Sunday, December 6, 2009

If memory serves...

How doctors can determine awareness.
How doctors can determine awareness.

(photo courtesy of Der Spiegel of Spiegel Online International. The article was about how doctors determine awareness)
I'll go out on a limb here and say that we all want our brains to be #1, a healthy brain.  Well I am always interested in ways to keep my mind sharp. I'll admit that some times when I meet a person and ask them their name, I repeat it in front of them, smile, shake hands and I forget it the moment they walk away.  I'm left with the gas face, kicking myself for not recalling instant information.  Now that could either be because I'm uninterested or in reality my brain ranges on the spectrum between #2 and #4 on the diagram above.  

Well I'm being extreme to make my point. I hardly consider my brain anyplace near having a locked-in syndrome, having a minimal state of consciousness, nor being in a vegetative state.  With few exceptions none of us should subscribe to that resolve.  And I don't believe that I'm rude, I believe in those instances I just forgot to use triggers. 

Busy lives, shifting schedules and heath challenges all play a part in what information we choose to retain.  I have had several conversations with frustrated folks who feel that their memory is failing due to age, parenthood, etc.  When all it actually is, is remembering to remember simple triggers.  That's all!  Just know that you know something, breathe and relax, your memory will kick in.  Go on and purchase all of the Ginkgo biloba [an herb used to enhance memory function] that your medicine cabinet can stand - it can't hurt. Or remember to remember one or all of the following nine mnemonic devices. 

1 - music- works best with longs lists.  You can make a song or jingle using any type of music you choose for any list of items. i.e. the ABC song or the 50 states song.
2 - names - acronyms.  i.e. ROY G. BIV = colors of the spectrum (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet.) or the 7 coordinating conjunctions are For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So = FANBOYS.
3 - expressions - silly expressive sentences.  This is by far the most popularly used mnemonic.  i.e. My high school English teacher gave us something silly that worked.  What do you ADOPT... a BB.  Synonyms for disagreeable. Argumentative, Disputatious, Obstreperous, Pugnacious, Truculent, Bellicose & Belligerent.
4 - model - graphs, pie charts  

5 - rhyme - sing songy rhymes.  i.e. 30 days hath September, April, June, and November. 
6 - note organization - index [flash] cards/ memorizing & outlines.
7 - image - constructed in the form of a picture that promotes recall.  
i.e. to remember BAT (the depressant drugs mentioned above - Barbiturates, Alcohol, and Tranquilizers). Visualize or sketch in your notes a limp, depressed bat that tookBarbiturates, Alcohol, and Tranquilizers.
8 - connection - information to be remembered is connected to something already known.  
i.e. Remembering the direction of longitude and latitude is easier to do when you realize that lines on a globe that run North and South are long and that coincides with LONGitude. Another Connection Mnemonic points out that there is an N inLONGitude and an N in North. Latitude lines must run east to west, then because there is no N in latitude.
9 - spelling - cute triggers i.e. A principal at a school is your pal, and a principle you believe or follow is a rule.
Here, I just thought of a tenth one. Physical - i.e. walking back into the room where you initiated a thought usually triggers the thought.  I do that one much more than I'd like to admit.

And there are many more examples because we are only limited by our imaginations.  Yes, these examples are elementary. But that's the point. I'm not aiming to give you an a-ha moment of deep clarity.   


  1. Good info. I've been having a terrible time remember people's names lately. At SITScation, I was just lost because I was not only having trouble remembering people's names, but I even couldn't remember who I had talked to. The day I left someone came up and hugged me and told me to "keep in touch". I hugged back and told her I would, but honestly, I have NO CLUE who it was. In my case, I think it's simple sleep deprivation with a side order of menopause (as I'm writing this, it's 1:00 AM, so I'm definitely seeing a trend here!). But I think I may try some Ginko Biloba as well. Like you said, it can't hurt.

  2. You wrote this? Yowza! You could give lectures about it. It was EXCELLENT! You kept it clear, concise, complete. REALLY EXCELLENT!

    I do all those things and rhymes too. Did you mention rhymes? Yup. It's like setting things to music.

    The memory guru's use all of those tricks and more, so there is no short cut, just practice making perfect.

    And my brain? Sometimes it's a number 5. The reason it's not pictured is because I refuse to sign a release form. ;)

  3. You make a good point that it's probably our brains getting worse with age. I'm just trying to do too much and not being mindful at the moment so things aren't even allowed to stick in the first place!

  4. That happens with me too about forgetting why I went into a room. Usually it's all the way upstairs and I have to go back down to remember.

    I have been trying to play brain games and do puzzles, etc. Anything to keep my mind active!

  5. Where were you when I was taking exams!? This was very informative!!!

  6. very interesting...I was attending my son's debate team match and one of the questions had to do with the intensity of colors and no one could get the answer. I my mind I was saying "Roy G Biv; Roy G Biv" - if only I coulda buzzed in!!!

    one thing that helps me remember, say if I wake up in the middle of the night is to remember the number of things I was thinking so that when I wake up I can remember - ok - 3 things to remember...If that makes any sense!



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