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Flexing your brain

edited March 2006 in Consciousness
I came across this article disussing the recent USA Memory Championship and it got me thinking.

Everyone has said at some point - "I'm not good with names." or "I have a terrible sense of direction." But we rarely sit and examine why this is the case. After reading books on Evolutionary Psychology (such as The Blank Slate by Pinker) it's hard to deny the severe importance that genetics has on the construction of the individual, and yet when I come to examine how my life was 'developed' genes don't come in to the equation.

I find that I am terrible with people's names, place names and learning foreign languages. Was it a case of my genetics that lead me towards a brain not capable of remembering names? or is it simply that at some point in my life my brain specialised in other areas? I find that when I am reading a magazine I very often just skip the names of people and places - and indeed kick myself for it later. Neither my father or mother seem to be as bad at these feats of memory as I am.

Did I not get the genes they have or did I simply not train my brain in the right areas?

So firstly, what would you say are your weakest capacities of mind? Can you trace them back to a particular way you run your life, or perceive your environment? or more realistically can you see the same traits inherent in your parents and siblings?

I'd be fascinated to know...

Comments

  • In my opinion we are a sum of genetic and enviroment.
    Both has influence in the way we deal with the world.

    In my case, I often catch myself laughing just like my father do or react to things in a way that I think he would. It can be just because I lived with him my whole life or maybe my gens tells me to do so. But I really think both, gens and enviroment, play a role in our lives.

    I've been visiting the blog for a while and i like it very much! This Forum came in a good time, I'm glad to be part of it.
    Sorry if I mistyped any word, my english is not that good. I'm Brazilian.

    cheers!
  • I’m terrible at mathematics, but I know that it’s simply a case of the way I’ve trained my mind. When I was young I used to be very good at it. Now, after several crappy mathematics teachers and no auto-didactic urges to amend my situation, I’ve lost all my ability in math. I do, however, plan on catching up at some point.

    I think memory is the same. I believe you can train your memory to be better. I read somewhere about something like that, but I uh, forgot where. I’m fairly good with names and such, except when I’m drunk. In that case I’ll meet a girl, talk to her for half an hour, and the conversation will abruptly end when I call her “Sally” instead of “Jane”.
  • edited July 2006
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  • edited July 2006
    I can remember everything that has happened to me—what day it was on, what was happening in the world, who was in my life at the time, and usually what the weather was like," says the subject known only as AJ. Researchers at the University of California at Irvine describe AJ as the first reported case of a person capable of near-perfect feats of recollection without using mnemonic tricks.

    But K. Anders Ericsson, a cognitive scientist at Florida State University, contends that his research shows how ordinary people can easily acquire extraordinary recollection skills. AJ kept a 24-year diary and admits that she ruminates over dates and events. That obsessive quality may be the key to her ability, Ericsson says. "It's possible that anyone who put in half an hour a day thinking about what they were doing would be able to build up a memory comparable to hers." James McGaugh, one of the Irvine scientists who has studied AJ, remains convinced of her superlative memory and is determined to find out how it works. "She is not a mnemonist," he says. "She does it naturally and inadvertently." - link
    We can't all be mnemonists, but perhaps each of us is a specilist in our own way. The human being, in conjunction with its brain, is surely one of the most malleable entities in the universe. Capable of cooking a meal, writing a sonnet, scaling a cliff face, mapping an island, erecting a building, identifying a long lost relative, breaking a promise, and many a more multifaceted event...

    What area of your brain is your most specialised? And, if you could travel back and interact with your 5 year old self, what specilisation, in terms of brain functions, would you force yourself into pursuing?
  • Have you been paying attention to your brain age, Dan?
  • I Noticed a big change in how I act socially around the age of 14 or 15 (I'm 18 now). I used to be very self confident, able to speak my mind, and didn't so much care about what people thought of me; I'll admit, I wasn't very smart at around that age. Just kind of did what others did.
    I now struggle with those things. I am only very self confident when arguing something I feel adamantly about, not in normal social situations. I don't speak my mind as often, and I tend to give a shit about what people think of me now (and I kick myself for caring later).

    To relate this with the gene part of the post. I can say that I notice the social awkwardness in my mother with whom I personally prefer out of my two parents. So maybe I picked it up from her..who knows.
  • edited November 2006
    But K. Anders Ericsson, a cognitive scientist at Florida State University, contends that his research shows how ordinary people can easily acquire extraordinary recollection skills. AJ kept a 24-year diary and admits that she ruminates over dates and events. That obsessive quality may be the key to her ability, Ericsson says. "It's possible that anyone who put in half an hour a day thinking about what they were doing would be able to build up a memory comparable to hers."
    There are probably some possible genetically related issues with memory, but from my own experience, I think Ericsson is right. Keeping a 24-year diary is essentially the same as any mnemonic "trick". I've read books with associational memory exercises, and yes, you can "train" yourself to remember things. When trying to explain and understand this, however, I think the most important thing we should all consider is why we remember in the first place. Memory has obvious survival purposes. In the brain, (at a basic level of explanation) the thalamus is responsible for sorting between Relevant and Irrelevant information -- i.e., Relevant or Irrelevant to our survival. A schizophrenic's brain, is incapable of distinguishing between the relevant and irrelevant, and so appears to be psychotic, and thus not necessarily well equipped to survive without help from others.

    You've probably found in your life that it (seemingly) is largely you who decides what is relevant or irrelevant. I.e., What are your commitments? What do you want to spend time and brain energy doing or learning? Who do you want to spend time with? What do you 'choose'? In short, What is important to you?

    Some things, of course, make themselves relevant by survival necessity and intrude into your consciousness. For instance, while concentrating on a book, you will be alerted by a sound like the doorbell, or someone screaming, or a sudden burst of pain.

    The principle is more or less the same for memory. If you make a conscious effort to remember something, you might remember it. If you repeat it many times -- thus indicating to your brain that it is important for your survival -- then you will probably remember it. Or if you associate what you want to remember with something else -- something significant, like pain or humour -- your chance of recall will be improved. Things directly necessary for your survival willl be especially emphasized: do not touch the stove, it's hot; do not run into traffic; stop, drop, and roll.

    You would be amazed at how much you remember from reading back to something that you've written down. The act of merely writing in itself is more or less a signal to your brain that "the following information is relevant".

    Or, if I really wanted to emphasize it,

    THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION IS RELEVANT!
    THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION IS RELEVANT!
    THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION IS RELEVANT!
    THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION IS RELEVANT!
    THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION IS RELEVANT!
  • THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION IS IRRELEVANT!
  • Actually, the Indian tradition I come from discourages writing down what you want to remember. As this would be detached from me once I put it down on paper. Perhaps, mnemonic ways were developed to keep this tradition alive. One can get a glimpse of this in the polymath, Walter Ong 's(1912-2003) writings that describe how oral traditions are overrun by writing.
  • Mahabharata!
  • edited February 2007
    " i am the cleverness in the gamblers dice.I am the beauty of all things beautiful. I am victory and the struggle for victory. I am the goodness of those who are good.

    And later...
    Drona, Bhishma, Jayad-ratha and Karna, and other heroic warriors of this great war have already been slain by me: tremble not, fight and slay them. Thou shalt conquor thine enemies in battle..'
    God dwells in the heart of all beings, Arjuna: thy God dwells in thy heart. And his power of wonder moves all things-puppets in a play of shadows-whirling them onwards on the stream of time......Hare Bloody Krishna..

    Has anyone else seen the twelve hour dramatic retelling of the Mahabarata, in english etc, by some pommie theater guru...worth a look.
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