A column by Roger Aylworth who works for another Donrey paper, the Oroville (Calif.) Mercury Register, and sent over our company fax service, got me to thinking about what pe ple can and cannot remember.
I always tell people that I have a vast wealth of useless information in my brain. For example, I cannot remember how to spell ‘sergeant’ to save my life, but I can remember that the French horn was invented in Germany.
I cannot remember to pick up both the bread and the milk at the store — either one or the other — but I can remember that no football team that plays its home games in a dome has ever made it to the Super Bowl.
My long-term memory also seems to be much better than my short-term. I cannot remember where I parked my car, but I can remember what I ate for dinner the night I broke my arm — back in 1978. (I can also remember my phone number from the house we lived in at that time.) My mother credits that to my ability to be able to remember every single bad thing that ever happened to me, even those things I would much rather forget.
It is an interesting thing about memory. I read in Reader’s Digest’s “How in the World,” book about a man in Rangoon, Burma, who recited 16,000 pages of Buddist text from memory.
I once memorized all of “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” and all of ‘The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.” However, I can only remember the first three verses of “Jesus Loves Me.” I always forget the fourth verse. (I should get some credit for that, though. Most people don’t know “Jesus Loves Me” has more than one verse.)
Anyway, back to the guy in Burma who obviously needs to get a life if he has time enough to do all that memorizing.
The book says that short-term memory is in the very middle of the brain and can retain up to six or seven things for up to a minute. Long-term memory is stored all over the outside of the brain. This explains why, when people have a trauma to the middle of the brain, they can remember everything leading up to the trauma, but nothing since.
There was an interesting piece on television the other night about amnesia victims. There was a proﬁle on a man who had no, absolutely zero, short-term memory. In one conversation, he told the same story four times. He did not remember that he had said the exact same thing just a few minutes earlier.
Storing something in long-term memory, does not entail learning it all over again. It is transferred through repetition and chemical messengers carry the item from one part of the brain to the other.
The book also says that psychologists know that memory is linked to the five senses. I remember having to use some Caladryl lotion on an insect sting in high school. The minute I opened the cap on the bottle and smelled it, I remembered having Caladryl rubbed on me when I had chicken pox at age four.
I suppose that also explains why you can remember what a book looks like, but not what it is called or where you left it. When a memory is stored in long-term memory, the book says it is translated into a picture and stored in a nerve cell. A person’s brain has over 100,000 million of these cells, each with 10.000 connections to other cells. I suppose this means you aren’t going to run out of memory space any time soon. Lucky thing too, you can’t just buy another memory chip like you would for a computer.
Now, I am going to see if I can remember how memory works long enough to impress someone with what I know.
By the way, did you know that penguins will walk straight up to anything? They’re not brave, just nearsighted.