I am proud to say that no one died of cancer or diabetes in my family. Starting from my great-great-great-grandparents, they had taught everyone the value of eating healthily, no matter how tempting McDonald’s burgers could be. There were no strict diets whatsoever, but they emphasized that whatever we put in our body would reflect our lifespan in the future. They even encouraged us to exercise as soon as we could follow simple instructions and play as many sports as possible.
If there was one sad aspect of my heritage, it was the fact that many of my ancestors showed signs of Alzheimer’s disease once they hit 60 years old.
Alzheimer’s In The Family
According to my mother, I was still a baby when Grandma – her mother – got diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. It all began with Grandma losing small things in obvious places. For instance, she would ask people if they saw her eyeglasses, even though they hung on her collar. Sometimes, she would forget where the spare house key was, although Grandma had been hiding that key under a lawn rock before Mom was even born.
Despite all those, I was not too affected by Grandma’s Alzheimer’s. Did I wish that she was as energetic as the other grandmothers who did tai chi at the park? Yes, sure. However, I had never known her to remember everything, so it was not too big of a deal to me.
Nonetheless, the most deeply upset me was the Alzheimer’s diagnosis of Aunt Tilly, my mother’s eldest sister.
Remembering Aunt Tilly
Aunt Tilly lived a couple of houses away from ours for as long as I could remember. Since I was an only child, I practically spent plenty of time at her place so that I could play with her kids.
Aunt Tilly was known as a conventional mother in the suburbs. Every day, she would not leave her bedroom without lipstick or some matching jewelry on. She was always baking and cooking, too, ready to host guests, no matter how unexpected they were. I also loved the fact that Aunt Tilly treated me like her daughter, to the extent that I would get all kinds of toys and clothes that her real kids would have.
My closeness with Aunt Tilly and her family continued even when I was growing up. She cried almost as much as my mother when I left the suburbs after high school. I had to do that because the community college did not have the finance program I wanted to get into. Still, we communicated over the phone as often as possible.
Then, one day, Kara – my aunt’s eldest daughter – texted me that she was taking Aunt Tilly to the doctor. I called her at once, and that’s when I found out that the family worried that she might have Alzheimer’s disease.
“Are we sure about that?” I asked.
“We both know how Grandma reacted when she was still alive. Mom had milder symptoms than her, but I want to consult a doctor anyway to keep the disease from progressing too fast,” Kara replied.
“But Aunt Tilly just turned 50…”
Kara sighed on the other line. “I know. It’s a stressful day. Even I do not want to think of its possibility, but prevention or early detection is better than cure,” she said.
As it turned out, Aunt Tilly actually showed signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Kara and the rest of the family had to monitor her condition, although they were supposed to do that discreetly.
What about me, you might ask? I started learning about memories and how they could be encoded in the brain.
What is encoding memory in psychology?
In psychology, when you are encoding memory, you store information in your memory databank in any way possible. This way, it is easy to retrieve the said information anytime you need it.
How is memory encoded in the brain?
The first thing that happens is perception. You need to focus on what you want to store in your memory system, organize your thoughts around it, and understand what sensory organ you have used to perceive the information. After all, the senses will transmit the signals to the brain so that you’ll find it effortless to connect what you’re seeing, feeling, tasting, or hearing to your emotions and turn it into an experience. That’s only when your hippocampus determines how long you should remember it.
Is memory psychological?
Memory is technically not a psychological process – the brain naturally can encode, store, and retrieve information. However, since cognitive psychologists have shown great interest in memory, it has been a part of psychology for decades. Specialists study things like how fast a person can remember something, what senses work when it happens, how long they can hold on to it, etc.
What are the three processes of memory retrieval?
Let’s say that someone is playing a card-matching game. The host has opened every card in front of the player before turning everything face down. Now, there are three processes that the person can try to retrieve information.
- Free Recall: It pertains to remembering things without any order. Given the example above, the individual may start opening the cards randomly and use the most recent data to win the game.
- Serial Recall: It refers to memory retrieval in a chronological sense. The player in the scenario may open the cards one by one, starting from the top left to the right or any direction they want to go. Then, they will remember the first matches that they see.
- Cued Recall: It involves a person giving cues to another that will allow them to relate the said cues to the information they have forgotten. For instance, the host may mention the object or number in one of the cards, and the player will recall where they have seen it.
What are the 4 types of memory?
- Sensory: It refers to a memory that you only recall within three seconds or less after experiencing a sensation. Say, if you touch a hot cauldron and pull your finger back, you tend to remember how hot it is in that short amount of time.
- Short-Term: It entails that you can recall a memory from less than a minute to a few days, depending on how often someone reminds them of it.
- Working: It is technically similar to short-term memory, although working memory is only applicable to information that you remember when you need it.
- Long-Term: This type of memory is something you keep in your mind for decades.
How do I improve my memory?
The first thing you can do is stimulate your brain. Any activity that will challenge you to think hard and learn new information will suffice. Of course, it should also allow you to get a sense of accomplishment in the end so that you will want to keep on improving your memory.
You need to exercise physically to boost your memory, too. The increase in your brain’s oxygen level and the decrease in stress levels are essential to reminding you of things longer and better than others.
Getting as much sleep as possible is also an essential memory-sharpening activity. Sleep deprivation makes it practically impossible for people to recall a long-term memory over time. It may affect their cognitive function or work performance.
Furthermore, your memory may improve when you make friends and laugh all the time. Both activities will be good for your happy hormones and prevent the brain from producing too many stress hormones.
How can I recall my memory?
One of the most significant issues with memory retrieval is lack of focus. From the moment you perceive something, you need to pour your attention into it. It will be effortless for you to recall your experience in the future, considering you have the full picture in your head instead of glimpses of the memory.
If you also want to remember a lesson, theory, or application for a long time, you must learn about it way before you need to start using the information. This is why teachers discourage students from only studying a day or two before the exam. When you cram, your brain has no time to digest the data and transfer it to your long-term memory – or at least the working memory.
Another thing you can do is use mnemonic devices for memory recollection. Meaning, you associate an idea or event to your mood or environment or other information that you already know. You may even let your imagination run wild and turn the situation into a song, haiku, etc.
Again, try to sleep on it. You may be unable to recall a memory if your brain is filled with stressful thoughts, after all. Sleeping can stabilize everything; when you wake up, the idea may just come to you quickly.
Why do we forget?
The reason we forget is connected to how we have encoded and stored information in our memory databank. As mentioned above, the typical process involves perceiving, understanding, and using your senses to form an experience. Then, signals get transmitted to various parts of the brain so that it becomes a memory. Things also go through different types of memory before it turns into a long-term one. If you skip any of those steps, you may end up forgetting a lot.
How can I increase my brain to 100?
The quickest way to increase your brainpower up to 100 is to try a new activity. The truth is, your memory does not bode well when you stop challenging yourself to learn something new. Following a routine may seem reasonable at first, too, but the lack of change may keep your mind stale. To avoid that, you may pick up a new hobby, see a scenario in a different light, or use another transportation mode.
You may also tap into your inner child and let curiosity get the better of you sometimes. Kids can absorb information faster than any adult because they do not have preconceived notions about things. If you can forgo the things you know about something and listen to how others handle them, it will make you think and want to try their ways. Your brain inevitably works then, and the gears will start running optimally.
How can I exercise my brain?
You can exercise your brain by willing yourself to memorize every unique word, location, or date you encounter. You may write them down for future reference, but it will be ideal to commit the information to your memory bank.
Reading is another way to exercise your brain. When you read, you have no choice but to analyze the texts; if it’s fiction, your emotions may add to it for a full experience. Then, you can remember things effortlessly.
Why do I have a hard time remembering things?
When you find it challenging to remember things, it is not always because you have Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other neurological diseases. That is especially true if you are decades away from being a senior citizen who typically deals with such illnesses. A probable reason is that you are overly stressed, dehydrated, or infected with another condition. Your memory can also be affected if you are heavily medicated, anxious, depressed, eating poorly, or addicted to substances.
Are Forgotten memories still in your brain?
There is an ongoing debate surrounding the answer to this question. Some experts claim that the brain has been programmed to forget things that you don’t always think about to make room for new information. You may see it as Google Drive’s automatic shredding of files that you have already put in the trash after some time.
Meanwhile, others say that the forgotten memories remain in your brain, although it’s almost impossible for you to retrieve them. You can think of the mind in this sense like the internet – you may remove the data from your account, but it is not lost forever.
What are some memory techniques?
The most famous way to boost your memory is perhaps the Loci technique. It has been around for more than 2,500 years – the only thing you need to do is think of a word and associate it with a place or image. For instance, if someone mentions’ house,’ your residence may appear in your mind, complete with the address. Similarly, if you talk about chemical bonding, you may think of the atoms as lovers in a drama who can’t make up their minds. The things you associate an idea with do not need to make sense to others, especially if you only want to recall them somehow.
It is also ideal to group things based on the categories you have decided on. For example, when you are moving out of the house and remember where things go, you may recall what items are in every room. Think of what they look like as well so that it’ll be easy to memorize their locations.
Repeating the thought in your head works, too. Sometimes, no matter how many other techniques you try, you cannot remember anything if you don’t think about it all the time.
What is vitamin best for the brain?
Omega-3 may be the best vitamin for the brain. It usually comes from fish and is advertised to be good for the heart, but it is also ideal for your mind.
Aunt Tilly’s diagnosis served as a wake-up call for the entire family. It made us all see that our memories – like our lives – were on borrowed time. Given the history of Alzheimer’s disease in our heritage, any of us could end up with the same condition five, 15, or 30 years from now. Once that happens, we can do nothing but accept it and pray that the symptoms will not aggravate too fast.
Nevertheless, accepting Alzheimer’s disease does not entail that you should wait to get diagnosed with it. I personally believe in willpower – if you push yourself to make magic happen, it will happen. When you couple that with discipline, your brain cells may not die too quickly. Hence, you must work hard to sharpen your memory and encode thoughts properly.