Have trouble finding your car keys this morning because you forgot where you left them? Or maybe you can’t remember the name of the new person who just joined the department down the hall? Before you blame age for your faulty memory, take a look at your diet. New research suggests that low levels of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet could be disrupting biochemical signaling in your brain and impairing your ability to learn and remember. And, consumption of high levels of fructose, often found in sugary beverages, could be making it worse. So, put down that soda and keep reading to learn how those empty calories might be sabotaging your memory and what you can do about it.
I used to have a good memory. I could remember friends’ birthdays, anniversaries and phone numbers. I never lost track of project timelines or due dates. I knew where everything was (mostly) and could find it when I needed it.
That was before I experienced two extreme endocrine events — that was before I had children.
If you have children, or know someone who has children, you might guess what happened next. My amazing memory for details big and small disappeared, seemingly overnight. By the time my second child was crawling, I had begun to think I needed a list of those things I shouldn’t forget tattooed on the back of my hand. Unfortunately my hand is really not that big. Continue reading
I love shopping. I mean, I really love shopping. Not the hustle and bustle, mega-mall, door buster debacle but the casual meandering through an antiques store or small, local shop. I buy some things online, but I truly enjoy the process of looking, feeling, and pondering over objects before I purchase them. It has been roughly a year since I set foot in a shopping mall and, just this past week, I had to stop in and pick up a few items that weren’t available online. Now, I know it’s the holiday season and being overwhelmed is 50% of the equation, so I had geared myself up for a crowded, hot, and loud situation.
Forget the wall of people—everyone was relatively cheerful and a simple “Excuse me” or “Pardon me” made navigation a breeze. Hot and stuffy? Not a problem. I left my coat in my car and shivered my way to the entrance. I had just a few things to buy and I can take the heat. The noise level in the mall was roughly a dull roar. There were children being towed (loudly) behind parents with arms full of packages, bell ringers, cell phone talkers, and the like. As a cubicle-dweller and a mother of an exorbitantly talkative five year old, I can tune all that out, too. The problem….the crippling, unforeseen problem Continue reading
Forgetting. Forgetting your address; your spouse; your children; your friends; your life. It is something that none of us want to think about, but it hangs over some of us like a specter. Can’t remember if you fed the cat? Where you put your car keys? Did you forget to pack your lunch or return a phone call? Maybe you are trying to do too many things at once, or maybe you are tired. There are lots of perfectly normal reasons why we all forget things from time to time, but every time I forget something there is a nagging voice in my head saying, “Maybe it is something else.” Continue reading
Well, it’s NCAA basketball tournament time and, as this post hits the blog, we’re heading into the second day of “March Madness,” one of my favorite times of the collegiate sports year. Raise your hand if your brackets are already in shambles! Yeah, mine too.*
Tournament fever aside, it’s also Global Brain Awareness Week, so I started wondering how I might juxtapose basketball and brains for this post. As I started searching for connections, I found three that piqued my interest. Continue reading
Nap time: If I learned nothing else in my college career, I learned the unequaled value of the nap. Many times I returned from class, dropped my book bag by my desk and promised I would study as soon as I had a “quick nap”. For a sleep-deprived student, the value of a nap trumped all else (admittedly, some of my college friends might argue that a nap doesn’t trump EVERYTHING, but they aren’t writing this blog). And indeed, after a refreshing twenty minutes of sleep, I could tackle my books with renewed enthusiasm. My roommate had a different approach. She would often fall asleep while studying stretched out on her bed. I used to tell her she must learn by osmosis. Continue reading
A Trip Through Improbable Scenarios in Popular Culture
Have you ever wished you could forget something? Not just in a push-it-to-the-back-of-your-mind kind of way, in the sense that you forget where you put your keys or what your login password is. I’m referring to true erasure from your brain. That humiliating memory of wetting your pants in the first grade? Gone forever. Did a string of adolescent cruelties warp your ability to connect with others? What if you could lift them from your psyche forever?
It’s a bit cliche, but this time of year always gets me feeling a little nostalgic. Perhaps some of you are the same way. I find myself rolling old holiday memories around and around in my head, reliving them, remembering who was there, how things looked, the smells, tastes and sounds. My family celebrates Christmas, so my memories are of things like Santa Claus, decorated trees, cinnamon and balsam, nativity scenes and singing carols in a warm, candlelit church. Some of the memories have faded or frayed a bit, but many are as vivid as when they first occurred. I’d like to tell you about one of them.
My favorite and most vivid Christmas memory actually spans multiple years and involves imprisonment of my brother and I at the hands of Santa Claus. Continue reading
C.S. Lewis’ novel The Magician’s Nephew tells of two children named Polly and Digory living in early 20th century London who set off on an adventure to explore a tunnel that runs through the roof of their row of terraced houses (1). They eventually end up in a strange world ruled by Aslan—a talking lion whose goodness seems altogether repulsive to the evil forces that abound therein. With scenes of jackdaws and moles later competing to see who can be the first to tell a joke, we see in Lewis an author who knows how to inject humor into an otherwise serious message (1).
While recent collaborative studies by groups in China and the United States have not given us Lewis-style talking animals, they have provided some stunning insights into animal memory and learning behaviors. Specifically Deheng Wang and colleagues from Shanghai, Yunnam and the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) generated a transgenic rat strain, affectionately known as ‘Hobbie-J’, that over-expressed a subunit of the brain NMDA (N-methyl D-aspartate) glutamate receptor called NR2B (2-3). Their behavior experiments repeatedly showed Hobbie-J rats outperforming control litter mates in object recognition and spatial memory tests (2). Continue reading
Authors of a recent Nature article about the effects of sleep deprivation (1), wrote “Millions of people regularly obtain insufficient sleep”. I suspect that the majority of these people are either students or new parents. Regardless of whether you fall into these two categories, I think everyone has struggled with the adverse effects of sleep deprivation, such as cognitive impairment and memory problems, at some point. Now, this Nature article provides us with a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms that cause these effects and, perhaps more importantly, hope that these effects can be reversed.