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A Mundane Comedy is Dominic Kelleher's new book, which will be published in early 2024. The introduction is available here and further extracts will appear on this site in the coming months.

What's Changing? - Memory

Memory

 

Please see below recent memory-related change.

 

See also:

 

November 2023

  • To memorise long lists of information, memory athletes use techniques like the "method of loci," where numbers or facts are translated into visual images and associated with familiar places to enhance recall. Katie Kermode, a memory athlete and world record holder, spoke with Big Think about how she uses mnemonic techniques in competitions. Although inherent ability likely plays some role in memory abilities, learning to boost memory skills is easier than some might think.

 

October 2023

  • What if you could remember everything you hear? Rewind.ai announced an always-recording wearable pendant. Rewind’s founder, shared ideas on how they could record constantly without destroying people’s privacy. Ambient computing will be unthinkable, until it suddenly becomes unthinkable to live without it, noted The Future Normal.
  • Developed by a team at Singapore University of Technology and Design, Ami is an app aiming to boost cognitive function in seniors, focusing on those with early-to-moderate signs of dementia. The app is based on the hypothesis that multilingualism enhances cognitive abilities beyond language learning. A study by SUTD found that seniors engaging with bilingual brain games showed significant improvements in verbal memory and cognitive skills, in contrast to those who didn't interact with a game or only with monolingual ones. 

 

September 2023

 

August 2023

  • The School of Life believes that our minds are prey to a curious paradox: the more perceptive and original our thoughts, the more liable they are to be dismissed and forgotten. So deeply do certain ideas threaten the status quo, even if they ultimately offer us benefits, the mind will ruthlessly ‘forget’ them in the name of a quiet life. To capture our thoughts in writing is to rescue them from oblivion, and allow us to appreciate their import. Diaries are a forum in which we can raise and then galvanise ourselves into answering the large questions which lie behind the stewardship of our existence

 

June 2023

 

May 2023

  • A breakthrough new drug, Donanemab, was found to slow the cognitive decline of Alzheimer’s patients by 35%. Donanemab was the second drug in under a year to significantly slow the disease, getting experts thinking that we may be “on the cusp” of a new era of treatment.

 

April 2023

 

February 2023

 

January 2023

  • Memory still looms as a big mystery in science: no scientist is perfectly sure how the brain physically sorts and stores all the information that gets encoded into memories. Cognitive psychologists hope that asking what we remember will start to teach them how we remember and with a better understanding of how, scientists can perhaps come up with ways to fix lapses in memory. AI is getting remarkably good at predicting which images the human brain is going to remember, even outperforming our own human intuitions, which is making scientists wonder: can they help engineer more memorable images - for classrooms, for maps, for the memory-impaired etc? Can they help design a more memorable world? So much our minds encounter eventually slips away, so maybe we can control what sticks, wondered Vox.

 

December 2022

 

November 2022

  • Memories are stored in all different areas across the brain as networks of neurons called engrams. In addition to collecting information about incoming stimuli, these engrams capture emotional information. A neuroscientist at Boston University discovered evidence that good and bad memories are stored in different regions of the hippocampus: his team also found that they could manipulate memories by activating these regions. When they activated the top area of the hippocampus, bad memories were less traumatic. Conversely, when they activated the bottom part, there were signs of long-last lasting anxiety-related behavioural changes 

 

September 2022

  • There’s one molecule in the brain that categorizes memories as positive or negative: and understanding neurotensin could help us decode anxiety and addiction, according to Quartz.

 

August 2022

  • The School of Life notes that we often complain that we have poor memories, but what might count as a nuisance on a practical level turns out to be an unparalleled blessing on an emotional one. We are rescued from many of our sorrows not by active solutions or work of the intellect but by our reliable tendencies to forget. Our minds are so constituted that the gravest incidents eventually slip from our grasp. We lose sight not only of the beautiful and kind things that have occurred but also, more usefully, the catalogue of horrors that we were once certain we would never be able to surmount. 

 

June 2022

 

May 2022

 

April 2022

  • In The Memory Illusion, forensic psychologist and memory expert Dr Julia Shaw examined the variety of ways in which our brains can be led astray. She showed why we can sometimes misappropriate other people's memories, subsequently believing them to be our own and demonstrated the way radically false memories can be deliberately implanted, leading people to believe that they brutally murdered a loved one or were abducted by aliens and she revealed how, in spite of all this, we can improve our memory through simple awareness of its fallibility.
  • Memory helps us recall things we’ve encountered or thought of before, while memorability examines why we remember what we remember and why we forget what we forget. Science is not yet perfectly sure how the brain physically sorts and stores all the information and all the types of information that gets encoded into memories. Cognitive psychologists hope that asking what we remember will start to teach them how we remember and then, with a better understanding of how, scientists can perhaps come up with ways to fix lapses in memory.

 

February 2022

  • Our memories are not reality. A memory is the pattern of neural activity that represents the sights, sounds, smells, feelings, information, and language that we experience when we learn something. When this neural circuit is reactivated, we experience a memory. Recalling memories is not a passive process. Every time we recall a memory, it changes, and we store this new version over the older version in our brain. With each retelling, the memory drifts further and further away from the original memory.
  • The hippocampus in our brain uses memories to construct patterns that can be used to predict the future. When predictions don’t come true, the hippocampus introduces new details to memories to help establish new patterns that are more useful for predicting. However, some of these new details don’t accurately reflect past events.
  • Psyche explained that collective memories, as we describe them, are representations of the shared past that members of a community hold in common. Collective memory is different from history. Whereas historians aim to create a relatively objective account of the past using rigorous professional standards of what counts as evidence, when members of a community recall their collective past, they do so through the filter of a contemporary set of concerns. That is, collective memory presents a past that is selectively reconstructed in the service of collective identity projects. These selective renderings help us create imagined communities - nations, races, religions - by endowing those communities with a story of continuity and self-sameness across time.

 

January 2022

  • Around 55 million people worldwide have dementia. There is currently no cure for dementia and those who are affected by the condition must learn to live with it. With the global population increasing, the number of people who have dementia is expected to rise to 140 million by 2050.
  • A Glasgow museum invited families and people with dementia to volunteer, ahead of its reopening following an extensive renovation, The Burrell Collection turned to previously untapped sources of potential helpers. Instead of just appealing to solo adults, the Collection invited families to sign up as a group, which meant parents could contribute to their community while spending meaningful time with their children, and without needing to organise childcare. For the museum, it's an opportunity to connect with younger generations. On the other end of the age spectrum, the Collection explored ways to allow people with dementia to continue volunteering, for example by pairing them with a buddy.
  • Psyche asked: when you wake up in the morning, how do you know who you are? You might say something like: ‘Because I remember.’ The English philosopher John Locke, for example, considered memory to be the foundation of identity. ‘Consciousness always accompanies thinking,’ he wrote in 1694. ‘And as far as this consciousness can be extended backwards to any past Action or Thought, so far reaches the Identity of that Person.’  However, a writer who has worked with people with amnesia caused by brain injuries cautioned against the idea that the ongoing formation of conscious memory is the same thing as identity. Despite their often-bewildering conditions, every amnesia survivor is a distinct, vivid human being - they each have an inimitable character and a strong sense of self.

 

November 2021

 

September 2021

 

July 2021

  • For The School of Life, when we can’t sleep, when there’s no wifi, we should always think of going on Memory Journeys. Our experiences have not disappeared, just because they are no longer unfolding right in front of our eyes. We can remain in touch with so much of what made them pleasurable simply through the art of evocation. We talk endlessly of virtual reality. Yet we don’t need gadgets. We have the finest virtual reality machines already in our own heads. We can right now shut our eyes and travel into, and linger amongst, the very best and most consoling and life-enhancing bits of our past.
  • Scientists are growing more confident that air pollution - especially from particulate matter less than 2.5 microns wide, known as PM 2.5 - significantly raises the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, according to a series of separate studies. Nevertheless, about 70% of dementia risk still stems from an individual’s genetic predisposition to the disease, and the remainder comes down to age, lifestyle, and environmental factors.

 

June 2021

  • Large public housing estates can be disorienting even for people without memory loss. To help those suffering from dementia find their way, the Alzheimer's Disease Association of Singapore created murals on the walls of ground floor spaces. The project uses images chosen by neighbourhood residents with dementia. All are of familiar, old-fashioned food items.

 

January 2021

 

November 2020

  • In his book Beyond Settler Time: Temporal Sovereignty and Indigenous Self-Determination, Mark Rifkin argues that Native people exist in a timeless space, everchanging between referential frames of time. Native people exist in a “precontact” past or within a “postcolonial” current, depending on which consciousness and gaze are being employed. It is through memory that Native people reclaim a history both individual and collective, both personal and communal, both deeply intimate and extremely political. Memory is woven in a unique matrix with land, language, and time. Native people have already "mastered time travel": they are able to conjure the deepest parts of humanhood through the act of memory. 

 

August 2020

  • The Financial Times analysed why many people's memory of the coronavirus lockdown months was rather thin. No matter how many new people or old friends people talked to on Zoom or Skype, they all started to smear together because the physical context was monotonous: the conversations take place while one sits in the same chair, in the same room, staring at the same computer screen.
  • Roman Krznaric asks us to imagine looking back at the epidemic from the perspective of young people living in the year 2120. In a hundred years from today, how will those future generations remember this moment in history? How important will this crisis, that seems so total and world-changing to us right now, appear a century in the future? Might it be hardly remembered at all, and be seen as just a small blip in a tragic historical trajectory that was shaped by far larger and more dangerous forces?
  • “Dementia” is an umbrella term for a range of conditions, with a variety of causes, of which the most common is Alzheimer’s disease, accounting for 60-80% of cases. By some estimates, 1.7% of 65- to 69-year-olds have dementia and the risk of developing it doubles every five years after that. At present, about 50m people around the world have the condition, a number expected to rise to 82m by 2030 and 150m by 2050. Most of the new cases are in the developing world, where populations are rising and ageing.

 

July 2020

  • A new and relatively cheap blood test can spot indicators of future risk of Alzheimer’s up to 20 years before the onset of memory loss and thinking problems, the NYT reported. Decades of Alheimer’s drug research based on the goal of preventing amyloid plaque build-up in the brain have failed to produce a cure.
  • A study shed light on how the internal dynamics of the cells that comprise our brains can make it go haywire, and offer a potential route to a solution. Phase transition sometimes takes place in cells. Molecules inside cells responsible for cellular metabolism can change from solid to liquid to carry out specific tasks. However, it occasionally happens that the process that allows this to happen breaks down, and the molecules remain a little more solid than is ideal. This means that the molecules are no longer able to move around the cell and do their jobs. When this happens in certain cells in the brain, toxins associated with Alzheimer's disease and various other conditions start to build up in and around the cells. 

 

June 2020

  • How much of who we are is shaped by memory? Scientists, philosophers, artists, poets, and musicians alike have all grappled with the notion of the self - that seemingly immutable and enduring sense of who we are, steadfast in the face of life’s many vicissitudes. Within the field of cognitive neuroscience, we have yet to find a universal definition of what the self does and does not encapsulate. IAI News considered how the self endures even amid the onset of dementia and memory loss.
  • Movement is extremely important for memory. Reams of research detail the importance of regular exercise. Besides physical health, staying fit leads to good mental health. A year-long study at UT Southwestern, published in The Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, involved 30 volunteers who (median age: 66) either ran or stretched for 25-30 minutes three times a week. Each participant had no recent experience with exercise. Every volunteer showed some sign of memory impairment, which was a requirement. The stretch group performed a series of flexibility and balance exercises designed to keep their heart rate stable while strengthening their upper and lower bodies. The cardiovascular group completed a number of heart-raising exercises. After a year, researchers measured cerebral blood flow in each participant. The aerobic group showed increased blood flow to two regions key to memory retention: the anterior cingulate cortex (responsible for attention allocation, reward anticipation, impulse control, and more) and the prefrontal cortex (decision making, personality, planning complex behaviour, and more). While the stretching group experienced minimal improvement in memory tests over the course of the year, the aerobic group saw a 47% in test scores.
  • Smartphones have been shown to harm the brain’s ability to retain important details, according to one review from Oxford, King’s College London, Harvard, and Western Sydney University. In short, the research says that when people rely on devices to remember things, they often fail to actually learn them. This explains why, despite having visited your favourite restaurant several times, you might still rely on Google maps to get you there. You are not training your memory to recall information, warned the Harvard Business Review.

 

March 2020

 

February 2020

 

November 2019

 

September 2019

 

May 2019

  • The author of Mastermind: How to think like Sherlock Holmes, argued that, to optimise memory, Holmes style, one has to expand one's limited "brain attic," so that what used to be a small space can suddenly become much larger because we are using the space more efficiently. 
  • According to the Financial Times, one day, perhaps we will back up the contents of our brain to a cloud service. If someone dies, it will be possible, in certain, legally-delineated circumstances, to download their brain to a newly cloned body. The dead will live on, with little more drama than it takes today to move files to a new laptop. If everyone wore an audio life recorder - a simple digital device - 24 hours a day, and if all conversations were uploaded to a kind of blockchain for arguments, there would never be any question about who said what. Any tampering with the universal conversation ledger would be there for all to see.

 

March 2019

 

January 2019

  • Music is essential for people with dementia, claimed Quartz. Personalised playlists may alleviate some symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s.

 

December 2018

 

November 2018

 

October 2018

  • For the School of Life, our homes have a memorialising function, and what they are helping us to remember is, strangely enough, ourselves. We can see this need to anchor identity in matter in the history of religion. Humans have from the earliest days expended enormous care and creativity on building homes for their gods. They haven’t felt that their gods could live just anywhere, out in the wild or as it were in hotels, they have believed that they needed special places, where their specific characters could be stabilised through art and architecture.
  • Town Square is a 1950s-style town that offers an interactive experience for seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s. The experience immerses visitors in reminiscence therapy, which transports patients to a time of their strongest memories (usually formed between ages 10-30). The Town Square, reported TrendWatching, is currently targeting patients in their 70s or 80s, which is why it replicates the period between 1953-1961. Each Town Square features 14 storefronts (including a pet store, a diner, and a movie theatre), where caregivers guide visitors through specialised, therapeutic activities.

 

September 2018

  • In our recent study, The Conversation asked more than 6,000 people of all ages to say what their first autobiographical memory was, how old they were when the event happened, to rate how emotional and vivid it was and to report what perspective the memory was “seen” from. We found that on average people reported their first memory occurring during the first half of the third year of their lives (3.24 years to be precise). This matches well with other studies that have investigated the age of early memories.
  • However,contemporary theories of memory highlight the constructive nature of memory; memories are not “records” of events, but rather psychological representations of the self in the past.
  • The Conversation also noted that researchers who have investigated memory development suggest that the neurological processes needed to form autobiographical memories are not fully developed until between the ages of three and four years. Other research has suggested that memories are linked to language development. Language allows children to share and discuss the past with others, enabling memories to be organised in a personal autobiography.

 

August 2018

  • A Scottish company was given planning permission to create a memorial garden with no visible grave signs or markers. Loved ones deposit physical mementos or time capsules in the ground, locating precise plots using smart phones, according BBC Scotland.

 

June 2018

  • According to GZeroMedia, 41 percent of American adults cannot identify Auschwitz as a Nazi concentration camp. That figure includes 66 percent of those aged 18-34.
  • According to futurist Richard Watson, in future we will insure our memories.
  • In his "end of remembering", Joshua Foer argued that once upon a time remembering was everything, whereas, today, we have mountains of documents, the web and smartphones to store our memories. Foer asks: how can we adapt to a new reality in which most memories are stored outside the brain?
  • Viktor Mayer-Schönberger has gone further, arguing for the “virtue" of forgetting and warning that there is a growing range of social concerns connected with the fact that our technology is remembering every little detail, all the time (listen here). As Evgeny Morizov already made clear when writing about the "dark side of the internet", perhaps if and when "they" come knocking, we shouldn't say that we weren't warned.

 

Pre-2018

  • Many individuals are now life-tracking or lifestreaming, ie. trying to record the minutiae of their own lives digitally, partly for posterity, and also to better monitor how they live in the present. 
  • Nothing wrong with that, but it's also worth looking beyond the horizon from time to time. Thinking about how you would like to be remembered can be a catalyst for radical change. It’s said that Alfred Nobel made the decision to establish his famous prize after his brother died and a newspaper, mistakenly believing it was him, published the epitaph: “The Merchant of Death Is Dead.” To Nobel, who made his fortune from the invention of dynamite, the epitaph was a harsh reminder of how he would go down in history. Shortly after this eye-opener, in a bid to rehabilitate his name, he changed his will, donating most of his fortune to the Nobel Foundation. His memory now lives on, not as a merchant of death, but as an advocate of peace and progress.

 

 

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