Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Learning and Memory

memory in middle age and beyond

Much has been written about how to improve your memory. With normal aging, and for those without 9 - 5 jobs, we are at risk for losing parts of our memory.

As we age, our bodies decrease the amount of the chemicals. Many hormones affect the ability of our brain to function effectively. Dopamine effects our “context processing” or our ability to process context for a thought, memory or behavior (APA, 2001).

As with muscles, we must use and work our memories. For those with dementia, basically a build up of plaque that prevents normal brain functioning, not using their brains means that they deteriorate faster.

There are differences between long-term (LTM) and short-term memory (TM). Both are required to fully function.

How do we build memory?
Memory is built from sensory information (see the graphic), and kinesthetic experiences that are held in various parts of our brain. Some new memory is associated with previous experiences, such as PTSD events that recur with familiar people, places or things. We drive a car using memory of previous experiences and training. Of course, even those who no longer drive, would be able to remember how to, just like riding a bike. These memories are deeply stored.

But, if you do not use it, you do appear to lose it! I have great fun when my adult children visit. We thrive on revisiting their youthful antics with a granddaughter around. She has learned, at 2, the names of our three cats. She has an extensive vocabulary.

Procedural memory, the how to proceed, is built over time.
Our granddaughter know that to go outside you needs boots and a coat. In group care, e.g., day care, they teach kids to be independent. Here is the means by which we teach them to put on their coats!

Here toddler, two-year-old, knows how to build toast with PB and J.

Using rhythm and rhyme paired with memory, builds in mnemonic devices. Toddlers, as in the example below, can be taught skills when rhymes are present.

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