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Short term memory: What is it and practical exercises

What is short-term memory? How is it different from long-term memory? In the following article, we will try to answer these and other questions with practical examples and everyday situations.

Short term memory

What is short term memory?

Short term memory is a system that allows us to store a limited amount of information for a short period of time.

For example, short-term memory has made it possible for you to be able to read the previous sentence and understand its meaning. Without short term memory, by the time you had reached the last word of the sentence, you would probably have forgotten the first word you read. We use short-term memory many times in our daily lives. Another example would be when someone gives us their phone number: we need short-term memory to keep the number in our mind for as long as it takes us to write it down or dial it on our phone.

Activities to exercise short-term memory

How much information can we store thanks to short-term memory? And for how long? To answer these questions, we are going to use the following exercise:

1. Remembering numbers

Read aloud the following numbers: 7293 and then cover them with a piece of paper. Can you remember the numbers in the same order? Well, let’s try more numbers. Cover them with a piece of paper as soon as you have read them and try to remember each set of numbers in the same order in which they are written before moving on to the next set. Ready?

  • 40863
  • 785342
  • 7916382
  • 16249067
  • 912308462
  • 6129347320

How many numbers have you been able to remember? This type of task is known as a digit span. It has been used on numerous occasions to study short-term memory. In this task, most people remember about seven digits in the same order.

Therefore, what this task tell us about short-term memory is that a person has a short-term memory capacity of about seven elements. As for the duration of this type of memory, as you have seen, the elements remain in our mind only for a few seconds and then they vanish.

In summary, short-term memory is a fragile type of memory with a limited capacity, very sensitive to interference. The content stored in short-term memory usually disappears within a few seconds unless we repeat it over and over again or use some other strategy. In these cases, the stored information may become part of the long-term memory. Unlike short-term memory, long-term memory is stable, insensitive to interference, and long-lasting.

2. Free recall task

Another way to study short-term memory is through the free recall task. This task consists of repeating a long list of words a certain number of times in order to see the learning process of the person evaluated. Let’s look at an example of this type of task. Next, words will appear in four columns. Read them consecutively, cover them with a piece of paper and try to remember the words you have read. You don’t have to remember the words in the same order they appear.

short term memory list

What words do you remember? Write them down on a piece of paper and repeat the procedure four more times. Have you managed to remember all the words?

When doing this task, it often happens that especially in the first attempts, the people evaluated prefer to remember the first and last words on the list. Remembering the first words on the list is known as the primacy effect and occurs in a stable way throughout repetitions. In this case, “analysis, approach, and area” would be more likely to be remembered than words in the middle columns. On the other hand, remembering the last words in the list is called the recency effect and has particular characteristics. At the end of the list, we are more likely to remember the words “structure, theory, and variable” than the words in the middle columns. Unlike the primacy effect, the recency effect is very sensitive to interference. This means that if we take a break after reading the list or do another task before trying to remember the words in the list, the recency effect will fade away and we will no longer remember which were the last words we had read.

The primacy effect is related to long-term memory or learning, while the recency effect depends on how we use short-term memory.

A trick to train your short-term memory: Chunking

Several studies show that training can improve a person’s performance o short-term memory tasks. One strategy to increase the number of elements we are able to repeat in a digit span task is chunking. A chunk can be defined as a set of elements treated as a unit. For example, the first sequence of digits we saw in the first section was 7293, which is equal to four elements, 7, 2, 9 and 3. However, if instead of reading digit by digit we read that sequence as “7.293”, we will be coding those four digits as a single element, a chunk.

Let’s see another example of chunking, but this time using letters instead of digits. Let’s imagine that we have to memorize a sequence of ten letters: “h”, “a”, “p”, “p”, “i”, “n”, “e”, “s”, “s”. To repeat this sequence of letters, we need to retain ten elements in our short-term memory system. Instead, we can put those ten letters together in the word “happiness” which will count as a single element.

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Studies have shown that the retention capacity of chunks in digit-width tasks is about four or five chunks.

A well-known example of this type of memory training using the chunking technique is the S.F. case, presented by researchers Ericsson, Chase and in 1980. S.F. was a normal person with average intellectual performance who, after more than a year’s training in digit tasks, went from repeating seven digits to repeating 79. How could S.F. achieve this? The researchers stated that S.F. grouped the digits presented in chunks of three and four digits each, and then associated each chunk with mnemonic strategies of time it took runners to complete a race. Thus, the sequence “3, 4, 9, 2” was categorized as “3 minutes and 49.2 seconds”, a world record in one race. In other words, S.F. associated each of the sets of digits retained in his short-term memory with codes that already existed in his long-term memory.

However, the fact that S.F. could repeat up to 79 digits in the digit range task does not mean that he had short-term since as we said in the first section, short-term memory is a system with limited capacity. In fact, when the researchers changed the format of the task and S.F. had to repeat sequences of letters instead of digits, the number of letters he was able to repeat was no longer 79, but about seven elements or four/five chunks.

Curiosities: Clive Wearing

Another highly studied case in psychology in relation to memory is the case of Clive Wearing, a case that has linked memory with consciousness. Clive Wearing was a musician who suffered acquired brain damage as a result of an infection by herpes. The brain damage from this infection caused Wearing to have an important effect on his memory.

In addition to losing most of his memories, Clive Wearing lost his ability to retain information beyond a few seconds or minutes. That is, the information remains in his memory only for a few seconds and then fades away without becoming part of his long-term memory. As a result, Wearing is unable to recognize the people he works with every day or remember what has happened to him.

What Wearing seems to experience is that he recovers his consciousness, as reflected in a diary that he updated every few minutes. During those seconds or minutes, Clive Wearing felt he had woken up and didn’t remember anything he had done minutes before. When his temporary memory store was exhausted, all the information retained during those seconds would fade away and Clive would rewrite that he had regained consciousness.

However, some memories from Clive’s previous life remained, such as his musical ability. This can be seen as evidence that memory is a complex system that includes different independent memory systems.

References

  • Baddeley, A. D. (2014). Essentials of human memory. New York, United States: Psychology Press.
  • Baddeley, A. D., Thomson, N. Buchanan, M. (1975). Word and the structure of short-term memory. Journal of verbal learning and verbal behavior, 14, 575-589.
  • Schwarb, H., Nail, J. and Schumacher, E. H. (2015). Working memory training improves visual short-term memory capacity. Psychological Research, 80(1): 128-148.
  • Ericsson, K. A., Chase, W., and Faloon, S. (1980). Acquisition of a memory skill. Science, 208, 1181-1182.
  • Morgado, I. (2005). Psychobiology of learning and memory. Cuadernos de Información y Comunicación, 10, 221-233.
  • Mathy, F. and Feldman, J. (2012). What’s magic about magic numbers? Chunking and data compression in short term memory. Cognition, 122, 346-362.

Types of Memory: Learn everything you need to know

Where did you put the keys? Why does she look so familiar? What was his name again? This is a situation we have all been at one point or another. That feeling like we don’t remember where we were going, or what we had on our to-do list for tomorrow. All these situations have in common one cognitive skill: memory. There are different types of memory that can explain why sometimes we are forgetful about certain things and not others. Learn everything about the different types of memory in this article. 

Memory is one of the cognitive abilities that we use daily, without even knowing it. It allows us to properly store new information in our brain so that it can be easily recalled later. Even though this process is intuitive, it’s a lot more complicated than it seems because we have different types of memory. Like other cognitive skills, types of memory can also be assessed. There are many ways of assessing types of memory, from standard testing such as the Weschler’s scales to CogniFit online General Cognitive Assessment.

General Cognitive Assessment Battery from CogniFit: Study brain function and complete a comprehensive online screening. Precisely evaluate a wide range of abilities and detect cognitive well-being (high-moderate-low). Identify strengths and weaknesses in the areas of memory, concentration/attention, executive functions, planning, and coordination.

The good news is that this complex cognitive ability can be trained by practicing specific memory exercises. Even though we’re not always aware of it, we can do things to train our memory to keep it from deteriorating prematurely. It’s much more effective to prevent its decline and boost our memory while its still in shape than to wait until we see signs of memory problems. Memory problems cause anxiety in those who suffer, which is why more and more people are starting routines to help them improve their cognitive functions. Many scientific studies have shown that memory is one of the cognitive abilities that can be trained with exercises designed by neurologists and specialists.

Types of Memory

The main two types of memory are the short-term memory and long-term memory based on the amount of time the memory is stored.

Short-Term Memory: the memory mechanism that allows us to retain a certain amount of information over a short period of time. Short-term memory temporarily retains processed information that either fades quickly or turns into a long-term memory. It is limited and has two objectives. The first is to keep information in our brain without it being present, and the second is to manage this information so that it can be used in higher mental processes. 

Long-term Memory: Long-term memory could be defined as the brain mechanism that makes it possible to code and retain an almost unlimited amount of information over a long period of time. The memories stored in long-term memory can last for up to a few years.

Types of Memory related to short-term memory

Types of Memory: Sensory Memory

We receive sensory memory through our senses and it lasts for a very short period of time, about 200 to 300 milliseconds. This information can be visual, auditory, tactile, smell, etc. These memories either fade or are stored in short-term memory. The information only lasts for as long as it takes to be processed and stored.

Types of Memory: Working Memory

Working memory, or operative memory, can be defined as the set of processes that allow us to store and manipulate temporary information and carry-out complex cognitive tasks like language comprehension, reading, learning, or reasoning. Working memory is a type of short-term memory. Its capacity is limited We are only able to store 5-9 elements at a time. It is active. It doesn’t only store information, it also manipulates and transforms it. Its content is permanently being updated and it is modulated by the dorsolateral frontal cortex.

Once you have assessed the different types of memory, there are different types of activities that help improve them. From games such as Sudoku to full on personalized brain training.

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Types of Long-term Memory

Types of Memory: Declarative 

Declarative Memory is the information stored in our memory systems that can be explained and recalled voluntarily and consciously. The brain systems related to this memory system are the medial temporal lobe, the diencephalon, and the neocortex, and is divided into two parts.

Types of Memory: Semantic

Semantic Memory refers to the set of information that we have about the world around us. This information is unrelated to how or when it was learned and includes vocabulary, academic concepts, or anything that we know about a certain subject. For example, you know that an apple is a fruit that you can eat, that there are different colored apples, and that it comes from the apple tree, but you probably don’t remember when you learned this information.

Types of Memory: Episodic

Episodic Memory includes the concrete experiences that we have lived and has a very close relationship to how and when information is learned. For example, remembering what you ate for dinner last night, where you parked your car, when you visited a certain city for the first time, who you went to a certain party with, or when you met that person.

Types of Memory: Non-Declarative or Implicit

Implicit Memory is stored in your memory systems, but can’t be talked about. It is usually acquired or incorporated through implicit learning (you may not be conscious that you’re learning it). This type of memory is quite resistant to brain damage, which usually leaves it less affected than other memory systems. This type of memory uses different parts of the brain, like the neocortex, the amygdala, the cerebellum, and the basal ganglia. It also includes other subdivisions. This is used subconsciously and helps to learn new skills like driving or riding a bike.

Types of Memory: Procedural

Procedural Memory is made up of information of muscular movements that we have learned to automatize through practice, like habits and other skills. For example, riding a bike, throwing a ball, or moving a computer mouse.

Types of Memory: Priming

Priming refers to the ease with which we activate and remember a certain concept in our minds. For example, you would probably remember the word “sedan” quicker if you were talking about “cars”, “trucks” or “convertibles”.

Types of Memory: Classical Conditioning

Classical Conditional relates to the link between a conditioned stimulus and a response that has previously been associated with an unconditioned stimulus. For example, if you hear a bell chiming (conditioned stimulus) before blowing air in your eye (unconditioned stimulus), hearing the bell chime would be enough to cause you to blink (conditioned response). This relationship forms part of the non-declarative or implicit memory

The use of all of these types of memory is essential in our day-to-day, as it is one of the cognitive abilities that we use constantly. 

Photographic Memory: What is this Interesting Phenomenon, How Does it Work, and is it Even Real?

Is having a photographic memory real? A photographic memory is usually used to describe when someone has the remarkable ability to recall visual information in great detail. Pop culture today portrays geniuses as those with photographic memories, but do our brains actually hold onto memories with inner photos or videos? Many times, television sitcoms, movies, and novels show a “genius” character as one who can look at a page in a book for two minutes and then repeat verbatim what was written. Are there actual people in the world today who can do this too? Read more to discover if a photographic memory is real!

Is photographic memory real?

Is Photographic Memory Real?

Photographic memory, also known as eidetic imagery in the neuroscience world, is the ability to remember an unlimited amount of visual information in great detail. Just like a camera can freeze a moment in time in the form of a photograph, someone with a photographic memory is supposed to be able to take mental snapshots and then later recall these snapshots without error.

However, according to the University of Chicago, San Diego Professor Larry Squire, who specializes in Psychiatry, Neuroscience, and Psychology, the brain simply does not work this way. In Professor Squire’s lab, he has asked people who think they have photographic memories to read two or three lines of text and then report the text in reverse order. The notion is that if memory works like a photograph, then these people should be able to accomplish the task with ease. However, none of the participants could do this successfully.

For Professor Squire, “Memory is more like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle than a photograph. To recollect a past event, we piece together various remembered elements and typically forget parts of what happened (examples: the color of the wall, the picture in the background, the exact words that were said)…We are good at remembering the gist of what happened and less good at remembering (photographically) all the elements of a past scene.” And this works to our advantage as our brains sift through what is important for us to remember and holds onto it while throwing away the superfluous, unneeded details.

To show that photographic memory is non-existent among most people, cognitive psychologist Adriaan de Groot did an experiment with expert chess players to test their memory functioning. The players were first shown a chessboard with pieces on it for a brief period (about 15 seconds) and then asked to reconstruct what they had seen on a new chessboard.

The expert chess players succeeded at this task with higher efficiency than novice players. De Groot hypothesized that the experts had developed an enhanced ability to memorize visual information. However, in another experiment, the expert chess players were asked to do the same thing, but this time, they were shown boards with pieces arranged in ways that would never occur in a game of chess. Not only did their ability to remember the positions go down, but it dropped to the level of the novice players. De Groot concluded from this experiment that the original, enhanced performance of the chess players at remembering the positions came from their ability to mentally organize the information they had observed, not from any ability to “photograph” the visual scene.

How to Explain Cases of Photographic Memory

Is photographic memory real?

There have been a few well-documented cases of such remarkable photographic recall, such as “S,” the subject of Alexander Luria’s book, The Mind of a Mnemonist, who could memorize anything from the books on Luria’s office shelves to complex math formulas. Luria also documents a woman named “Elizabeth,” who could mentally project images composed of thousands of tiny dots onto a black canvas. Both also had the ability to reproduce poetry in languages they could not understand years after seeing it written. This type of recall seems to be correlated with the phenomenon of flashbulb memory, where, in highly emotional situations, people tend to remember events so vividly that the memories take on a photographic quality. Until recently, such memories were thought to be permanent, always strong in quality. However, recent studies have indicated that over time, people’s memories of such events will inevitably fade away.

However, it should be kept in mind that people vary in their ability to remember the past. In the article How to Improve Your Short-Term Memory: Study Tips to Remember Everything, we go over how pieces of information go through series of stages before they are retained in your long-term memory: first, the information is sent as a sensory input to your visual system, then it is received by the visual cortex, then it is processed by your short-term memory, and finally, it is stored in your long-term memory.

How well we remember things largely depends on how well we pay attention when information is presented to us. Also, the extent to which we replay material in our minds and connect it to what we already know affects our memory as well.

Since there are only isolated examples of people with eidetic memory throughout the study of neuroscience, many have concluded that there isn’t any explanation for how this phenomenon works neurologically. It is thought that for the rare cases of people with photographic memories, visual information gets stored as an actual image in the sensory input/reception stage. Since photographic memory involves seeing visual images, it must be on the very basic sensory level that eidetic memory functions.

The Neuroscience Behind Photographic Memory

Neuroscience researchers hypothesize that photographic memory involves something in the brain being wired incorrectly in patients like “S” and “Elizabeth” that has caused sensory stimuli to last in the memory for longer durations than most people. Memory is thought to be facilitated by changes at the neuronal level due to long-term potentiation. This means that over time, the synapses that work to hold onto our memories are strengthened through repeated usage, producing long-term memories. Normally, this induction takes many rounds of stimulation to start working so our brain can hold onto memories for long periods of time (which could be a reason why we don’t remember many events of our childhood and why we have virtually no recollection of the first two years of our lives).

Neuroscientists assume that people with photographic memories have a genetic mutation that lowers their threshold for long-term potentiation to hold onto memories. This then results in more visual images being stored as sensory memories and then long-term memories in the brain. Multiple stimulations do not seem to be necessary to retain the visual images; rather, one brief presentation of a stimulus would be sufficient.

Future Research on Photographic Memory

So, is photographic memory real? Photographic memory may be so rare that it appears to be almost fictional because it could be the result of an uncommon genetic mutation or an unlikely combination of environmental and genetic factors. Advancing the study of photographic memory requires scientists to find more subjects with unusual memory abilities. One recent case is that of “AJ,” a woman who seems to remember every detail about even the most trivial events during her lifetime. Neurological testing may yield a greater understanding of the location of memory in the brain and what causes such clear and detailed memories to form. With neuroscience technology increasing and the hope that more people with exceptional memories will come forward, it is possible that more research can be done to answer interesting questions about photographic memory.

Do you have any questions or comments? Leave me a message below! 🙂

Semantic Memory: “It’s on the tip of my tongue!”

“It’s on the tip of my tongue!” Semantic memory stores what we now about the world and language. When we want to remember certain things that we’ve learned like the capital of France or the current president of the United States, we’re efficiently using our semantic memory.Find out what semantic memory is, how it works, how it can be improved, and some of the problems related to poor semantic memory.

What is semantic memory? Photo by Tachina Lee on Unsplash

What is semantic memory?

What is semantic memory? Tulving was the first person to establish the term “semantic memory”, which is a type of memory that holds meaning and general knowledge, where our specific experiences don’t come into play.

For example, if you want to answer the question “how many hours are there in a day?”, you don’t have to remember the exact moment in your life that you learned it. Semantic memory allows us to “automatically” remember that there are 24 hours in a day, without having to recall the specific events that led to us learning the information.

We use semantic memory to remember concepts that we’ve learned about the world and language. There is also a type of long-term memory that we acquire that, once it’s learned, we’ll remember it for the rest of our lives.

Semantic memory extends to all of the knowledge that we may learn. For example, if we want to remember that a lion is a mamas that has 4 legs, you don’t need to relate it to any specific event or experience that you’ve had with a lion- it’s just in our brain.

  • Semantic memory is a type of long-term memory: It allows us to remember things for days, years, or decades. There is no limit on its duration.
  • Semantic memory is declarative: This means that we are constantly using it.
  • Difference between episodic and semantic memory: Episodic memory is how we remember autobiographical memories, like what you ate for breakfast, or what you did last weekend. The main difference between these two types of memories is that semantic memory is a type of dictionary that doesn’t require that you have any specific personal knowledge or experience with the word.

Where are words located in the brain? A team of scientists created an interactive map of the areas of the brain that are activated when certain words are heard. This semantic brain map shows how language is distributed through the cortex and both hemispheres of the brain, grouping words by meaning and constructing a brain dictionary.

What does semantic memory do?

Semantic memory gives us a mental dictionary that organizes words, concepts, and symbols that we store throughout our life. It allows us to reserve cognitive resources and interpret, quickly and easily, the world in which we live.

Semantic memory is a fundamental part of our daily life. For example, it allows us to “automatically” know that lions are mammals, without having to go through our brain and think bout the lions that we’ve seen in our life.

Our semantic memory gives a general meaning to the word “lion”: Large mammal with four legs and lots of hair around its head.

If we had to think about all of the lions that exist in the world in order to remember and describe it, it would be impossible. Semantic memory gives us the ability to group multiple concrete concepts (animals, people, objects, etc.) into general concepts. These things can be categorized into an infinite number of areas, like animals, objects, living things, non-living things, mammals, reptiles, etc.).

Alterations of semantic memory: Access disorders and semantic storage

People with semantic dementia: Have problems finding the right meanings for concepts. As with almost any pathology or disorder, symptoms and characteristics of the disorder vary from patient to patient. Semantic dementia is characterized by a difficulty in remembering the meaning of concepts or words, but don’t necessarily have trouble carrying-out the task that the word represents. For example, they may have trouble remembering the word/concept “iron”, but they would be able to use an iron.

People with damage to the prefrontal cortex: It’s been shown that patients with damage to the prefrontal cortex may have trouble carrying-out a task related to a certain word or concept, but don’t have trouble recalling the concept (the inverse of the previous point). People with this kind of brain damage are unable to to certain tasks that may seem simple to others, like going to the dentist when their gums hurt, or washing their clothes when they’re dirty, but are easily able to recall the words for these actions.

Alzheimer’s Disease: Poor episodic (autobiographical) memory is a common characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease, but semantic memory is affected as well. Patients with Alzheimer’s tend to develop language disorders and have a hard time carrying out tasks related to a word or concept.

Exercises to improve semantic memory

1. CogniFit, leader in cognitive assessments and brain games

Being able to easily recall words from our vocabulary is one of our main cognitive skills as humans. Without this, we would constantly be searching for a word in our memory and have that feeling of “it’s on the tip of my tongue!”. It’s common to sometimes forget the exact word that you’re looking for, but if it happens often, it may be a sign of poor semantic memory.

CogniFit is a professional tool that helps assess and improve access to our vocabulary. Studying neuroplasticity has shown that the more we use a neural circuit, the stronger it gets. This idea can be applied to the neural circuits related to naming, working memory, short-term memory, visual memory, auditory short-term memory, contextual memory, etc.

The ability to find the correct word for an object or concept can be improved if it is properly trained. The battery of clinical exercises from CogniFit allows you to assess and train your Naming and other cognitive skills related to memory.

How does CogniFit work? The program first evaluates your cognitive level in certain cognitive skills (like naming), and based on the results gathered, provides a complete brain training program.

The different interactive exercises are presented as fun brain games that can be played on a mobile device or computer. After each session, CogniFit will provide a detailed graph with the user’s cognitive progression.

2. Remember what’s going on around you

Its good to remember what’s going on around you: The best exercises for improving semantic memory are remembering a series of words and increasing the amount and difficulty of the word. For example, try to remember all 50 states in the United States, then the each state’s capitals, and then move on to continents and countries.

3. Learn new languages and travel

Learning new language requires us to expand and learn new vocabulary, new grammar rules, and new sentence structures. Our semantic memory is constantly being used and strengthened as we learn language.

Seeing new places and learning about new cultures can also help you find new ways of doing things. For example, if you might learn that people in a different culture eat, clean, or raise their children differently than you. Exposing yourself to these new ideas can help you adapt to situations when you’re back in your home country.

4. Give meaning to ideas by understand what you’re learning

How does the brain learn? Studies have shown that we learn better and more quickly if we give meaning to the concepts that we learn. For example, when studying for a test, you’ll learn the information much better if you give it some kind of meaning aside from the concept itself. Learn more about memory techniques.

5. Exercises for patients with semantic memory problems

There are a number of different exercises that you can do to help improve semantic memory. You can write down a series of basic questions that the patient has to answer. If they answer incorrectly, correct them in the moment. For example, you could ask the season in the year, the names of the months, or what are the numbers between 1 and 15.

You can also give them incomplete sentences that they have to complete. For example, “lemons are the color…”, “The capital of the USA is…”, etc.

We use our semantic memory everyday, and there is hardly any point of the day where we aren’t using it. It helps us talk, communicate, and learn about the objects and concepts of the world around us. With all of the information that we have stored in our semantic memory, it’s amazing that we’re able to keep it organized and pull up the words that we want at a given time. If you tried to re-learn the days of the week without giving it any meaning, it would be almost impossible. Semantic memory allows us to reserve cognitive resources and store more information in our brain.

Semantic memory allows us to figure out how the world works and carry out the necessary tasks to get through the day (if you’re sick, you go to the doctor), and follow “scripts” almost automatically (go to a restaurant, wait until you’re seated, order food, etc.).

Do you have any questions? Leave me a comment below 🙂

This article was originally written in Spanish by Eva Rodriguez Weisz

Development of Cognitive Skills; Piaget’s theory.

Crawl before you walk, walk before you run! When it comes to development, this phrase is certainly true. Before children learn to talk and are taught to problem solve at school, right from birth, they begin to develop novel ways of communicating and exploring the world around them. They cry to tell you they’re hungry, and go through a stage where it seems they’re trying to eat everything (I’m sure the parents reading this can relate)! These practices enable babies to make sense of the world. As they get older, their way of exploring rapidly evolves. As well as developing the ability to walk and talk, our development of cognitive skills (memory, attention, language, reading comprehension, fine motor and gross motor skills) are developed throughout our childhood.

French Psychologist Jean Piaget, proposed the development of cognitive skills during childhood occurs in 4 distinct stages. Each stage builds upon the previous one. Piaget’s theory was ground breaking at the time, as it was previously thought that children didn’t develop cognitive skills until they began to acquire language. Piaget challenged this, as he found that children explore the world around them before they acquire language by using their different senses. This is known as the sensorimotor stage, which is one of four stages that classify a child’s learning stages. The other three stages are known as the pre-operational stage, concrete operational stage and the formal operational stage. During each stage, children acquire new cognitive skills, whilst developing skills they have acquired in previous stages.

Cognitive development

Development of Cognitive Skills: Sensorimotor stage

This stage lasts from birth to 2 years.

In this stage, children learn about the world using their senses and manipulating objects. Here a child’s intelligence is based on their motor and sensory knowledge. During this stage, children learn of object permanence, i.e. although a toy is out of sight, it still exists. This information is extremely important as it prepares children to be able to name objects.

3 months– Infants are able to recognise faces and imitate facial expressions (above).

6 months– Infants can imitate sounds, recognise their parents and display fear towards strangers. They understand the difference between animate and inanimate objects. Between four and seven months, children begin to recognise their own name.

9 months– Infants imitate gestures and actions. The understand simple words like ‘no’ and begin to test their parents’ response to their behaviour.

12 months– Infants can follow moving objects. They can speak between two to four simple words like ‘mama’ and ‘dada’. They can imitate animal sounds and begin to display attachments to objects such as a toy or blanket. At this age, they will also begin to display separation anxiety.

18 months– Vocabulary increases to around 50 words. Children begin to identify body parts and display sense of ownership. They can follow simple instructions (e.g. picking up toys and putting them in the box). They begin to show an understanding of discipline and have knowledge of appropriate and inappropriate behaviour.

Development of Cognitive Skills: Pre-operational stage

This stage lasts from 2 – 7 years.

A child’s vocabulary is around 150 words. Around this time, children learn around 10 new words a day, and begin to understand emotions such as love, trust and fear. Children also begin to learn through pretend play, or “make believe”. However, their view of others and logic isn’t well understood, and children have a self-centered view of the world. In this stage, children begin to use their imaginary and memory skills, and begin to develop their social interaction skills and play cooperatively with children their own age. They will begin to develop their cognitive abilities. Children learn to read, develop routines and display an increased attention span. At the beginning of this stage, children develop their attention, long term and short term memory. As children get older, they learn to control their attention and use their cognitive abilities to help them solve problems and achieve their goals. Also during this stage of development, auditory processing is further refined. This is highly important in improving reading skills.

Imaginative play

Development of Cognitive Skills: Concrete operational stage

This stage is from 7-11 years.

During this stage, children learn to be less egocentric and self centered. They begin to think about the thoughts and feelings of others, and they are more aware of their own thoughts and feelings and the rules around sharing them with others. Children are also able to think in a more logic manner and see the world from the view of others. However, at this stage, a child’s thought is often rigid, therefore they tend to struggle with abstract concepts. Here children learn that things, such as volume and weight, can stay the same despite changes in the appearance of objects. For example, two different glasses can hold the same volume of water. Also, at this stage, children’s attention span begins to increase with age. At the age of six, the child may be able to focus on a task for around 15 minutes. At the age of nine, children can focus on a task for around an hour.

Concrete operational stage

Development of Cognitive Skills: Formal operational stage

This stage is from 11 years and upwards.

Children are able to better understand logic and abstract ideas. They will start to reason and think about abstract ideas, and implement these ideas into their lives. They are also able to see multiple solutions to problems, and begin to look at the world in a scientific manner. During this stage, Adolescents display independent problem-solving skills, and are able to understand abstract ideas such puns, proverbs, metaphors, analogies, philosophy and maths. Children also learn to apply general information to specific situations. During adolescence we undergo cognitive transition, which means that the way we think becomes more advanced, more efficient, and more complex. Thought is no longer limited to what is real, it is expanded to include the hypothetical. During this stage we begin thinking about the process of thinking, known as metacognition. Thought becomes multidimensional; we are able to look at multiple outcomes to a specific problem, which allows us to think rationally and analyze the problem. This will hopefully help us to make well-informed decisions.

Every child will progress through each stage in order, but it’s important to remember that each child is different, so that manner or time that it take a child to develop these skills may vary- and that’s OK! Progression through the 4 stages of development can occur at different rates; some faster than others. We all have a unique cognitive profile, some cognitive skills can be weaker than others. A cognitive assessment can help us to identify which of our cognitive skills are weaker. This enables us to tailor our cognitive training, and improve our weaker skills. If you are looking to strengthen your cognitive skills, why not try some brain games! If you are concerned that about your cognitive abilities or the development of a child, it is important to seek professional advice.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, get in touch below! 🙂

Not Sure If You Should Take The Leap? Cognitive Benefits of Learning Foreign Languages

We may not look back on our foreign language classes at school with much fondness.However, after reading about the following benefits of learning foreign languages, we may all be searching for our Spanish or French class notes.

Learning a foreign language can be difficult. The older you are, the more challenging it can be. Nevertheless, learning a new language can have a range of cognitive, health and cultural benefits.

Cognitive Benefits of Learning Foreign Languages

Benefits of learning foreign languages: Beneficial for traveling, learning and communicating

Learning a foreign language means you can explore a whole new culture, country, or continent through the native tongue. Learning a foreign language also allows us to communicate with individuals who do not speak our mother tongue.

Benefits of learning foreign languages: Stay young and stave off disease

Research has found that bilingualism can help counteract cognitive decline. In fact, it was noted that bilingual older adults had better memory than monolingual older adults. Furthermore, there has been links between bilingualism and Alzheimer’s, showing the correlation to speaking more than one language and preventing Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, Evy Woumans and colleagues have found that in older adults diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, the rate of progression is slower in bilingual patients compared to monolingual patients.

Benefits of learning foreign languages: Be more creative

A review into the cognitive correlates of bilingualism, by Olusola Adesope and colleagues found that bilingualism has been associated with enhanced creativity and abstract thinking. Essentially, being proficient in a foreign language can make you more creative and can help you think outside the box.

Benefits of learning foreign languages: Improved problem-solving skills

Bilinguals tend to have better problem-solving skills than monolinguals. In addition, bilinguals tend to perform better on tasks like the Stroop test, which requires an element of conflict management. Being fluent in a foreign language has been linked to enhanced inhibitory control ability. This means that bilinguals are better at ignoring information that interferes with their ability to complete a task. The message here seems to be that learning a foreign language can help us to solve problems faster and help us to ignore irrelevant information.

Benefits of learning foreign languages: Better cognitive control

Researchers Viorica Marion and Anthony Shook tested bilinguals in experiments of task switching. Participants were required to switch between sorting objects based on colour and by shape. Compared to monolinguals, bilinguals displayed high levels of cognitive control. They find it easier to switch between tasks compared to monolinguals. Essentially, learning a foreign language may improve our task switching ability. Researchers propose enhanced cognitive control is due to the ability to balance two languages. Bilingual language processing networks for both languages are active at the same time. As both languages are activated, the individual responds in the correct language by learning to inhibit one language over the other. By doing this, bilinguals improve their inhibitory control mechanism, to the point where when processing language, the process of inhibiting the language that isn’t needed at a particular time becomes second nature. Wondering how you can train your brain and cognitive skills? Try some fun brain games!

Benefits of learning foreign languages: Changes brain structure

Bilingualism has been found to increase neuroplasticity. Researcher Rosanna Olsen and colleagues investigated structural brain differences in monolinguals and bilinguals using fMRI. Scans revealed that bilinguals display increased activation in the dorso-lateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC plays an important role in tasks which require control). This part of the brain is associated with attention and inhibition. The researchers found that the hippocampus and the left superior temporal gyrus are more malleable in bilinguals (The hippocampus is associated with memory and the superior temporal gyrus is associated with sound processing). Furthermore, these structures as well as the frontal lobe are thicker in bilingual individuals (The frontal lobes are associated with executive functions such as problem solving and executive control-need some exercises to improve executive functions?). Increased volumes of white matter have been noted in frontal and temporal lobes. According to researcher Christos Pilatsikas and colleagues, when learning a second language age doesn’t matter, as adults who have learnt a foreign language have shown increase white matter. Being proficient in a foreign language can improve connections of brain regions that control our memory, executive functioning, attention and inhibition processes.

Benefits of learning foreign languages: Improves attention and attention control

Studies have shown that on tasks of attention control, bilinguals tend to perform better than monolinguals. Also bilinguals tend to have a higher attention capacity. Bilinguals are better at filtering out unwanted information and find it easier to focus on more relevant information.

Improves ability to process information– Benefits of learning foreign languages

Being bilingual can benefit sensory and information processing. Jennifer Krizman and colleagues present participants with target sounds embedded in background noise. Compared to monolinguals, bilinguals found it easier to filter out background noise. The researchers found bilingualism enhances sound processing and sustained attention. The study found that bilinguals process sound similarly to musicians. This means that one of the benefits of learning a foreign language is being able to improve the efficiency of the brain’s auditory system, and enhance our ability to distinguish between similar sounds.

Benefits of learning foreign languages

Enhances working memory– Benefits of learning foreign languages

Managing two languages puts increased pressure our working memory. To ease the pressure, bilinguals become more efficient at information processing. Combining this with their enhanced inhibitory control ability, a bilingual’s working memory capacity and efficiency us greater than monolinguals.

Learning multiple foreign languages

We have already established that being fluent in a foreign language can improve our information processing abilities and enhance our sustained attention. As a result of these enhanced processes, bilinguals find it easier to learn a third or even fourth foreign language.

Learning a foreign language can have numerous benefits on our cognitive functions. It improves executive functions, cognitive control, attention, and memory. In addition, neuroimaging studies have revealed that learning a foreign language in later life can actually grow the brain and improve the connections between different brain regions. What is even more interesting is that learning a foreign language can counteract cognitive decline and slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Regardless of the age at which we learn a foreign language, it is still beneficial for our brains to do so. So, although it may be a little more difficult, it is clearly never too late to reap the benefits of learning foreign languages! Encouraging young children to learn a foreign language may benefit them in later life, so schools should look at making learning a foreign language a compulsory part of the curriculum. Aside from the benefits to cognition and the brain, for all of us who have the travelling bug and want to explore new cultures, learning the lingo is obviously the best place to start!

Do you have any questions or comments? Leave me a note below! 🙂

References

Adesope, O. O., Lavin, T., Thompson, T., & Ungerleider, C. (2010). A systematic review and meta-analysis of the cognitive correlates of bilingualism. Review of Educational Research80(2), 207-245.

Krizman, J., Marian, V., Shook, A., Skoe, E., & Kraus, N. (2012). Subcortical encoding of sound is enhanced in bilinguals and relates to executive function advantages. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences109(20), 7877-7881.

Mårtensson, J., Eriksson, J., Bodammer, N. C., Lindgren, M., Johansson, M., Nyberg, L., & Lövdén, M. (2012). Growth of language-related brain areas after foreign language learning. NeuroImage63(1), 240-244.

Marian, V., & Shook, A. (2012, September). The cognitive benefits of being bilingual. In Cerebrum: the Dana forum on brain science (Vol. 2012). Dana Foundation.

Pliatsikas, C., Moschopoulou, E., & Saddy, J. D. (2015). The effects of bilingualism on the white matter structure of the brain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences112(5), 1334-1337.

Woumans, E., Santens, P., Sieben, A., Versijpt, J., Stevens, M., & Duyck, W. (2015). Bilingualism delays clinical manifestation of Alzheimer's disease.Bilingualism: Language and Cognition18(03), 568-574.

Costa, A., & Sebastián-Gallés, N. (2014). How does the bilingual experience sculpt the brain?. Nature Reviews Neuroscience15(5), 336-345.

Olsen, R. K., Pangelinan, M. M., Bogulski, C., Chakravarty, M. M., Luk, G., Grady, C. L., & Bialystok, E. (2015). The effect of lifelong bilingualism on regional grey and white matter volume. Brain research1612, 128-139.

Saidi, L. G., & Ansaldo, A. I. (2015). Can a Second Language Help You in More Ways Than One?. AIMS neurosci1, 52-57.

Emotional memories: How emotions help you remember

Have you ever wondered why are there situations you can remember better and more vividly than others? How you might even experience an intense emotion just by remembering an important event in your life? And on the contrary, why are there situations we can’t remember so easily or we can’t remember at all? Emotional memories remain longer and are experienced more intensely when remembered. Let’s discuss how your brain processes them.

Emotions help you remember

We all have been surprised about how our memory works and the amount of information we are able to remember. For instance, faces, names, events in the past and in the future, and even how an object smells, tastes or feels like. Though having a bad memory is very often a complain, its capacity is similar to the one of a computer’s and is even more flexible and easier to use. (Read more on false memories)

Identity formation is also our memory’s responsibility. How? By being conscious of the experiences we’ve been through: our thoughts, emotions and reactions to those events. This is called the autobiographical memory. This type of memory is in charge of remembering everything that’s related to you and your relationships with the world.

Emotional Memories 

Emotions and feelings are present in our daily life, enriching our reality. From a person we meet, an object we possess, a trip we take, or even just appreciating nature, emotions are always making experiences richer. The role these moods play in recalling events is an interesting topic to learn about in order to understand ourselves better.

There are always certain situations that are easier to remember than others. And although many factors influence your memory’s performance, a crucial one is emotion. Giving importance or paying attention to a situation, person, object, event or idea, improves our memory’s storage process.

On this matter, memory is selective. It will register and give value to the information that is more relevant to you. This value might be established according to how something makes you feel, the emotions it evokes on you (either pleasant or unpleasant), or even by the mood you’re in. This is why you might be able to remember better if you ran into someone you hadn’t seen for many years two weeks ago, rather than what you had for lunch last Friday. This means that interest and relevance to you are main factors in emotional memories.

Emotional Memories: Our brains 

The limbic system is a part of the brain that regulates emotions and memory (read more on the functions of your limbic system). Amygdala, hippocampus, hypothalamus, cingulate gyrus are only some of them. When an emotional event is taking place, the amygdala is activated. Afterward, the cerebral cortex processes the information. Some of the cortex involved are the prefrontal cortex, cingulate, cerebellum and somatosensory cortex. Also, as the hippocampus is in charge of storing information, it will also play an important role in the process. When these brain regions are activated, a “print” or “mark” will remain for our brains to recognize this information in the future. As a result, our brain will pay more attention to the event whenever it’s repeated in the future.

Brain anatomy

Here’s an example: a friend of yours gives you some shocking news. Immediately, an emotional reaction follows this information. In this case, the activation of the amygdala, hippocampus and cerebral cortex will store this as a memory. Consequently, the amygdala orders to liberate adrenaline and glucocorticoid hormones to the blood stream. These hormones have an impact on how you experience a situation, how it makes you feel physically. This is how emotional memories have a physical response as well.

By all this, involving stronger emotions in an event activates more the amygdala. Therefore, emotions not only help you remember better but also to have more vivid memories filled with details. It’s probable that whenever you think about the shocking news your friend gave you, you might even feel sad, remember exactly what you were doing and where you were in that moment. Time will pass by and you’ll still have those fresh details with you. When recalling this event and emotion, your brain will activate the same areas as if you were experiencing it in that same moment.

Emotional Memories: Pleasant and unpleasant 

We all experience emotional events in different ways. Someone might consider a situation annoying, while it might be funny for another one. Hence, our reaction to a situation, person, object or idea, varies depending on our past experiences and our personality.

Our brain encodes pleasant and unpleasant situations differently. According to different studies, positive emotional memories are full of significant contextual details. Negative or unpleasant ones, on the other hand, are less specific. Some emotional events can be so impressive and intense that they boost brain activity. Thus, liberating hormones excessively, causing harm to your cardiovascular and immunologic system as well. As a consequence, you see damage in the neurons located in the hippocampus.

With this in mind, whenever a person goes through a traumatic situation (i.e. being a crime victim or a war veteran), there’s a hyper stimulation on some parts of the brain, like the amygdala and prefrontal cortex. Along with the hormones liberated, the event will be more memorable and terrifying, harming health and memory.

In other cases, psychogenic amnesia may occur when forgetting strongly traumatic experiences. The stress of an emotional memory can provoke amnesia. Sometimes, not only does this person forget the particular disturbing event, but also a global or temporary loss of personal memory may happen. At the other hand, some persons can repress or block a stressing event and remembering years later. It must be taken into account that brain damage is not responsible for memory loss. In any case, psychotherapy must be specially recommended.

Emotional Memories: improve your memory

Why do we forget? Some factors involved can be age, time, stress and anxiety. In any case, what can help you enhance your memory? There are many factors, techniques, and tools: as mentioned above, attention, interest, and motivation are very important to assign a value to a situation and make it more memorable. Together with this, using techniques and tools are always helpful. Mnemotechnics are brain strategies to help you remember information better, using mental images or verbal keys, relating them to previous knowledge (like the world we live in or past experiences). You may also try Cognifit, a training program that uses brain games to strengthen the user’s weakest cognitive skills according to their needs.

To summarize, emotionally charged events help remembering better and more vividly than neutral ones. Being aware of the present moment and experiencing all emotions truly, will surely make you have more meaningful memories.

Live life fully

Amygdala: The powerhouse of emotions

Our brain is a palace of structures. It dictates everything we do, how we think, how we behave and how we feel. In this article, we will focus only on the amygdala (sounds like a character out of a Star Wars movie): From what it is, functions, neurophysiological aspects of the amygdala, what happens if it gets damaged, and its relationship with other brain areas.  

Amygdala

What is the amygdala?

The amygdala is a structure in the limbic system that is involved directly with motivation: Particularly related to survival and our emotions. It is also responsible for processing emotions such as fear, pleasure, and anger.

The amygdala is the house where all of our emotions are stored. One of its main functions is to help us to recognize potential threats when we encounter them. When doing this, it revs the body up in preparation for a fight or flight response by increasing our breathing and heart rates. It is also responsible for evaluating the emotional intensity of various situations. This is especially important because since we encounter certain situations repeatedly, from emotional memory, our amygdala wouldn’t need to fire up… unless our brains say otherwise.

The word ‘amygdala’ was derived from the Greek word for “almond” since this part of our brain is shaped like one. Like most other structures in our brain and in other animals, we have two amygdalae. Each amygdala is located on each of the left and right temporal lobe. Since it’s in very close proximity to the hippocampus, the amygdala is involved with the influence of memory consolidation. Memory consolidation is the process that stabilizes a memory trace right when it has been obtained.

Amygdala: The limbic system

To understand the amygdala a little bit better, this article is going to give a swift review of the limbic system and why it’s important.

The limbic system is not a separate system, but a system composed of several key structures in the brain including the diencephalon, mesencephalon, and telencephalon. The limbic system specifically includes the amygdala, thalamus, hippocampus, hypothalamus, basal ganglia, and cingulate gyrus.

You can find the limbic system nuzzled immediately underneath the cerebrum. The limbic system is important because it is responsible for the formation of memories, and our emotional lives are stored in this area of the brain. The components of the limbic system regulate endocrine and autonomic function in response to any sort of emotional stimuli. In short, the three key functions it is known to deal with are arousal (stimulation), memory, and emotions.

Hemispherical differences

Since we possess two amygdalae, it has been noted that the left and right amygdala serve a different purpose in how we process our emotions. Even though the left and right amygdala have independent memory systems, they still work as a team to encode, store and interpret our emotions.

Studies have reported that electrical stimulations to the right amygdala provoke negative emotions of sadness and fear. When looking at the left side, electrical stimulations induce unpleasant (anxiety, sadness, and fear) feelings, yet also has the ability to induce positive emotions such as happiness.

The right hemisphere is commonly associated with declarative memory. Declarative memory stores various information and facts from previously experienced events which need to be consciously recalled. The right amygdala is also responsible for the retention of episodic memory. Episodic memory stores the autobiographical memory, which allows you to recall sensory and emotional experiences of a particular event.

Development of the amygdala

The development of the amygdalae is an interesting tale that consists of developmental differences between the right and left amygdala, as well as sex differences.

When looking at this area of the brain, there are some observable differences in the growth of the amygdalae. The left is the first to develop, reaching its peak 1.5-2 years before the right. Looking aside from the early growth of the left, the right has a continuous increase in volume for a longer period of time. The right side of the amygdala is often associated with face recognition and fear stimuli. As for the left, it is said that its early development provides infants with the capability of being able to detect danger.

There are also considerable differences in the development of the amygdalae between male and females. In the early stages of development of the brain, it is seen that the limbic system in females grows much more quickly than in males. For males, the structural development of the amygdalae occurs over a longer period of time, while females reach their full growth potential 1.5 years before their counterparts. It is noted that reasoning behind the slower development of the male amygdalae is due to relatively larger sizing.

Sex distinction

In regards to the differences in sexes, this area of the brain is one of the best understood. As briefly described above, we see that the amygdala is larger in male adults and in adult rats.

Adding to size, the functioning of the amygdalae differs in males and females. In one study, participants amygdala activation was looked at by watching a horror movie. Results of this study showed a completely different lateralization in the amygdalae between males and females. They showed that enhanced memory of the film was related to more activity occurring in the left amygdala and not the right. For males, it showed that the memory of the film was related to the right and not the left.

The left is responsible for the recollection of details, which results in more thought than action in response to emotionally stressful stimuli. This can be used to attribute why we see less of a physical response in women than in men. The right has been linked to taking action and has been linked to negative emotions. In this scenario, this is why we see males respond to emotionally stressful stimuli in a physical manner.

Functions of the amygdala

  • Memory – This area of our brain has been linked to the storage of our emotional memory. The amygdala is heavily involved in calculating the emotional significance of events that occur in our lives. Since the amygdala has connections to other regions of the brain, it also has an influence on emotional perception. What this means, is that the amygdala alerts us to notice significant events even when we are not paying attention.
  • Arousal – Sexual desire is largely mediated by the limbic system. Activation of our amygdala can cause sexual feelings, memories of sexual intercourse, penile erections, orgasms, uterine contractions, and ovulation.
  • Hormonal secretions  When experiencing stressful events, our amygdala sounds the alarm by sending a distress signal to our hypothalamus. When this happens, the hypothalamus activates the SNS (sympathetic nervous system) by sending signals through autonomic nerves to the adrenal glands. Then, the glands will respond by pumping out epinephrine, also known as adrenaline. The amygdala is also strongly modulated by serotonin, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and dopamine.

What happens if the amygdala is damaged?

Because there are two amygdalae, if there is a bilateral lesion, there is a reduction in aggression and fear. This may mean you may adopt a superman complex and feel like nothing can hurt you or scare you… unless it’s kryptonite. A study was done on monkeys who had bilateral lesions of their amygdala and researchers reported a huge drop in fear and aggression, just as we see in our human counterparts.

Don’t hold your breath there though. Even though the monkeys showed a significant drop in fear and aggression, humans are faced with a lot more when the amygdala is destroyed. A bilateral lesion can cause an individual to have an impaired ability to interpret emotional facial expression. Kind of sounds like Autism. This type of lesion has actually been linked to autism, with MRI scans detecting an increase in amygdala volume.

Neuropsychological correlates of the amygdala

Advancements in neuroimaging technology have made it possible for neuroscientists to make significant findings related it. Data has shown that the size of an individual’s amygdala can be linked to anxiety, and how size may fluctuate due to antidepressant medication consumption (left). Certain studies have also shown children with anxiety tend to have smaller amygdalae.

Aside from those two interesting facts, data has shown that the amygdala plays a large role in particular mental disorders as well as other mental states.

Fear

A very rare genetic disease known as Urbach-Wiethe disease is responsible for focal bilateral lesions of the amygdala in people. Such a disease results in individual’s showing no signs of fear. This finding of the disease continues to prove that the amygdala plays a large role in triggering the state of fear.

Aggression

Several studies that have looked at animals have repeatedly shown that stimulating the amygdala induces sexual and aggressive behavior. 

Schizophrenia 

Schizophrenic patients are known to have enlarged ventricles, as well as enlarged amygdalae.

Social interaction

It has been said that there is a positive correlation between amygdala volume and the size and complexity of social networks. Size, in this case, means the number of contacts an individual may have, while complexity stands for the number of different groups an individual belongs to.

Data reveals that the larger a person’s amygdalae are the larger amount of social networks an individual has.

It has also been shown that the amygdalae are responsible for processing the violations of personal space. It has been observed in fMRI scans that this region of our brain is activated when it is sensed that a person is standing very close to them. For example, the person who is being scanned is aware when the observer is physically close to them, then when the observer is standing at a distance.

Sexual orientation

In recent studies, it has been suggested that there may be possible correlations between connection patterns in the amygdala, and sexual orientation. It has been reported that homosexual males have a tendency to show more feminine patterns in the amygdala than heterosexual males do. Homosexual females tended to show more masculine patterns in the amygdala than heterosexual females.

Bipolar Disorder

It is well documented that in bipolar disorder, there is great amygdala dysfunction during facial emotion processing. Those who have bipolar disorder have also displayed increased activity in their amygdala.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Patients who suffer from PTSD typically have a hyperactive amygdala in response to various stimuli that are in some way connected to trauma.

Depression

It is also overactive in those who suffer from depression, especially when you present them with sad stimuli. However, when presented with “happy” stimuli, their amygdala is under-active.

Anxiety

It is responsible for setting off a chain reaction for this disorder. It begins to react because some environmental stressor has convinced this area of the brain that you are in danger. However, this is only an issue to worry about when the amygdala is regularly triggered.

Amygdala and other brain regions

It holds some very special connections with other areas of the brain. It is known to make reciprocal connections with the hypothalamus, thalamus, septal nuclei, hippocampus, parahippocampal gyrus, orbital frontal cortex, the brain stem, and the cingulate gyrus.

The amygdala receives input from all senses as well as visceral inputs. Visceral inputs derive from the hypothalamus, parabrachial nucleus, septal area, and orbital cortex. Visual, auditory, and somatosensory information comes through via the temporal and anterior cingulate cortices. Olfactory sensory information is received from the olfactory bulb.

Some output pathways of the amygdala include:

  1. Stria terminals
  2. Ventral amygdalofugal pathway
  3. Directly to the hippocampus
  4. Directly to the dorsomedial nucleus of the thalamus
  5. Directly to the entorhinal cortex

Amygdala/emotional hijacking 

Emotional hijacking is an event that occurs when an individual’s cognitions are overpowered by their emotions. You normally see emotional hijacking occur in the context of fear and aggression. A perfect example of emotional hijacking to kick off this section is when Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield’s ear. According to Daniel Goleman who coined the term amygdala hijacking, this bad decision on Tyson’s behalf is the perfect example of it.

The neocortex – the “thinking” brain, has been completely overridden, and the amygdala fires up taking over total control of the brain; Thus the name “amygdala hijacking.” Hijacking can cause a person to perform irrationally, making decisions that are destructive. Not only does this take a toll on an individual (people who experience emotional hijacking are very remorseful after they realize and reflect on what they have done), their social relationships also take a huge hit. Emotional hijacking can lead to verbal or physical attacks, and such a surge of rage can easily cause an individual to severely harm a person, giving them the capacity to kill.

Something to keep in mind is that emotional hijacking is a phenomenon that requires build up. Troubling past experiences that are crippling an individual can be the direct link to why someone will have an outburst like this. When a person has an outburst, they don’t last long, but the consequences can be quite damaging as a result.

However, there is no need to worry. Not all emotional hijacks are distressing. Goleman states that there are positive hijacks. He gives an example that if a joke strikes a person as funny, and their laughter is explosive, that is a limbic response.

There are three signs you can look out for if you happen to experience an emotional hijack:

  • Strong emotional reaction
  • Sudden onset
  • Post-episode realization if the reaction was appropriate or not/regret

Areas of the brain are especially fascinating, especially when looking at them in more depth. Learning about them gives us an idea of what’s going on within ourselves, and we are able to give a reason for our behavior.

Is this your favorite part of the brain after reading the article? Do you have a favorite area of the brain? Please let us know in the comments below! We hoped you enjoyed this article. 🙂

Non-Native Accent in the Job: The Problems

In a world that is becoming smaller and smaller, a mix of different cultures becomes more prevalent in our job and also our private life. For this reason, being exposed to peers speaking in a non-native accent has become very natural. Especially prominent are non-native accents in English, as this is considered the universal language of communication nowadays. With the trend of the world becoming a smaller and smaller place, so increases the number of people speaking with a non-native accent. Foreign languages and accents gain more importance especially in the job sector which we generally consider a positive development. However, evaluating the psychological burdens of placing a non-native speaker in an environment of native speakers is a necessity. Especially large are the problems of discrimination. Although the judging of people based on physical characteristics has decreased, foreign accents are still used as a way to discriminate certain cultures.

 What is a non-native accent?

A non-native accent is described to have a different pronunciation of vowels and consonants, and a difference in stress and tone is seen when compared to a native accent. The speaker with the non-native accent often applies some of the rules and sounds of his native language. If a sound in the second language is not present in the speaker’s native language, that phoneme will be substituted by the most similar phoneme in the native language causing it to sound different in the second language. Though individuals with a foreign accent are very proficient in that language, the accent is what remains and is not easily lost after a developmental window has closed. Until puberty, an individual is able to learn a foreign language and at the same time acquire the native accent. However, for any language that is acquired later in life, the non-native accent is almost impossible to get rid of. Nevertheless, the ease of obtaining a native accent in a foreign language also depends on the years the person has lived in the foreign country and how similar the phonemes are to the native language.

Typically, native speakers find it fairly easy to spot a person talking in a non-native accent and to them, it is perceived as foreign or even “wrong”.  According to United Nations reports, today more than 232 million people live in a country different from the country they were born in.

Brain areas involved when speaking in a non-native accent

Learning a new language is highly recommended for anyone. According to a Swedish study, a brain scan of adults learning a foreign language and therefore speaking in a non-native accent revealed increases of gray matter in language-related brain regions. Depending on how well they performed in learning the foreign language and their efforts they put in, their brain areas developed differently. The most profound observation was the growth of the hippocampus and three other brain areas to be associated with better language learning. Even though this study only took into account short-term changes, there is no doubt a more developed brain through learning languages will be beneficial for older ages. One of the benefits, for instance, is the later onset of Alzheimer’s in multilingual compared to monolinguals.

A different study looked at brain activity when native English or native Japanese were asked to identify between the English /r/ and /l/. From experience, we know native Japanese speakers to have trouble differentiating between these two particular English phonemes. Also in the study, the Japanese speakers had problems differentiating and producing the two phonemes. The reason for this was found to be a difference in activity of specific brain regions when comparing the two groups. These areas are responsible for the perception of speech.

Non-native accent: The problems of discrimination in the job

With an influx of immigrants, the selection of foreign potential employees of a company becomes bigger as well. Discrimination of minorities is unfortunately still commonplace. A correlation between physical appearance and employability is often observed. However, we should not only look at visual markers but also direct our attention to the several non-native accents of the immigrants when they learn a foreign language. In short, the question is whether discrimination only happens on the physical level or if we are prone to judging people depending on their non-native accents.

A study has looked at this question and conducted an experiment with five groups (Mexican speakers, Indian speakers, Chinese speakers, American speakers and British speakers), each speaking in a particular non-native English accent. They were asked to attend a job interview over the phone. Each group prepared a short sentence containing identical words they had to recite. Obviously, the pronunciation of the individual words due to their accent differed depending on the group. Managers were then asked to listen to each sentence and subsequently evaluate how probable it would be for them to hire each employee based on the sentence they were hearing. Most surprisingly, even the sentence was only different in pronunciation and not content, a speaker with a non-native accent was less likely to be hired than a speaker with a native accent (which was, in this case, an American accent). Nevertheless, one observation was striking: The British speaker group was more likely to be selected by the managers when compared to the native group.
This shows a tendency to discriminate employees whose country is not as highly developed as America. If a person emigrates from a country that enjoys a similar economic status, that same person is not discriminated, in this case, the British group.

In another paper, we see a preference to cooperate with peers speaking the same accent rather than a person talking in a non-native accent.
The results of both studies suggest not only discrimination to happen on a physical level, but also in language. It is a problem which should definitely be considered and tackled as the job recruitment process should not take into account non-native accents if the applicant is able to communicate as well as his native peers. Often, however, the decision to reject a speaker with a non-native accent is made subconsciously with the employer being unaware why the applicant with the foreign accent did not happen to fit into the profile.

Why are non-native accents difficult for our brain?

One possible reason employers might discriminate non-native accent employees has to do with the credibility of the speaker. The manager perceives the employee with the foreign accent to be less credible as he is speaking. This is explained by cognitive fluency referring to the ease with which the brain processes stimuli. If a foreign accent is heard, cognitive fluency is reduced resulting in a more difficult processing of the person receiving the message from the speaker. We see a similar phenomenon in the stock market. Psychologists have shown shares with an easy-to-pronounce name to outperform shares with a hard-to-pronounce name. Similarly, if factual statements are manipulated to be processed easier (writing it in an easier-to-read font), the receivers’ judgment of the statement changes. Cognitive fluency, therefore, plays a crucial role in decision-making suggesting that the employer selecting a native speaker in favor of a non-native speaker cannot really be blamed for his decision.

Ways to reduce prejudices against non-native accent speakers

We might be aware of racial segregation considering physical appearance or religion of an individual. However, it is of paramount importance to add foreign accents to the list of factors contributing to racism. Experiencing racism using non-native accents compared to physique or race is however much more subtle. Judging foreign accents is very subjective (one person considers a foreign accent as very pronounced whereas another person might experience the same person to have only a marginal non-native accent). As a consequence, in real life situations as in the job sector, it becomes challenging to know whether a person’s foreign accent indeed contributed to discrimination. Nevertheless, as the studies have shown, a non-native accent leads to changes how an employer might think about a foreign applicant. As the prevalence of non-native accents is going to increase, we need to be aware of this problem and at best develop strategies to view everyone equally based on their accent. Here are a few things you can do when communicating with a person who is difficult to understand because of his or her non-native accent:

  • Do not pretend to understand the foreign speaker. Instead, ask the person to slow down his speech if you have difficulty catching his or her words.
  • At the same time, you should speak slowly too. This benefits the receiver with the non-native accent to pick up the sounds more easily.
  • Don’t raise your voice. You might think you are speaking too quiet, however, it is most likely not a problem of speech volume, but simply that the foreign speaker is not used to the different pronunciation.
  • If the accent of the person is too strong to understand the message, don’t act rude! It might come across impolite to say “Hey, I don’t understand you!” Instead, ask them to repeat the sentence.
  • But most importantly, focus on the content of the message! Do not waste time evaluating how the pronounced words of the non-native speaker sound.

Do you have a non-accent experience you would like to share? Please feel free to comment below!

Significant learning: How do we internalize information?

What is significant learning? Learning is an essential part of our lives. We need to constantly acquire new knowledge and put it into practice in order to adapt to the environment. Sometimes it is not enough to retain long lists of data, we must internalize them. Ausubel’s significant learning theory explains how we integrate information into our brain. In this article, we will give you tips on how to learn significantly.

Significant Learning

Significant learning: Definition and characteristics

What is significant learning? To answer this question, we must be clear about what “learning” means. This term does not only involve the knowledge we are taught at school. It involves any lasting changes that we may observe in our behavior or that take place in our minds. Learning is essential in every area of our lives. Understanding and communicating the basics is the key to progress.

Psychologists and other professionals try to develop learning theories to explain how the brain learns. There are several proposals that address this issue from different angles. At present, an attempt is being made to understand this process through brain-based learning. Answers must be sought to provide future generations with better education.

In this article, we will talk about significant learning, which was proposed by the American psychologist David Ausubel. This author is one of the greatest exponents of constructivism. This perspective is based on each person building their own world through their own experiences. Piaget is also one of its most prominent exponents, which profoundly influenced Ausubel.

Ausubel’s significant learning theory states that we add and adapt the new information to our previous knowledge. It is a conscious process. Significant learning is an active process in which the subject is the protagonist.

This type of learning contrasts with rote learning, which is a more passive procedure. This constructivist theory contrasts with other proposals that focus on external influences.

Significant Learning: What do we need?

It is imperative that we have:

  • A cognitive structure: The existing basis with which the latest data interact is of great importance. It is made of the ideas we have, how they relate to each other and their degree of clarity.
  • New materials to learn: They need to be related to our previous knowledge. If it is difficult for us to find a link, we must make an effort to achieve a link that unites the new and previous concepts.
  • Willpower: The most important thing is the willingness of the person to form and structure knowledge. We are in charge of organizing the information in our brain.

Significant learning: Types and examples

Significant learning is used throughout our lives. Learning as machines can help us in specific cases like knowing our telephone number, our ID card or reciting a poem.

If we are interested in a topic, we will have to investigate the subject and retain it in a deeper and more lasting way. In fact, even if we don’t want to be experts, the results will improve if we learn significantly.

1. Feature learning

It is the most basic type of learning. From it comes the others. It consists of connecting meanings with certain notions. For example, it happens when we learn that an instrument that tells us the time is called a “clock”. It is not a simple association between concepts, the person connects them in a meaningful way.

2. Concept Learning

It is based on grouping the different representations into categories. It happens when we discover that although there are different types of clocks, they all have common attributes.

3. Learning statements

This is the most elaborate form of learning. It implies that the meanings of concepts are processed in depth in order to express them in the form of statements. It’s about creating logical connections.

For example, if we are asked everything we know about clocks, we will comment on their definition, uses, classifications, examples, etc. In order to do this task, we must have gone through the two previous types of learning.

Significant learning: Applications

Significant learning in the classroom

Significant child learning is vital for us to acquire new knowledge later on. Throughout our lives, we will find ourselves in a variety of situations where we have to settle new information deeply in our minds to overcome an academic challenge.

It doesn’t matter if we do it in college, for competition or to get a job. The sooner we implement strategies that enable us to learn meaningfully, the better.

Here are some significant classroom learning activities that will allow you to retain information more deeply.

1. Make concept maps

This will clarify and organize our ideas. Visually capturing the new concepts and linking them with others we know is a great way to firmly establish the latest data.

2. Explain the lesson to a friend

If we begin to talk about the topic we are studying to someone else, we take the trouble to structure the information. By answering your questions and looking for examples, our understanding of the subject will improve considerably.

3. Work in teams

Listening to people’s views helps us to better internalize information. Our colleagues will also benefit from our skills. We will discover new methods and data to incorporate into our learning process.

Significant learning in companies and organizations

Any type of institution requires its members to acquire new knowledge. There are completely mechanical jobs. Others imply a flexible way of thinking that adapts to continuous changes. However, in all jobs, you need to learn.

Recently it is difficult to keep up since it develops so fast. The future is uncertain and changing. This context does not imply that our future is negative, but that we must work hard to be efficient and adapt.

Companies and organizations should promote significant learning for their employees. This will encourage the involvement of workers and increase their productivity. Also, if we know what we are learning for and link it with our previous knowledge, we will be more motivated.

Significant learning in everyday life

We continue to learn throughout the life cycle. David Ausubel’s theory can be extrapolated to countless situations. For example, since childhood, we have some knowledge about cooking. We see people preparing food and exchanging recipes. In addition, we know a large number of dishes and know what we like and what we don’t like.

One day we may become independent and have to put everything we know about cooking into practice. We can ask our father to teach us his best tricks. He will see what our level is and act accordingly. In this way, knowledge will be mixed with those we have been learning all our lives.

In everyday life, we have to learn to live harmoniously with our flatmates, to drive in different cities or to behave in a party. The new situations will provide us with new knowledge that will interact with what we already knew about how to act in those circumstances.

Significant learning: Benefits

Ausubel’s significant learning is a simple theory that guides us to improve both education and interpersonal relationships.

  • Improved student-teacher relationship: If the teacher is concerned about knowing and adapting to the student’s knowledge, the student will adopt a more proactive attitude, be more motivated and study better. This may also apply to other contexts, such as family or peer groups. We may all need to teach something to our acquaintances at a certain point in time.
  • Ease the acquisition of new knowledge: It consists of “learning to learn”. It improves our learning habits and our understanding of the world.
  • The information is stored in long-term memory: The connections we create are thus firmly anchored in our cognitive structure. This way we can easily recover them in the future.
  • It’s personal: Each person has gone through previous experiences that affect their way of perceiving reality. This makes it easier for us to be able to form our own associations in an active and meaningful way. However, it requires a more personalized education that requires more time and dedication from educators.

Significant learning vs. rote learning

We all know people who are able to memorize immense lists very quickly without making practically the slightest effort (rote-learning). You may even be one of them. Or maybe you’d love to have that ability. On the other hand, there are people who, after reading a text, know how to summarize it and explain it perfectly, even if they don’t say it with the same words (significant learning). Which is better?

Each type of learning is more appropriate for a particular situation. It depends on the context, each person’s abilities, and motivation. In addition, everyone has had different experiences that have encouraged them to try to retain information in one way or another.

If we want to pass a subject and forget about it forever, we will probably try to memorize its contents as quickly as possible in order to pass the test. Next, we’ll forget about it when we’re done. On the other hand, if we are particularly interested in an issue, we will do our best to deepen it and internalize everything we learn.

These two types of learning are not opposites. They can perfectly complement each other. In fact, in tasks such as learning a country’s history, there are parts that we learn significantly and others that we memorize (such as dates). In most cases, however, it is preferable to learn significantly in order to make further progress.

Significant Learning Tips

1. Adopt a healthy lifestyle

This advice is valid for all areas of our life. Healthy habits are fundamental to our mental and physical health. Doing sports, eating well, keeping a regular schedule and getting enough rest will help us learn better. Likewise, contact with nature will help us to disconnect and de-stress from everyday life.

2. Be curious

Amazement is the key to wanting to inquire into why things are happening. If we ask questions and look for answers, we will be able to build new and lasting partnerships in our memory. Reflecting encourages us to learn more and better.

3. Don’t lose motivation

We are not always motivated to learn. Many times we are lazy to learn or read something new that might not contribute to what we need in the moment. However, we never know when the knowledge we get in certain moments might be needed.  we acquired years ago will be phenomenal. Taking a flexible attitude and accepting all tasks as challenges will bring us countless benefits in the long term.

4. Acquire good study habits

If we organize ourselves and have well-established habits, it will less difficult to study or carry out any similar task.

5. Prevents information overload

We have to face a lot of challenges at once every day. Sometimes we sacrifice doing things right for more activities. However, multitasking worsens our performance. It is preferable for us to know what our priorities are, how much time we have to carry them out and act accordingly. If we focus on a single issue and are clear about what we have to do, we will improve our performance.

6. Create your own summaries and outlines

If you are preparing for an exam, significant learning is the key to success. You can underline the most relevant aspects of the text after reading it a couple of times. Afterwards, when you are clear about what is most important, try to make your own notes with the essentials.

Think about what you know about the topic and connect it with the new information. New associations will emerge to help you master the content. You can use color psychology to make your summaries more memorable. In this way, you will be able to link the contents to emotions, keep attention and highlight the essential.

7. Make Examples

If every time you try to learn something you relate it to previous experiences or knowledge, you will make memorable connections. This way you can go from memorizing a concept to visualizing it and knowing how to explain it. Understanding an issue is the basis for meaningful learning.

Look for examples that excite you. You will create associations that go straight to your amygdala, which is a survival-associated part of the brain and is closely related to learning.

8. Take your time

Sometimes, fatigue or lack of time leads us to take the fastest path and avoid focusing on significant learning. With the rush we probably won’t retain the most important things.

If we are really interested in learning something, it is best to look at a time when we are not overwhelmed and to focus all our attention on this issue. We do not always have this option. But if we make an effort, our concentration will increase and we will appreciate it after seeing the results.

9. Rely on technology

Information and communication technologies allow us to improve our attention and keep us motivated to continue learning. New resources are continually being developed that simplify our daily activities and improve our quality of life. More and more means are being used to enable people to interact with them as they develop new skills.

10. Benefit from brain-based learning

CogniFit is the leading cognitive assessment and stimulation tool. Through an entertaining online brain-based platform, it enables both the specialized and general public to learn more about the brain and train cognitive skills such as memory, attention, perception, and reasoning.

If you have any questions or wish to deepen this topic, do not hesitate to comment. Thank you so much for reading this article.

 
This article is originally in Spanish written by Ainhoa Arranz, translated by Alejandra Salazar.
 

Color Psychology: How Colors Affect Us and What Each One Means

What is color psychology? How do colors influence emotions? What do the colors mean? What do the colors convey in different cultures? The meaning of colors resonates much more than we believe in our daily actions. We tend to associate each tone with certain feelings and various concepts. In this article, we will explain the fundamentals of color psychology, its practical applications and give you useful tips to use it.

Color psychology

Psychology of color: What it is and why is it useful

Color psychology is in charge of investigating how the colors affect us. Colors can change our perception, alter our senses, make us emotional, etc. Colors have the power to improve our memory and attention, and even the power to convince us to make a certain decision. Knowing the meaning of colors is key to a better understanding of our behavior.

General Cognitive Assessment Battery from CogniFit: Study brain function and complete a comprehensive online screening. Precisely evaluate a wide range of abilities and detect cognitive well-being (high-moderate-low). Identify strengths and weaknesses in the areas of memory, concentration/attention, executive functions, planning, and coordination.

The influence of colors can completely change the idea we have of a certain space or element. Imagine for a moment a toy for toddlers. It is very likely that you have thought of a bright colored object with strong contrasts that reflect energy and vitality. If we think now of the same toy, but we paint it black with silver details, what emotion does it give us? Does it seem childlike?

Maybe yes. There is no mandatory color code for each range of elements. However, throughout our life, we are making associations. We rely on what we see every day and we don’t usually stop to think about it. But if we see by chance a blue banana, orange lenses or a fluorescent yellow tree, we can’t help but be surprised.

Color psychology is a field of study in continuous development. This field is essential for professionals such as creative departments, ad agencies, and marketing.  However, discovering the meaning of colors can help us choose the right outfit for a special occasion, choose the ideal gift for a friend according to his personality or just feel at home in our own home.

Color Psychology: brain and emotions

Colors influence your emotions and mental health. We are subjected to an immense amount of stimuli and we carry out an infinity of different tasks. Our brain faces many challenges simultaneously. It does not give us time to process everything we grasp through our senses.

Therefore, the associations that we develop on aspects such as colors or shapes save us a great amount of time, since they are processed automatically.

In addition, we are deeply emotional. Colors interact with our memory, awaken feelings and guide reason. They remind us of nice things like those yellow and orange rain boots we had as kids or colors might irritate us for example when we see a blue sweater that was our ex-boyfriend favorite color. 

For example, there is no need to know in depth theories about color psychology to be aware that colors such as pink and red are associated with love or romanticism (ergo Valentine’s day). If we enter a store that has this color combinations (inadequate proportions), we are likely to suddenly remember how much in love we are, and maybe even buy something for our significant other. 

The following video explains a little about how colors can affect your mood.

What does each color in psychology mean?

This topic has sparked passionate debate. Professionals such as psychologists, sociologists, linguists or market researchers interpret the meaning of colors. They analyze phrases such as “being green with envy” or “feeling blue” examining the most frequent colors according to the different categories of products or doing extensive studies to different populations.

Color Psychology: Meaning of White

It is the color of snow, milk, cotton or wedding dresses. White represents a new beginning, lightness, perfection, purity, peace, innocence, etc. In hospitals, white is one of the predominant colors, it is aseptic and conveys calm.

White shirts are used to create a good impression. It is an immaculate and impartial color. White is neutral and clean. A blank sheet of paper opens you a world full of creative possibilities, but it can also give us some sense of anguish if we don’t know how to use it.

Color psychology: Meaning of White

Color Psychology: Meaning of Yellow

The color yellow is linked to positive concepts like optimism, youth, confidence, and creativity. We always paint smiley little faces in yellow and rarely dress in yellow clothes on a sad day. It is the color of the sun, gold or animals as nice as giraffes.

However, yellow is a contradictory color. It is related to betrayal, greed, lies, insanity or warnings. Yellow has also been linked to groups that have been excluded such as Jews, prostitutes or single mothers. It should be noted that in China it is the most valued color and lacks any negative connotations.

Color Psychology: Meaning of Orange

The orange color immediately captures the attention of the person staring. This color is found in several fruits and vegetables, the sunset and redheads. Many of the things we describe as “red” are actually orange, like fire or roof tiles. According to color psychology, orange represents extravagance, energy, transformation, and uniqueness.

Color Psychology: Meaning of Red

Red is the most passionate color, it causes alarms and catches our attention immediately. According to color psychology, red is linked to love, blood, joy, suspense, closeness, war or forbidden. It is shown on the road signs and sale prices. It is the color of urgency.

It is impossible to go unnoticed that is why corrections on any task are made in this color. By the way, wearing this color has effects on sexual attraction, both in people and animals.

Color Psychology: Meaning of Pink

According to color psychology, pink represents sweetness, femininity, delicacy, charm, sensitivity, courtesy, illusion, eroticism, etc. It can be childlike because of its connection with childhood and innocence.

Pink is one of the most popular colors in our culture, some love it and buy everything in this color and others find it irritating, sexist or cheesy. Fuchsia is usually associated with cheap and tacky products.

Color psychology: Meaning of Pink

Color Psychology: Meaning of Purple

Purple is an unusual and enigmatic color. According to color psychology, purple is linked to luxury, religion, and sexuality. It is not frequent in nature and stands out over the rest if used correctly.

It has been related to homosexuality and adopted by feminism. It reflects nostalgia, fantasy, banality, ambition, vanity, etc. It is very ambiguous and has the potentials to be used any way creatively.

Color Psychology: Meaning of Blue

Blue is a favorite among many. According to color psychology, blue symbolizes harmony, fidelity, sympathy, peace, serenity, trust, honesty, communication, etc. It should not surprise us that several social networks (and all types of corporations) use it in their logos.

However, blue can also be cold and distant. It shouldn’t be associated with food since this color makes us suspect the food has expired. It is suitable for homes and rooms that need a relaxing tone. 

Color psychology: Meaning of Blue

Color Psychology: Meaning of Green

Green is related to nature, it reminds us of grass, youth, hope, health, fertility, money, etc. According to color psychology, green is fresh and harmonious, peacefulness, youth, and tranquility. People with environmental awareness are called “green”.

However, it is not always linked so positively. It is associated with poison (shown in many Disney movies).

Color Psychology: Meaning of Brown

Brown represents laziness, vagrancy, filth, vulgarity or ugliness. It may seem bland and outdated. Brown is one of the least appreciated colors.

However, it is also the color of wood and autumn, it reminds us of sturdy, warm and pleasant homes. It is also found in foods like chocolate and having a tan tone is highly valued these days. Brown is a color that has a large presence around us and arouses multiple associations.

Color psychology: Meaning of Brown

Color Psychology: Meaning of Gray

According to color psychology, gray mainly symbolizes old age and sobriety. It can be dark, mediocre and bland or related to cover ups such as “gray literature” or “gray areas”.

On the other hand, gray also reminds us of “gray matter” or elegance in fashion.

Color Psychology: Meaning of Black

Like for the color white, there is an open debate about whether black really is a color. According to color psychology, black is closely related to the world of night, power and death. It represents denial, mystery, mourning, hatred, cruelty, etc. People associate black cats with bad luck and nobody wants to have a black day.

However, black is an elemental color in any closet, every girl must have a little black dress. It is functional and very useful for going to an evening party or looking more elegant on an occasion that requires solemness.

In Eva Heller’s book about color psychology, the meaning of these colors is deepened. It has been one of the main sources of this article.

Color psychology: Meaning of Black

Color psychology: The meaning of colors in different cultures

It has been investigated whether the color classification is a natural process or defined by society. Berlin and Kay, after an analysis carried out in different cultures, affirmed that there were common tendencies in all of them when categorizing the colors. It is believed that there are six main colors around which the rest are grouped. There are several consensuses but still, there are variations when ordering them.

As for the meanings, in our society it is not polite to show dressed in bright colors to a funeral, we prefer dark colors. In Asia, however, mourning is linked to white. This color is better suited to their culture and their idea of reincarnation. However, many years ago in Europe, this color was used by women, who were covered with huge white cloths.

In fact, within our own culture, the meanings of colors can change.

It wasn’t until the 1920s that girls started dressing in pink and boys in blue.

In recent years this custom has been widely criticized. Over time, we are redefining the meaning of colors and creating new conventions that may one day be forgotten or vary according to fashions.

Color meaning can change from one person to another. We can perceive them in a certain way or another depending on our sense of fashion, our emotional state or moment that we are going through.

We don’t all see the same colors, some people might be color blind or the opposite they are able to discriminate even the slightest variation between two colors that are practically the same. People with synesthesia, who are able to hear colors.  

However, this does not imply that color psychology is tremendously subjective and changing. If we analyze the context correctly, it can be very useful.

Color Psychology: Applications

Colors have been used to try to cure diseases, they are in every description we make and much has been speculated about the relationship of colors and personality. In fact, we tend to choose colors that fit our mood and that we believe represent us. Here we will tell you the main professional and daily applications:

Color Psychology for Creative People

Perhaps the first professions that come to mind when talking about colors and color psychology are professions related to creativity. Designers (graphic, fashion, interior, etc.), artists, advertising agents, and marketing need to know how to get other people’s attention and communicate with them.

Take for example Tv shows, the color palette of a children’s program differs greatly from an adult one. Making your brand pop in a society that is overwhelmed with images is a complicated mission, but thanks to color psychology it is possible to connect with your target audience and create an emotional impact. Predicting how the audience will react to your message is essential when trying to convey a message correctly.

Color Psychology in Companies

The corporate image of companies is fundamental to their success. If we were to name the colors of a brand and say the category they fall on you would probably guess right if their color psychology was selected correctly. For example, a red can with soda (you probably already know what I’m talking about).

To give us a sense of coherence and impact in our memory, brands condense in their logo their marketing personality through the colors. They are essential marketing strategies. If a food franchise would use different logos each time, we wouldn’t associate them together, and our memory would be disorganized. This in turn, for the company, could be detrimental, since there is no familiarity with their product and they would lose customers.

However, an image is not everything, but it helps in these cases and even more so with the competitive and changing markets today. In fact, we can see color changes in logos depending on the characteristics of their audience and social trends. It is no coincidence that some brands go from their usual colors to green, which as we’ve established is eco-friendly.

Colors are not only important to the public. Employees can increase their well-being and increase productivity if they work in a place where they feel comfortable.  A dark work environment with dim lights can cause your employees to be overwhelmed and even generate job stress.  Instead, if we paint walls white and put some touches of green and blue and other warm colors, it will become a more welcoming and productive place of work.

Color Psychology in daily life

Colors also affect us when making the most common decisions. Since children, we are asked what our favorite color is and everyone has their personal preferences. Almost everything available is made in several colors to suit everyone’s taste. 

When choosing something silly colors don’t really matter, however, there are situations in which we have to contemplate more variables. If we are going to buy a car we have to be sure not to make a mistake. We will spend a lot of time in it, we may fancy something daring like orange, but it is possible that we end up getting tired of it. On the other hand, a car of a more discreet color such as black or navy blue may be barely visible at night. This dilemma is solved after many headaches and hearing lots of opinions. 

The color of our clothing says a lot about us, and there are different situations where using a type of color might be more appropriate. Positive Branding managed to put together a great infographic to make sure you are sending the right message with your color clothing and the occasion. Check it out below.

Postive Branding: The Psychology of colors.

Useful Tips for Using Color Psychology

1- Not always our favorite color is the most suitable for everything

We are likely to be passionate about purple, but perhaps if we have overused it in our bedroom we might start feeling anxious. Before choosing a color always think previously about the function you want it to have and choose accordingly.

2-The context is fundamental to interpret and choose colors

We know the importance of cultural variables and the circumstances of each situation when choosing a color. It’s important to take these things into account when choosing a color. For example, an attorney going for an interview in a bright red suit is highly likely he will not succeed. However, this doesn’t now mean that you shouldn’t try new things or innovate, but try to choose according to the cultural variables and situations.

3- The key is knowing how to combine the colors well

We may have to send a letter or design a poster and have taken into account all the elements of color psychology. Nonetheless, there are more aspects to consider, such as the effect that two colors can have together. For example, yellow and orange represent autumn but if you combine brown, gray and black it may come off as conservative and expressionless.

4- Colors also have to be functional

Many football teams have probably thought about dressing their players in white jerseys, however cleaning it would be a big issue. There are colors more resistant to dirt, others more suitable for heat, some are perfect if we want to go unnoticed, etc. Take into account the function the color is going to have and choose accordingly.

5- Use colors to enhance your memory

If you want to prepare for a test and do not know how to remember all the steps of a certain list, write each point in a different color. Mnemonic rules encourage our learning. In addition, if you have to make a presentation, you can also improve the memory of your audience in this way. Use color psychology to highlight the most important thing you have to say and associate each color with its meaning.

6- Be consistent

If you have a business think carefully about what you want to convey. When you have finished this analysis, evaluate what your brand has to do to achieve it. It is essential that all elements of your company are congruent between them. The help of a professional designer who takes these aspects into account may be essential for rescuing a business or launching it successfully.

Thank you very much for reading this article. And now, will you analyze the meaning of the colors that surround you? Will you put these tips into practice? If you want to know more about color psychology or want to contribute something, please comment below.

Learning Styles: What are They, Models and Discussion

Learning Styles. Learning is a massive part of everyone’s life. From childhood to adolescence, we go to school for hours daily to learn about various subjects. Outside of schooling, we continue to learn in everyday life — including how to perform better in the workplace, how to work through interpersonal issues, or how to fix practical household dilemmas. But does everyone learn in the same way? That doesn’t seem to be the case. There is no one-size-fits-all method of learning. To learn and teach most effectively, we must know an individual’s preferred learning styles.

Learning is an important part of life.

Different Learning Styles?

It is often recognized that there are differences in the ways individuals learn. Even at a very young age, a child will prefer certain subjects and teachers over others. They may be excited at their performance on a math assignment, but spend their time in history class doodling. Alternatively, a child may be an enthusiastic art student under the guidance of one teacher, and then lose interest when that teacher is replaced. These are the consequences of a child’s unique learning style.

In the classroom, teachers will notice that students vary remarkably in the pace and manner by which they pick up new ideas and information. This same concept carries into the workplace, where employers notice that employees learn and perform better under different conditions. Conversely, each teacher has their own preferred method of teaching. Each teacher has their particular style and then so does each learner. Problems can occur when teachers and learners don’t match.

Models of Learning Styles

Since the 1970s, researchers have theorized models to describe individual differences in learning. Everyone has a mix of preferred learning styles. These preferences guide the way we learn. They determine the way an individual mentally represents and recalls information. Research shows that different learning styles involve different parts of the brain. Unfortunately, there is no universally accepted model of learning styles. Rather there are dozens of competing models. The most widely recognized model, “The Seven Learning Styles”, as well as David Kolb’s and Neil Fleming’s models are discussed below.

What are the different learning styles?

The Seven Learning Styles

Known simply as “The Seven Learning Styles”, this is the most commonly accepted model of learning styles. It is referenced by researchers and teachers alike. To find out which of the seven learning styles apply to you, fill out this questionnaire. This is an unofficial inventory of the Seven Learning Styles provided by Memletics (care for the pop-ups!). The Seven Learning styles are as follows:

Visual (Spatial)

Visual learners have an ability to perceive the visual. They prefer to learn through pictures and images and are good at spatial understanding (relating to a given space and the relationship of objects within it). They create vivid mental images to remember information and enjoy viewing pictures, videos, maps, and charts.

Skills:

  • Interpreting and manipulating images
  • Drawing and painting
  • Charting and graphing
  • Good sense of direction
  • Creating visual analogies and metaphors
  • Puzzle Building
  • Constructing
  • Designing and fixing objects

Tips:

  • Use images, pictures, and other visuals to learn
  • Pay attention to color, layout, and spatial organization
  • Make use of ‘visual words’ when speaking
  • Use ‘mind maps’ (diagrams used to visually organize information)

Aural (Auditory/Musical)

Aural learners prefer to learn through sounds and music and are able to produce and appreciate music. They tend to think in rhythms and patterns, and are particularly sensitive to sounds in the immediate environment.

Skills:

  • Singing and whistling
  • Playing musical instruments
  • Writing music
  • Recognizing melodies and tonal patterns
  • Understanding rhythm and structure of music

Tips:

  • Use mnemonics, rhyming, and rhythm to memorize new ideas
  • Ambient recordings can increase concentration
  • Music can inspire certain feelings and emotional states. Make use of music to anchor your emotions.

Verbal (Linguistic)

Verbal learners have an ability to use words and language. While many people think in pictures, these learners think in words. They tend to be elegant speakers, with highly developed auditory skills.

Skills:

  • Writing
  • Speaking
  • Explaining
  • Listening
  • Storytelling
  • Persuasion
  • Analyzing language

Tips:

  • Read content aloud, and try to make it dramatic and varied to aid recall
  • Verbal role-playing can aid in understanding concepts
  • Make use of techniques such as assertion and scripting
  • Record your scripts and listen back

Physical (Kinaesthetic)

Physical learners prefer learning with their body and sense of touch. They are adept art controlling their bodies and handling objects. Information is processed by interacting with the space around them. A good sense of balance and hand-eye coordination is common.

Skills:

  • Physical coordination
  • Working with hands
  • Using body language
  • Sports
  • Dancing
  • Acting

Learning tips:

  • Use hands-on activities to learn
  • Describe the physical sensations of an experience with verbs and adverbs
  • Use physical objects as much as possible, including flash cards and miniature models
  • Writing and drawing diagrams may help, as these are physical activities
The Seven Learning Styles is the most popular model. 

Logical (Mathematical)

Logical learners are able to use reason, logic, and numbers. They think in terms of systems, patterns, and concepts. These learners also seek to understand the reasoning or the “why” behind each new concept and like to experiment.

Skills:

  • Categorization
  • Problem solving
  • Complex mathematical calculations
  • Connecting concepts
  • Making logical conclusions from long chains of reasoning
  • Geometry
  • Experimentation

Learning tips:

  • Focus on exploring connections between ideas
  • Make lists of key concepts from material
  • Think in terms of procedures
  • Think in terms of systems
  • Thinking in terms of systems may help you understand the “big picture”
  • Create diagrams that outline entire systems

Social (Interpersonal)

Social learners have an ability to relate to and understand others. These learners are good at sensing the feelings, intentions, and motivations of others.  They are also able to see things from multiple perspectives. These learners are often good at encouraging cooperation, but sometimes their abilities enable them to manipulate others.

Skills:

  • Empathy
  • Listening
  • Communication, both verbal and non-verbal
  • Conflict resolution
  • Establishing relations with others
  • Building trust
  • Noticing the feelings, moods, intentions, and motivations of others

Learning tips:

  • Work with others as much as possible
  • Use one-on-one or group roleplaying
  • Share what you have learned with others, including associations and visualizations you have made
  • Learn from others’ practices, associations, and visualizations
  • Learn from others’ mistakes

Solitary (Intrapersonal)

These learners like to introspect and self-reflect. This gives them a keen awareness of their own inner state of being. They understand their own inner desires, motivations, feelings, strengths, and weaknesses.

Skills:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-analysis
  • Evaluating one’s own thoughts and emotions
  • Understanding one’s role in relationships with others

Learning tips:

  • Study in private
  • Try to invest yourself personally in your work
  • Adjust your goals to fit your personal values.  This maximizes motivation.
  • Keep a journal to record thoughts and observations
  • Focus on what you would be feeling or thinking about when you associate or visualize
  • Train your brain cognitively, with training programs such as CogniFit which is a leading company in cognitive brain training programs. You can register here.

David Kolb’s Model of Learning Styles

“Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience.” – David A. Kolb

David A. Kolb’s model is outlined his book “Experiential Learning”, published in 1984. In this book, Kolb speaks of a four-stage cycle of learning as well as four independent learning styles. According to Kolb, all four stages of the learning cycle will be engaged in a complete learning process. The four stages are described below.

  1. Concrete Experience – This occurs when a new experience, or a reinterpretation of an existing experience, is encountered.
  2. Reflective Observation – This occurs when the experience is reviewed or reflected upon, with the goal of achieving a consistent understanding.
  3. Abstract Conceptualization – This occurs when a new idea or concept arises from reflection.
  4. Active Experimentation – This occurs when new ideas are applied to the world and the results are observed.

David Kolb’s four learning styles are built upon this four-stage learning cycle.  An individual will naturally prefer one of these styles over the others. This preference is influenced by social and educational environments as well as cognitive structures. Although everyone will occasionally need the stimulus of all four of these learning styles, it is useful to know your personal orientation.

Learning Styles: Diverging

This style corresponds with the first two stages and involves watching and feeling. People who are oriented towards diverging are able to see things from many different perspectives. They gather information by watching rather than doing and use their imagination to solve problems. This means that they are good at brainstorming and other methods of generating ideas. Diverging thinkers tend to have an open mind and broad interests. They tend to be imaginative and emotional and can be talented in the arts.

Learning Styles: Assimilating

This style corresponds with the second and third stages. It involves watching and thinking. People who prefer assimilating have a concise, logical approach to processing information. To them, ideas and concepts are primary, while people and practical applications are secondary. Information should be organized in a clear logical format. Because of their preference for the abstract, these learners tend to prefer reading, lectures, and analyzing concepts.

Learning Styles: Converging

This styles corresponds with the last two stages and involves doing and thinking. These learners strive for practical, “hands-on” solutions. They excel at technical work, finding practical uses for ideas and theories, and are less concerned with the interpersonal. Problem-solving comes most naturally to these learners. They like to experiment with new ideas and find practical applications. This allows for great technical and specialist abilities.

Learning Styles: Accommodating

This style corresponds with the fourth and first stages. It involves doing and feeling. Much like converging learners, accommodating learners are “hands on”.  They rely on intuition rather than logic, and their strength lies in imaginative ability and discussion. “Gut” instinct is primary. They do not shy away from an interpersonal approach, often relying on others for information or analysis. New challenges and experiences excite these learners.

Neil Fleming’s Model of Learning Styles

Dr. Neil Fleming identified four learning styles in the 1980’s. These four styles came to be known as the “VARK” model of learning styles. This model describes the sensory preferences of learning. It is built on earlier notions of sensory processing, such the VAK model. This is perhaps the most straightforward of models. It is simple yet insightful.

  1. Visual – You learn best from images, pictures, symbols, charts, graphs, diagrams and other forms of spatial organization.
  2. Auditory – You learn best from sound, rhythm, music, speaking and listening.
  3. Reading and Writing – You learn best from reading and writing.
  4. Kinesthetic – You learn best from interacting with their physical surroundings, making use of your body and sense of touch.

Learning Styles: A myth?

There has been recent controversy regarding the subject of learning styles. Although the idea has a lot of intuitive appeals, many disagree with it altogether. There are some problems that can be easily identified.

The first is that there is no agreed-upon model for learning styles. Over 70 different models have been identified, including The Seven Learning Styles, David Kolb’s model, Neil Fleming’s model, “right” and “left” brain model, “holistic” vs. “serialist” model, and so on. All of these models have very little research that supports their validity over others — some are merely more popular than others.

The second and most important problem is that there is no research to support the effectiveness of teaching to an individual’s learning style. A major premise of the theory of learning styles is that individuals learn better when the material is matched to their learning style. Unfortunately, studies have shown either no evidence or weak evidence to support this. On the other hand, studies do show that individuals will learn better if they reflect on their own learning style. This alone lends credence to the theory of learning styles. While it may not be useful to teach to individual learning styles, it is useful to reflect on your own preferences.

Some argue that the lack of evidence means that learning styles don’t exist. Many agree that they do exist, but are simply difficult to measure. Regardless of the extent of their validity, it is always interesting to learn more about yourself.

Learning can be daunting. Knowing your preferences will help.

References

Cherry, Kendra. “Are You a Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing, or Tactile Learner?” Verywell, 15 June 2017.
“Learning Styles Explained.” Idpride.
“Learning-Styles-Online.com.” Overview of learning styles, Advanogy.Com, 2017
McLeod, Saul. “Saul McLeod.” Kolb’s Learning Styles and Experiential Learning Cycle | Simply Psychology, 2010.

Korsakoff Syndrome: inventing memories to compensate forgetfulness

Korsakoff syndrome is a memory problem that is usually due to alcohol abuse or overly restrictive diets that lead to vitamin deficiency. Find out here what it consists of, what are its main symptoms, causes, treatment and how we prevent it.

Korsakoff Syndrome

What is the Korsakoff Syndrome?

Korsakoff syndrome is a chronic memory disorder due to severe deficiency of thiamine, or vitamin B1.

Thiamin helps the brain produce energy from sugar. When levels fall drastically brain cells can’t generate enough energy to function properly and as a result, Korsakoff syndrome can develop.

It is believed that this deficiency causes damage to the thalamus and mammillary bodies of the hypothalamus. Mammillary bodies are brain parts or small structures with many connections to the hippocampus (an area closely related to memory). There is also general brain atrophy, loss, and neuronal damage.

Research has shown that this deficiency alters the substances responsible for transmitting signals between brain cells and storing memories. These alterations can destroy neurons and cause bleeding and microscopic scars throughout the brain tissue.

This syndrome is often, but not always, preceded by an episode of Wernicke’s encephalopathy. This consists of an acute reaction of the brain due to a severe lack of thiamine. Wernicke’s encephalopathy is a medical emergency that causes severe life-threatening brain disturbance, mental confusion, uncoordinated movement and abnormal and involuntary eye movements. Because Korsakoff syndrome is commonly preceded by an episode of Wernicke’s encephalopathy, the chronic disorder is sometimes called Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. However, Korsakoff can develop without a previous episode of this encephalopathy.

Korsakoff Syndrome Symptoms

Korsakoff is characterized by memory problems but retaining consciousness. This may give the impression during conversations that he is in full possession of his faculties.

However, he has severe alterations in recent memory. The person will ask the same questions over and over again, read the same page for hours, and is not able to recognize the people they have seen several times in the course of his illness.

Memory problems can be very severe, both short-term memory and long-term memory with many memory gaps or memory loss, while other skills such as social or thoughts may be relatively intact.

The main symptoms are:

  • Anterograde amnesia: inability to form new memories or learn new information.
  • Retrograde amnesia: severe loss of existing memories, prior to the beginning of the disease.
  • Confabulations: invented memories that are believed by the individual himself as real because of memory gaps.
  • Conversation with low content.
  • Lack of introspection.
  • Apathy.

Individuals with Korsakoff syndrome may show different symptoms. In some cases, a patient may continue to “live in the past”, convinced that his life and the world remain unchanged since the beginning of the disorder.

Others may display a wide variety of confabulations. Retrograde amnesia does not happen to all memories alike but affects more in recent events. The older the memories, the more they remain intact. This may be because recent memories are not fully consolidated in our brains, therefore, being more vulnerable to their loss.

Confabulations in Korsakoff Syndrome

One of the most characteristic symptoms of people with Korsakoff syndrome is the confabulations. They often “collude” or invent information they can’t remember. It is not that they are “lying”, but actually believe their invented explanations. There is still no agreed scientific explanation as to why this happens.

Korsakoff Syndrome-Confabulations

Some people may show constant, even frenetic, conspiracies. They continually invent new identities, with detailed and convincing stories that support them, to replace the reality they have forgotten.

Causes of Korsakoff Syndrome

We know that excessive intake of alcohol can harm our nervous system. In fact, in most cases, Korsakoff’s syndrome is due to alcohol abuse and its consequences on our brain.

Research has identified some genetic variations that may increase the risk of this disorder. In addition, poor nutrition can also be an important factor.

Korsakoff syndrome can also be caused by eating disorders, such as anorexia, overly restrictive diets, starvation, or sudden weight loss after surgery. Also by uncontrolled vomiting, HIV virus, chronic infection or cancer that has spread throughout the body.

Treatment of Korsakoff Syndrome

Intervention for Korsakoff syndrome should be approached from a multidisciplinary point of view, in which doctors, psychologists, and neuropsychologists will work to achieve the best results.

Some experts recommend that people who consume large amounts of alcohol or have other risks of thiamine deficiency, take oral supplements, always under the supervision of a doctor.

It is also recommended that anyone who has had a history of alcohol abuse or symptoms associated with Wernicke’s encephalopathy be injected with thiamine. For people who develop Korsakoff Syndrome, treatment with oral thiamine, other vitamins and magnesium may increase the chances of symptoms improving.

A psychological intervention will revolve around maintaining alcohol abstinence. From the neuropsychological point of view, it will help to compensate for their deficits, so that the patient can integrate socially and lead a life as normal as possible. CogniFit is a tool that trains different cognitive skills affected by Korsakoff Syndrome. 

Prognosis of Korsakoff syndrome

Some data suggest that about 25 percent of people with Korsakoff syndrome recover, half improve but don’t fully recover, and another 25 percent remain the same.

According to these researchers, the mortality rate is high, between 10 and 20%. This is mainly due to lung infection, septicemia, liver decompensation disorder and an irreversible thiamine deficiency state.

Early attention and treatment for Korsakoff symptoms is very important. Early treatment of Wernicke’s encephalopathies may improve prognosis and prevent Korsakoff’s syndrome. For example, eye problems begin to improve in hours or days, motor problems, in days or weeks. Although some 60% of patients may have some residual symptoms.

According to these authors, once the Korsakoff syndrome has been established, the prognosis is quite pessimistic. Approximately 80% of patients are left with a chronic memory disorder. These can get to learn simple and repetitive tasks that involve procedural memory (motor memory).

Cognitive recovery is slow and incomplete and reaches its highest level of recovery after one year of treatment. Although recovery may occur, it depends on factors such as age or alcohol withdrawal.

Tips for Preventing Korsakoff Syndrome

Tips for Preventing Korsakoff Syndrome

The primary advice is to reduce your alcohol intake to a minimum. The less alcohol, the better. Although we think that drink very little, the fact is that even in small amounts, we are already damaging our body.

  • A healthy and non-restrictive diet will ensure the synthesis of the vitamins needed to function properly and in particular thiamine or B1.
  • Go to the doctor whenever we detect memory problems. He will establish if it is a problem associated with normal aging or some kind of dementia.
  • Maintain a good support system, since loved ones will be of help in case any disturbing symptoms appear.
  • If you think you drink more than you do and don’t know how to quit, go to a professional who will help you reduce your alcohol intake.

Feel free to leave a comment below.

This article is originally in Spanish written by Andrea García Cerdán, translated by Alejandra Salazar.

Hippocampus: the orchestra director in the deepest part of our brain

Hippocampus. Have you ever gone blank and forgotten what you were going to say? Our brain is full of important data and information that we have stored over the years. Sometimes we have so much information that we force our brain to get rid and ignore some data. The part of the brain in charge of such important functions as memory and learning is the hippocampus. Without this brain structure, we would lose the ability to remember and feel the emotions associated with memories. You want to know more? Keep reading!

Hippocampus

What is the Hippocampus?

The hippocampus is named after the anatomist Giulio Cesare Aranzio who in the 16th century observed that this brain structure bears a great resemblance to a seahorse.

The word hippocampus comes from the Greek Hippos (horse) and Kampe (crooked). In his discovery, this part of the brain was related to the sense of smell and he advocated the explanation that the hippocampus’ main function was to process the olfactory stimuli.

This explanation was defended until in 1890 when Vladimir Béjterev demonstrated the actual function of the hippocampus in relation to memory and cognitive processes. It is one of the most important parts of the human brain because it is closely related to memory functioning and emotions. It is a small organ located within the temporal lobe (approximately behind each temple), which communicates with different areas of the cerebral cortex in what is known as the “hippocampus system.” It is a small organ with an elongated and curved shape. Inside our brain, we have two hippocampi, one in each hemisphere (left and right).

The hippocampus is known as the main structure in memory processing.

Where is the Hippocampus?

It is very well located, connected to different regions of the brain. It is located in the middle temporal lobe.

The hippocampus along with other brain structures such as the amygdala and hypothalamus form the limbic system and are responsible for managing the most primitive physiological responses. They belong to the most “ancient, deep and primitive” part of the brain, in a part of the brain known as “archicortex” (the oldest region of the human brain) that appeared millions of years ago in our ancestors to meet their most basic needs.

The blue part is the hippocampus

What does the Hippocampus do?

Among its main functions are the mental processes related to memory consolidation and the learning process. As well as, processes associated with the regulation and production of emotional states and spatial perception. How does the brain learn?

Some research has also linked it to behavioral inhibition, but this information is still in the research phase as it is fairly recent.

Hippocampus and Memory

The hippocampus is primarily related to emotional memory and declarative memory. It allows us to identify faces, to describe different things and to associate the positive or negative feelings that we feel with the memories of the lived events.

It intervenes in forming both episodic and autobiographical memories from the experiences we are living. The brain needs to “make room” to be able to store all the information over the years and for this, it transfers the temporal memories to other areas of the brain where memory storage takes place in the long term.

In this way, older memories take longer to disappear. If the hippocampus were damaged, we would lose the ability to learn and the ability to retain information in memory. In addition to allowing the information to pass into long-term memory, it links the contents of the memory with positive or negative emotions that correspond depending on whether the memories are associated with good or bad experiences.

There are many types of memory: semantic memory, visual memory, working memory, implicit memory, etc. In the case of the hippocampus, it intervenes specifically in declarative memory (it covers our personal experiences and the knowledge we have about the world), managing the contents that can be expressed verbally. The different types of memory are not governed solely by the hippocampus but are formed by other brain regions. It does not take care of all the processes related to memory loss but it covers a good part of them.

Hippocampus and Learning

It allows learning and retention of information since it is one of the few areas of the brain that have neurogenesis throughout life.

That is, it has the ability to generate new neurons and new connections between neurons throughout the life cycle. Learning is acquired gradually after many efforts and this is directly related to it. For new information to be consolidated in our brains, it is vitally important that new connections are formed between neurons. That is why the hippocampus has a fundamental role in learning.

Curiosity: Is it true that the hippocampus of London taxi drivers is bigger or more developed? Why? London taxi drivers must pass a hard memory test where they must memorize a myriad of streets and places to get the license. In the year 2000, Maguire studied London taxi drivers and observed that the posterior hippocampus was greater. He also noted that the size was directly proportional to the time the taxi drivers were working. This is because of the effect of training, learning and experience changes and shapes the brain.

Spatial perception and its relationship with the hippocampus

Another important function in which the hippocampus stands out is the spatial orientation, where it plays a very important role.

Spatial perception helps us to keep our mind and body in a three-dimensional space. It allows us to move and helps us interact with the world around us.

There have been different studies with mice where it is stated that it is an area of vital importance for orientation capacity and spatial memory.

Thanks to its correct functioning, we are capable of performing acts such as guiding us through cities we do not know, etc. However, the data concerning people are much more limited and more research is needed.

What happens when the hippocampus is disturbed?

An injury to the hippocampus can mean problems generating new memories. An brain injury can cause anterograde amnesia, affecting specific memories but leaving intact learning skills or abilities.

Lesions can cause anterograde or retrograde amnesia. Non-declarative memory would remain intact and uninjured. For example, a person with a hippocampal injury may learn to ride a bicycle after the injury, but he would not remember ever seeing a bicycle. That is, a person with the damaged hippocampus can continue to learn skills but not remember the process.

Anterograde amnesia is memory loss that affects events occurring after the injury. Retrograde amnesia, on the other hand, affects the forgetfulness generated before the injury.

At this point, you will wonder why the hippocampus is damaged when there are cases of amnesia. It is simple, this part of the brain acts as a gateway to brain patterns that sporadically retain events until they pass to the frontal lobe. One could say that the hippocampus is key to memory consolidation, transforming short-term memory into long-term memory. If this access door is damaged and you can’t save the information, it won’t be possible to produce longer-term memories. In addition to losing the ability to remember, when injuries or damage to the hippocampus occurs, you may lose the ability to feel the emotions associated with such memories, since you would not be able to relate the memories to the emotions that evoke it.

Why can the Hippocampus be damaged?

Most of the alterations that may occur in the hippocampus are produced as a result of aging and neurodegenerative diseases, stress, stroke, epilepsy, aneurysms, encephalitis, schizophrenia.

Aging and dementias

In aging in general and dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease in particular, the hippocampus is one of the areas that has previously been damaged, impairing the ability to form new memories or the ability to recall more or less recent autobiographical information. Memory problems, in this case, are associated with the death of hippocampal neurons.

Most of us know of someone who has suffered or suffers from some kind of dementia and has experienced memory loss. It is curious how the memories that remain are childhood memories or the oldest memories. You may wonder why this happens if the hippocampus is supposed to be damaged.

Well, although it is severely damaged (whether by dementia or any other type of illness), the most common memories are the oldest and they are also the most relevant to the life of the person. This is because over time these memories have been “becoming independent” of the hippocampus to be part of other structures related to long-term memory.

Hippocampus and stress

This region of the brain is very vulnerable to periods of stress because it inhibits and atrophies the neurons of this structure.

Have you noticed that when we are very stressed and we have a billion things to do sometimes we feel forgetful?

Stress and specifically cortisol (a type of hormone that is released in response to stressful moments) damage our brain structures sometimes causing neuronal death. That is why it is fundamental that we learn to remain calm and manage our emotions to get our hippocampus to remain strong and continue to exercise their functions optimally.

To know more watch the following video.

If you like this super interesting subject about memory, I recommend you watch the movie “Memento”. I’ll leave the trailer here so you can see what it’s about.

If you liked this post, leave your comment below. I will be happy to read it and answer your questions :).

This article is originally in Spanish written by Mairena Vázquez, translated by Alejandra Salazar.

Priming: Useful guide to the different types and its measurability

In psychology, priming is the implicit memory effect where a stimulus that is exposed influences a response to a later stimulus. This will be your trusty guide to all things related to priming: What exactly is it? What are the different types? How does this affect you in your daily life, and what does this mean for your brain?

Exposure to a stimulus can influence a response to later stimuli.

What is Priming?- Definition of Priming

In psychology, priming is the unconscious process of a stimulus being experienced that can result in faster accessibility to an event, item, or person when a second stimulus is exposed. Most people aren’t aware when it happens. It is especially important when looking into social psychology because of the complex nature of social information processing. When many interpretations and behavioral options are available, the accessibility determined by priming can constrain perception, cognition, and action.

Real Life Examples of Priming

Now that you’ve seen our keyword a few times, in a few hours from now, if you go out to run errands, you might remember to buy primer paint for those rooms you wanted to do over. Perhaps before slathering a bunch of makeup on your face, you remember a little bit better that you need to prime your face before you begin to beautify it, or maybe you’ll recognize prime numbers a little bit faster.

If a friend of yours was talking about their recent trip to Thailand and you later feel a craving for Thai food for dinner, you would be experiencing it.

Four examples were just given to you on how this idea works in a psychological sense. This phenomenon is similar to a “before coat” in that you need to apply something beforehand in order for it to stick. In short, your brain has been programmed to desire something and take notice of minuscule things you normally wouldn’t have noticed or paid attention to before because of a stimulus that had been exposed at the time. Your response to those stimuli can also be positive or negative, given how the first stimulus was presented to you.

There are several different types that can affect how you think or respond to certain events (stimuli).

Types of Priming

There are different types that work differently and have different outcomes. Together, we will delve deep into each type, and learn about what each means.

  • Positive and negative: They focus on processing speed. While the positive speeds up the processing time, the speed or reaction time of the negative is significantly slowed down. The positive one  is thought to be caused by the act of spreading activation.This means that the very first stimulus activates a particular memory or association before handling a task or action. Because the memory or association as been activated, when the second stimulus is presented, it takes less activation is needed. The negative is a bit harder to conceptualize, so to do this, we will come back to the negative category when we look at how the different types are measured.
  • Semantic: Within this category, what is being primed, and what is being targeted are usually from the same semantic categories, having very similar features. What this means, is when a person thinks of a single item in a given category, similar items are stimulated in different brain areas. For example, cat is a semantic word for cheetah because they are both similar items. 
  • Conceptual and perceptual: Conceptual is based on the meaning of the stimulus and is enhanced by the semantic task at hand. An example is that the word fork, will show an effect on spoon because they both belong to the same category. Conceptual and semantic priming are very similar. Perceptual priming focuses on the form of the stimulus and is very sensitive to the exact form of the stimulus.
  • Repetition: This is very similar to positive priming, if not the same. It is also referred to as direct priming, in which a stimulus has been experienced, it is primed right away. When the stimulus has then been experienced again, it will be processed more quickly by the brain.
  • Kindness: A person is exposed to an act of kindness/kind gesture. When encountering positive stimuli, the experience is met with a lower threshold activation. A fun fact about this type is that when it’s experienced, it will then increase the resistance to negative stimuli temporarily.
  • Associative priming: This category similar to that of positive and semantic priming. With associative priming, the target is a word that is commonly associated with what has been primed, but they don’t necessarily share the same semantic features. More so, the target and the prime are two things that are commonly seen together and associated with one another. An example of this pen and paper. They do not have the same semantic features as a cat or cheetah would, but they are commonly paired together.
  • Response priming:  If you’ve ever had to take a computer test where you’re assigned to press a particular key when a certain shape appears on your screen, for example: up key if you see a circle, down key if you see a square, you’ve experienced response priming. The results that really matter when assessing this type is the amount of time it takes for a person to respond to the stimuli. What separates this from the other types of priming being discussed, is that the prime and target are being presented in very quick successions, which are normally a few milliseconds long.
  • Masked priming: Masked priming is commonly referred to as “purest” form. The masked priming paradigm was created by Forster & Davis in 1984. It is also referred to as the sandwich technique. The prime is usually sandwiched between the patterned mask and the target mask. So, for example: patterned mask #!#!, prime: play, target: CLAY.

Measuring the Different Types of Priming

There are several different ways psychologists measure the brains priming ability. However, the types of tests run to measure it all depend on the type/subtype. In short, you wouldn’t use the test that measures masked priming, if you were trying to measure positive and negative priming. Below are the lists of tasks and tests used to measure the various types.

  • Positive and negative priming measure: Event-related potential (ERP) is the measured brain response that is the direct result of a specific sensory, cognitive, or motor event.
  • Perceptual priming measure: Word stem completion task (WSK) and word fragment completion task. This task usually gives you a list of words in its full form, and you need to study them. Afterward, you are given fragments of the word on paper and you need to fill them in with the words you just studied. Sometimes, this doesn’t work because participants don’t realize they need to fill in the fragments with the words they just studied. What ends up happening is that participants will fill in words they are free associating the fragments with.
  • Conceptual and repetition measure: Lexical decision task. This task is normally used for psycholinguistic experiments. The procedure measures how long it takes for a participant to make determine if a string of letters forms a word or not.

Now that you know what priming is and the various types, you may become a little bit more aware of yourself in the meantime. It is an interesting phenomenon that takes place in everyone’s daily lives, and you can relate the process of priming to your behavior, maybe the behaviors of others. So, the next time you watch a movie based in a vacation hotspot, and you begin to see ads for vacation packages in the Bahamas, you’re not going crazy – you’ve just been primed.

Please comment below if you have any questions! 🙂

References:

Explorable, (n.d). Priming. Retrieved from  https://explorable.com/

Psychology, (n.d.). Priming. Retrieved from https://psychology.iresearchnet.com/social-psychology/social-cognition/

McNamara, T. P. (2005). Semantic priming. Perspectives from memory and word recognition. New York: Psychology Press Ltd.

Sensory Memory: The Motor Behind Your Hidden Abilities

Can you see with your eyes closed? Can you hear someone’s voice, even when you’re alone? Have you ever traveled in time with a smell that reminds you of a certain place? These are just some of the amazing powers of our sensory memory, which uses all five of our senses to capture and remember the world. Find out what sensory memory is, the different types of sensory memory, and how to improve it.

Sensory memory

“…taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest…” -Marcel Proust

What is sensory memory?

We have the unlimited ability to perceive, register, and store information about our environments, and sensory memory is what makes it possible. Our senses perceive and capture information about objects and ideas around us. The sensory memory system makes the exterior information that we perceive “last” longer, which makes it possible to be captured and understood by other memory systems.

The sensory information that we retain doesn’t only make it possible to recognize our environment (smell someone’s perfume and know who it is, recognize a person’s voice, etc.), it also makes it possible to make sense of the future. For example, when you eat a lemon and perceive the taste of the acidity, your body and brain will remember the sensation. Later, when you see a lemon being cut, your mouth will salivate due to the sensory memory of the flavor. We store sensory information that is linked to a degree of attraction or different sensations that are felt in the moment of their “recording”. The same stimulus that one person sees as an unpleasant experience, another may perceive as a pleasant one.

Sensory memory also plays a role in our other memory systems. It quickly and effectively tells the brain which stimuli should be attended to by short-term memory and saves particular parts of the original memory in long-term memory which can be recognized later on.

Types of sensory memory

Our five senses make up the five types of sensory memory. Each one makes it possible to recognize and remember perceived impressions, along with the value that it was given during perception.

1. Auditory or Echoic Sensory Memory

The main function of auditory sensory memory is to capture sounds and auditory experiences in order to prolong its presence and be captured by other response systems. This type of memory can prolong the presence of a sound for up to 10 seconds after it has ended.

You may find that sometimes you ask someone to repeat what they’ve said, but after they’ve started, you realize that you actually heard them the first time. You didn’t know that you were listening, but your ears did their work and captured the auditory information from the environment.

2. Visual or Iconic Sensory Memory

Visual or iconic memory plays an important role when recording visual sensory experiences. Our eyes work like a camera that is constantly taking pictures of our surroundings and makes it possible to make each bit of information last longer so that it can be linked to other images. While this ability to capture visual information from the environment makes the information “last” longer, it does not last quite as long as echoic (auditory) memory. If auditory sensory memory can last up to 10 seconds, iconic sensory memory can last up to a maximum of 250 milliseconds after being captured. This short amount of time keeps the system from being overloaded with information. We sometimes unintentionally store this visual information in superior memory systems accidentally.

Imagine that you’re riding the subway for 40 minutes. During this commute, you sit in front of someone who you seemingly pay no attention to. The next day, you run into the same person in the grocery store and you recognize them. The images that you remember from the subway were processed and sent to other memory systems.

3. Tactile Sensory Memory

Tactile sensory memory makes it possible to record information about the characteristics of the objects that we touch and feel. Bliss, Crane, Manfield, and Townsend (1966) found in their studies that this ability differs in people with congenital blindness, late onset blindness, and people with normal vision. These differences reflect the ability for improvement through the practice of the tactile memory system.

Suppose that you need to get something from your closet, but they lights went out in your room and you’re left in the dark. You’ll probably find that you’re able to recognize a good amount of your clothes just by touch, without having to see them visually. While you may have never stopped to intentionally take in this kind of information, your sense of touch did its work and processed the information correctly.

4. Olfactory Sensory Memory

Olfactory sensory memory records information about the smells that different stimuli emit. We have the ability to smell and distinguish between a large number of different scents that arrive at our senses every day. In fact, our olfactory skills are able to detect a wider variety of stimuli than any other sense. We are able to link smells to different stimuli and retain this information for quite a long time.

Imagine that you have dinner at your house with a few friends. The next day, you find a jacket in the hallway that someone must have left. You don’t know whose it is because they took the jacket off before coming in the house so you didn’t see anyone wearing it. Smelling the jacket is one of the best ways to figure out whose it is. It’s possible that although you didn’t realize it at the time, you were subconsciously smelling everyone at the dinner all night so you might recognize whose it is.

5. Gustatory Sensory Memory

Gustatory sensory memory captures flavors and later classifies then and retains them as a memory. The sensations that we experience the first few times that we receive a gustatory stimulus are remembered quite strongly. Gustatory sensory memory, like olfactory memory, tends to create strong ties to feelings and reception of stimuli and keep them in a lasting way. Often, eating a certain food will bring you back to another time or situation. Like tactile memory, gustatory memory also requires quite a bit of practice.

Imagine that you go to live in a different country for a while and get used to a certain type of food. After returning to your home country, you try the same food a few years later and find that you’re transported back to the old country with memories that may not have anything to do with the food itself.

Sensory memory- Brain

How can you improve your sensory memory?

Some people have excellent sensory skills that make it easy for them to perceive and distinguish between stimuli with their skills (or one sense in particular). However, anyone can improve their different types of memory and sensory skills by properly training them. If you are able to develop your senses, you will also be able to improve memory.

Before starting to train and improve your different senses, it’s important to know which are stronger and which are weaker. People with sensory deficits usually compensate their necessities by improving another skill.

Once you have a better idea about each of your sensory memory skills, you’ll know how to best combine them. Imagine that a friend bought a book that you’re interested in reading. You ask them the name of the book and go straight to the bookstore to buy it, but you forget it on the way. However, if you ask the name of the book and look at the cover, noticing what it looks like and the picture it has, you’ll have more sensory data available, thus having a better possibility of remembering the book when you go to the bookstore.

Lastly, in order to complete sensory memory processes, it’s important to develop attention. There are programs available that make it possible to take an online cognitive assessment to help you better understand if your attention and memory processes are working adequately. CogniFit is a professional tool that can help carefully measure attention and other cognitive processes. The program makes it possible to find out your cognitive score with different brain games and activities. CogniFit uses advanced algorithms to find out each user’s cognitive profile and adapt to each person’s cognitive needs. The tasks assigned to the user will be adjusted to their specific needs.

Poor attention affects perception, and without perception, there is no memory. We said earlier that our senses capture information subconsciously, but that’s not always the case. Many people with poor attention also have a poor memory. This is not usually a big problem and is usually caused by missing steps when a memory is perceived. It’s not the same to see passively or watch something, and hearing and listening are two different activities. Being intentional in your actions makes it possible to better manage your memory.

This article was originally written in Spanish and translated into English

References

Bliss, J. C., Crane, H. D., Mansfield, P. K., & Townsend, J. T. (1966). Information available in brief tactile presentations. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 1(4), 273-283.

False Memories: Can You Trust Your Memory?

We often don’t think about the accuracy of our memories. We just assume that they’re exact and precise, because it’s something that we experienced. But the reality is, our memories are very susceptible to change. Research is showing that our memories can be manipulated by introducing new or different information. This can be from an authority figure, or simply just by talking to your peers. Although this can be helpful at times, false memories actually poses a problem for our justice system. 

False memories: What are they?

Why do false memories occur?

Imagine you pass by someone when you’re walking down the streets of Times Square. You only see them for a split second, but you see them wearing a green t-shirt, black sneakers, and a blue hat. Now just hold on to that thought- we’ll come back to it later.

We’d like to think that our memory is like a video recorder, accurately recording our experiences. But our memories are actually very prone to suggestion. Here’s why: every time we recall a memory, it gets changed based on our mood, goals, or environment. If we don’t remember something that happened to us or that we saw, our brain fills in the missing information. This seems like, and sometimes is, a helpful tool, but sometimes it can have serious consequences. We all know “that” person who tells the same story just a little bit differently every time. The fish was THIS big, kind of thing. A false memory is a misguided recollection of an event or experience.

False memories can happen in a lot of ways. Introduction of new or different information is one way the perception of events can change. This can be in the form of a question, or discussion with a peer. Knowledge you already have and other related memories can also change your perception. For example, if you were to recall your fifth birthday party, the memories of your friend’s birthday party might influence how you remember your own. And of course, over time your memories begin to change. Misinformation can become a part of your memory, and that version can actually grow stronger and more vivid.

How do we know that memory can be altered?

Remember the person you walked past on the street? Now answer this question (without scrolling up): The person was wearing a green hat, but what color were their sandals?

If you were to scroll back up, you will find that their hat was blue, instead of the green stated in the question. Also, you might notice that the person was wearing black sneakers, not sandals. How did you do? If you fell for the tricks, then you can see how easily our memories can be altered. By wording the question with a new or different fact from the original scenario, your memory changed to fit the question. This is how researchers study false memory, by introducing new or different information to something you may have experienced.

Another way our perception of events can change is just by talking to the people around us. Take the video below, for example. In this study, participants viewed a video of a store robbery, and then discussed what they saw with each other. After a few minutes of discussion, each of the participants were asked to recall what they remembered seeing in the video. What they found was that most people were actually talking about things they didn’t actually see themselves. They were given information by their peers, which led them to be misguided not long after an experience.

Are false memories a good or bad thing?

False memories can be as harmless as you thinking you saw your phone in the glove compartment, when it was really in the back seat of the car. But many times, these false memories can have serious consequences.

The idea of false memories arose in the late 1980’s when psychologists started using memory recovery techniques. Soon after, parents started reporting instances where their children wrongly accused them of childhood sexual abuse. The problem was that these accusations were typically coming from an adult daughter in her 20s and 30s, soon after she started therapy. Therapists justified the Freudian idea of repressed memories– saying that they didn’t remember the events because it was too traumatic for them. But many experts say that the idea of repressed memories has been proven false, which sparked a lot of controversy and debate.

Psychotherapists believed that they could recover repressed memories by inducing hypnotic states with sodium amytal. This is what happened to 19-year-old Holly Ramona, who accused her father of sexual abuse shortly after beginning her therapy for bulimia. Holly recalled that she had vague flashbacks of a man forcing her to perform sexual acts when she began therapy. But according to other therapists, Holly didn’t know it was her father until the doctors had told her about it after she was in the hypnotic state. Expert psychologists who study memory say that “repressed memories” are in no way supported, especially for sexual abuse. Holly’s father eventually came to sue the therapists that worked with his daughter and won the lawsuit, but not before losing his entire family.

False memories can also be a problem when it comes to eyewitness testimony. Since DNA testing became available, The Innocence Project has worked to exonerate wrongfully convicted prisoners. In 75% of the DNA exoneration cases, faulty witness testimony was found to be the cause of wrongful conviction. But it’s not that these witnesses lied under oath with a secret vendetta, it’s because they were misinformed. Misleading information they may have been exposed to, like a misleading question, could have changed their perception of events. The witness, unaware of the change, can easily recount the wrong information as their own experience, sending many innocent people to prison.

False memories can also do some good, by helping those who have had traumatic experiences. Researchers are working on methods to replace traumatic memories with less anxiety provoking ones, to allow the person to cope with their experiences better. This is similar to narrative exposure therapy, which is a type of talk therapy designed to help people learning how to live with PTSD.

How to Remember Everything: Memory Techniques

Are you struggling to remember things in your everyday life? Whether its forgetting people’s names immediately after meeting them, attempting to recall your grocery list, or trying your best to remember material for an upcoming exam, you just feel as if nothing is helping these memories stick. Don’t despair, because there are proven memory techniques you can use to improve your memory!

These are issues we have all come across at some point in time. It is impossible to retain all information that comes into our minds. Considering there is such an immense amount of stimuli that we are constantly exposed to; sights, smells, tastes, sounds, textures, thoughts, etc. it’s incredible that we are able to even process any of this information simultaneously.

How much do you know about memory?


Instead of the constant bombardment of information, our brains process what is important and relevant to specific environments and situations. From there, a large portion of information is soon forgotten because it is only important in that instance. However, some of this information will continue on to become memories. You may be thinking, in an instance such as an introduction to a new colleague or individual, why is it that I almost instantly forget their name? I would consider that to be important for that encounter, shouldn’t it solidify and become a memory? It is almost as if we should call the process forgetting and not remembering.

Although this information is important, our brain is processing many other important characteristics of said individual such as social cues of their posture, facial expression, and smell, all to determine this individual is not a threat. After all, we are animals and these are vital signs to determine our survival in this instance. After processing all of these other bits of information, their name has slipped. You may feel embarrassed about trying to recall their name so you wait until their name is said again or you do not address them. This method may work, but there are much more efficient memory techniques that can improve your ability to solidify names, events, lists, and nearly anything you want to remember and these memories will be easy to recall for the rest of your life.

Memory Techniques

Chunking

Famous cognitive psychologist George Miller (1955) discovered in his studies that humans are able to remember about seven “chunks” of information at a time. He deemed this the 7 plus or minus 2 rule, being that we can work with about 5 to 9 chunks of information, with the average being 7. For example, if I asked you to remember the list of numbers:

9    7   3   5   5   5   9   3   6   5

You may look at that and think that is way too many numbers to remember at once, or, you may have done the natural tendency we have learned to do in our modern age and looked at it as a phone number, 973-555-9365. Instead of remembering ten individual numbers, we group a string of numbers into three separate chunks of numbers. 973 (chunk), 555(chunk), 9365 (chunk). Using this memory technique, we can group bits of related information together and recall these bits while staying in our 7 ± 2 rule, considering we are only working with three chunks of information.

Abstract Imagery

Although chunking is one of the effective memory techniques for remembering lists, we are not always presented with lists to remember. When we meet a new coworker, we are only focused on trying to remember their name. Well an easy way to do this is as soon as an individual states their name, attribute their name to an abstract image or concept to strengthen this memory. An example of this would be using my name, Eric Stone. To easily remember my name, when we shake hands you may want to visualize me as a huge man made of stone, similar to The Thing from Fantastic Four.

When it comes to using this abstract visualization memory technique, it is helpful to make the imagery as outlandish and ridiculous as possible. The more absurd the imaginary visual, the more likely you are to recall it in the future. You can often pair this memory strategy with those below to create even more concrete images in your head. Two birds with one stone! (Concrete. Two birds with one stone. Eric Stone. Now I know you will never forget my name using all of this abstract imagery!)

Repetition

The most common form of remembering is through the use of repetition. I want you to look at these next few words. After reading through the list, turn away and in one minute turn back to see how many words you can remember.

Mug   Delta   Hole   Yellow   Brain   Book   Fifteen   Snowman   Division

If I had to take a guess I would say that you remembered Mug, Delta, Hole, and Division. The reason for this is due to the Serial Position Effect. The order in which something occurs or appears effects our ability to remember it, and there are two forms of these effects, the Primacy and Recency effects. We are best at remembering items that appear first and last in a list because the items at the beginning of the list we repeat in our heads and the items at the end of the list are the most recent to enter our memories. If I had to take another guess, I would bet that you either closed your eyes or looked up and repeated this list of items to yourself in order to retain the information. Repeating this list of items in your head is the most common memory technique to remember because it just works! But as was mentioned, we are best at remembering the items at the beginning and end of the list so it is best to pair this memory technique with another in order to remember the whole list.

The Memory Palace

Chunking and repetition are memory techniques that come natural to us because we unknowingly use these memory techniques our whole lives. However, there are other forms of remembering that are much more effective and with little practice can make a substantial difference in your life, enough so that in just the matter of an hour you can teach yourself to remember the order of a whole deck of cards!

Memory Palace Memory Techniques – Cards

In his bestselling novel, Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, Joshua Foer embarks on a journey from reporting on the USA Memory Championship to becoming one of the contestants! The memory technique, he found, used among all of these expert memory competitors is that they develop a “memory palace.”

A memory palace is an environment in which you are incredibly familiar with, your childhood home for example, and you can visualize quite extensively in your imagination. In order to remember a list of items, for example, one would want to imagine placing these items throughout their childhood home, and then imagine walking around this memory palace and visualizing each item. So to take an example in which one might encounter on their chores, let’s make the list of items: RSVP to wedding, buy dog food, finish installing wifi router, call doctor, and sort out credit card receipts. This list may appear extensive, however, when you place these chores as visualizations throughout your imaginary home, you can easily recall these items. So now imagine walking up your driveway and you see a bride and groom at the altar, as you enter your front door your dog is salivating with a massive puddle of drool that soaks your feet, you turn to make a left down the hall and you see massive wifi signals bouncing off the walls; you see where I’m going with this right? You want to visualize yourself walking through your house and the images, sounds, smells, etc. appearing in front of you. Then the next time you want to remember what item is next on your list, you can just visualize yourself continuing this journey walking throughout your memory palace and these items will be right where you left them in your memory palace. I suggest making these items appear as abstract as possible in order to really reinforce the memory!

We can all benefit from improving our memories and over time of practicing these memory techniques they will become natural habits and you will notice a huge improvement in your ability to remember. I hope you remember where you learned all these new memory techniques!

How to improve your memory: Tips to stop forgetting things

At some time in our lives, we’ve all had to search through the entire house to find something because we didn’t remember where we left it, or we forgot something somewhere or an important date like a birthday or anniversary slipped our minds. If this has happened to you, maybe you could use a few tips on how to improve memory.

 

For starters, you should know that all of these situations are common, especially as we age. But aging isn’t the only factor that can affect our memory. Stress and anxiety, being easily distracted or not paying attention to what you’re doing are all things that affect our memory. Even having a not-so-healthy diet, consisting more of burgers and shakes than fruits and vegetables, can play a role in how our memory works.

To keep your memory working well, it’s important to have a balanced diet based on nutritious foods. Doctors recommend 5 pieces of fresh fruit and vegetables everyday, along with fish, grains, beans, lean mean, and whole grains. This way we can make sure we’re getting all of the necessary nutrients that our brains, bodies, and nervous systems need to work properly.

Nutrition is closely related to brain health, but like the rest of our muscles, it needs to be worked out to keep it in shape. These are some exercises that you can do to challenge and train your brain.

How to improve memory with games and exercises

-Do crossword puzzles and Sudoku.

-Memorize your shopping list or the characters in a movie or book.

-Use mnemonic devices, or associating ideas, to remember things.

-Go to work a new way.

-Learn a new language.

-Make rhymes, it’ll help you memorize something complicated.

-Go to a new, unknown place.

-Read a different section of the newspaper.

-Learn to play a musical instrument.

-Write down what you want to memorize, it’ll be easier for you to retain the information.

-Try to use your non-dominant hand to eat or write.

-Do mental exercises, place chess or bridge.

-Learn a new word everyday.

-Practice memory games with CogniFit.

 

5 Myths about the Brain

5 Myths about the Brain

5 Myths About the Brain

The brain is truly an amazing organ. It is extremely intricate, and without it, we would not be able to function. While the brain has many interesting facts about it, there are many misconceptions that seem to be accepted as fact. These brain myths are often exposed in our mainstream society. Some of these myths are completely wrong, and some of these are simply misinterpreted. Here are five interesting myths about the brain.

1. We Use 10% of Our Brains: This is arguably the biggest and most common misconception about the brain. It has been linked to many sources, including Albert Einstein. However his take on it was taken out of context. It is somewhat emphasized in mainstream media, and it is a sexy topic for cinema. Those are the reasons so many people believe it. In fact, some movies and books say if we access the other 90% of our brains, we can gain psychic abilities. Lets just say there is zero scientific evidence of that. The fact is we use every part of our brain virtually all the time, including when we are sleeping.

2. A Person is Either “Right Brained” or Left Brained”: With this myth, there many online quizzes you can take that tell you if you are “right brained or left brained.” According to this myth, right-brained people are supposedly more creative and artistic. On the other hand, left brained people are more logical and analytical. The fact is we use both sides of the brain equally, and the sides are co-dependent of each other.

3. Brain Damage is Permanent: This is only applicable if the brain is severely damaged. With severe damage, surgery is always required. However, with minor to moderate brain injuries, we can usually recover from them. Brain injury can be defined as an injury of the brain regardless of age at onset. Brain injuries can result in a substantial handicap to the person who sustained the brain injury and can cause various forms of cognitive impairments and symptoms such as concentration, memory or motor disorder. In most cases, people usually recover from a mild concussion.

4. Alcohol Destroys Brain Cells: Moderate alcohol intake doesn’t kill neurons, or even damage them. That’s because the amount of alcohol needed to kill brain cells would kill the person drinking it first! That doesn’t mean that alcohol can’t damage the brain, though. A high alcohol intake can have detrimental effects on the brain. Alcohol kills dendrites, which are connections of neurons that connect to other neurons. These dendrites help neurons send messages to each other. With the dendrites damaged, heavy drinkers cognitive abilities are impaired. However, these dendrites can be repaired with therapy.

5. Drug Use Can Lead to Having Holes in Your Brain: We have all seen the drug commercials about the debilitating effects they have on the brain. While severe drug use can have negative side-effects, it does not lead to having holes in your brain. This myth may have been created to scare people about the consequences of drug use. The truth is, only physical trauma can do this.

Sleep after learning boosts memory

Sleep after learning boosts memory

Numerous studies published over the past decade have shown that a good night’s sleep is essential for brain health as it enhances the consolidation of newly formed memories in people. But exactly how these observations were related was unclear. A new study discovered the mechanism by which a good night’s sleep improves learning and memory.

In the study published in the journal Science on June 6th, researchers at New York University School of Medicine and Peking University Shenzhen Graduate School show for the first time that sleep after learning encourages the growth of dendritic spines, the tiny protrusions from brain cells that connect to other brain cells and facilitate the passage of information across synapses, the junctions at which brain cells meet. In addition, the activity of brain cells during deep sleep, or slow-wave sleep, after learning is critical for such growth.

The findings, in mice, provide important physical evidence in support of the hypothesis that sleep helps consolidate and strengthen new memories, and show for the first time how learning and sleep cause physical changes in the motor cortex, a brain region responsible for voluntary movements.

“We’ve known for a long time that sleep plays an important role in learning and memory. If you don’t sleep well you won’t learn well,” said senior investigator Wen-Biao Gan, PhD, professor of neuroscience and physiology and a member of the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center. “But what’s the underlying physical mechanism responsible for this phenomenon? Here we’ve shown how sleep helps neurons form very specific connections on dendritic branches that may facilitate long-term memory. We also show how different types of learning form synapses on different branches of the same neurons, suggesting that learning causes very specific structural changes in the brain.”

To find out the mechanism by which a good night’s sleep improves learning and memory, researchers trained 15 mice to run backwards or forwards on a rotating rod. They allowed some of them to fall asleep afterwards for 7 hours, while the rest were kept awake.

The team monitored the activity and microscopic structure of the mice’s motor cortex, the part of the brain that controls movement, through a small transparent “window” in their skulls. This allowed them to watch in real time how the brain responded to learning the different tasks.

They found that learning a new task led to the formation of new dendritic spines – tiny structures that project from the end of nerve cells and help pass electric signals from one neuron to another – but only in the mice left to sleep.

This happened during the non-rapid eye movement stage of sleep. Each task caused a different pattern of spines to sprout along the branches of the same motor cortex neurons.

At the same time, the neurons that were active during the initial task were re-activated, seemingly to stabilize the newly formed spines.

This growth spurt continued after the mice woke up. About 5 per cent of spines in the motor cortex were formed anew in the 8 to 24 hour period after the mice woke up, said co-author Guang Yang, also at the Skirball Institute. “Our previous studies suggest that about 10 per cent of these new spines should be maintained over subsequent weeks to months,” he said.

“Now we know that when we learn something new, a neuron will grow new connections on a specific branch,” said Dr. Gan. “Imagine a tree that grows leaves (spines) on one branch but not another branch. When we learn something new, it’s like we’re sprouting leaves on a specific branch.”

Dr. Gan’s team is now trying to answer these questions. “We would like to see how brain activity during sleep affects signaling within specific sets of branches and ultimately causes the formation of new spines,” he said.

There are other ways to improve your memory, in addition to sleep. Start CogniFit specific brain training program for memory now!

New brain cells may erase childhood memories

New brain cells may erase childhood memories

What is your earliest memory? It is highly likely that you do not remember your first birthday or anything before your third birthday, and you probably have only a few memories from between the ages of 3 and 7 years old. An adult’s inability to remember early life events, including his or her birth, is called childhood amnesia. The term was initially coined “infantile amnesia” by psychologist Sigmund Freud in 1899 and now researchers have found what could be causing it: the generation of new neurons.

The study published in the journal Science on May 8th, 2014 suggests that neurogenesis, or the generation of new neurons, could play a significant role in this infantile amnesia, which occurs across a wide range of species, including humans and rodents.

“Previously, people would argue that neurons only help make new memories,” said neurobiologist and study author Paul Frankland of the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. “But as you’re adding neurons, you’re also wiping away older memories.”

Before, scientists thought memories might be rooted in language, because kids typically start making long-term memories around the time they start speaking, said neuroscientist and study co-author Sheena Josselyn. “But the really weird thing is that most animals show infantile amnesia too,” she said. “So the development of language can’t be the whole explanation.”

Inspired by observations of their own kids, researchers wondered why young children could not retain memories of situations or events. These memories, such as what a person ate for dinner, involve the hippocampus, a skinny seahorse-shaped belt of tissue that houses a cell-making factory about the size of a few blueberries. This little factory is one of the only parts of the brain that normally crank out new neurons, which scientists believe help make memories.

The scientific team knew that such cell production tapers off in childhood. Fresh neurons form rapidly in the brain after birth and into young childhood, but the process slows to a crawl once we reach adulthood. They wanted to find out whether youngsters’ recollections were somehow tied to brain cell formation.

So the team turned to mice, animals that, like humans, harbor blank spots in their early memories. As mice age, the birthrate of neurons slows down. For their tests, the researchers placed adult mice in a chamber noticeably different from their usual homes, stripes on the walls and a vinegary smell, and buzzed the animals with mild foot shocks. The mice learned to fear the room, and even 28 days later would freeze up when put in the chamber. Infant mice were more forgetful. A day after being shocked, their fear began to fade. The animals’ behavior hinted that making new brain cells might be mucking up memory retention.

Next, the researchers boosted neuron production, or neurogenesis, in adult mice. They shocked adult mice in the striped room and then let them exercise at will on running wheels for days or weeks. Running naturally triggers the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus, Josselyn said. And just a few weeks of racing on the wheel helped mice forget their fear of the scary room.

Other tricks to turn up the number of new neurons also cleared adult animals’ memories. And the reverse worked too: Dialing down the birth of new neurons in infant mice kept the fear memory alive. “It was really amazing to us that we could make a memory last much longer in these infant mice just by decreasing neurogenesis,” Josselyn said.

The findings give a new twist to the role of neurogenesis in the hippocampus: Instead of merely making memories, as scientists currently believe, spawning brain cells could help animals forget.

Frankland and his wife Josselyn have observed the fragile, fleeting memory of children in their own 5-year-old daughter. When she was 2 or 3, they would quiz her about, say, past trips to the zoo or to her grandmother’s house. If they asked within a day or two, she was very much able to recall the experiences.

“It’s clear she can make these memories and tell us details about the trips,” Frankland said. “But within a couple of months, if we ask about the zoo, it’s, ‘We didn’t go to the zoo. I don’t remember that.’ ”

Josselyn thinks that the new cells could be messing up brain circuits laid down by preexisting neurons. These cells reach out spindly fingers and link up with neighbors. Memories made using older links may be hard to call to mind when new links take over, she suggests. “Maybe forgetting is not a bad thing,” she said. “Maybe it’s good to clear away some memories and forget some things that are not so important.”

So focus on what is important and train your memory using CogniFit.

How sleep can help you clean your brain

How sleep can help you clean your brain.

A new study from the University of Rochester and published in Science found that brain cells of mice actually shrink while they are sleeping. This reduction in the size of the brain cells creates up to 60% percent more space between them, allowing the cerebral spinal fluid to flow up to 10 times faster in the brain than when compared to active daytime.

The cerebral spinal fluid is a clear and colorless fluid found in the spine and the brain. The fluid serves as a vital function in cerebral blood flow and cerebral autoregulation.

The researchers found out that due to this increase in cerebral spinal fluid flow, the brain actually flushes out toxins and other molecular detritus. They define and compare this process of the brain as a “biological dishwasher”.

If you want to keep your brain healthy in the long run, make sure to sleep sufficiently and to continue your brain training exercises on a weekly basis. Remember also that sleep helps you consolidate your precious memory!

People’s memory for Facebook posts is stronger than memory for human faces

People’s memory for Facebook posts is strikingly stronger than their memory for human faces or sentences from books, according to a new study.

Try to remember a line from the last book you read. Or, if you’re not a big reader, the face of the last new person you met. Now try to remember your significant other’s last Facebook status update.

According to a new study published in the journal Memory & Cognition, our brains may be more adequately wired to remember status updates and tweets rather than snippets from novels or faces. Subjects in the study were one and a half times more likely to remember posts than sentences from a novel and almost two and a half times more likely than to remember faces.

The findings shed light on how our memories favour natural, spontaneous writing over polished, edited content, and could have wider implications for the worlds of education, communications and advertising.