuron-rich gray matter more quickly and reached a peak thickness at age 8. For the smartest kids, the cortex was thinner early on and didn't reach peak thickness until age 11.

However, the reason for the slower development isn't known.  Is it genetic or environmental?

Ron, the quote above is from LiveScience website citing a study from the National Institute of Mental health reported in Nature.  The prefrontal cortex seems to be a 'switching station' involved in coordinating memory and decisions, and isn't fully developed until the mid 20s.  That is thought to relate to poor decisions teens make.

Comment by Rodney Roe on November 7, 2018 at 5:41am

...that and hormones.


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