The Brain is full of Surprises

The how and why of memory is still a subject under investigation and science is a long way from full understanding. However, there are some interesting facts about our memory and some things we can do to improve it.


  • Since 1989, about 150 convictions based on eyewitness testimony were overturned as a result of DNA testing.


      • Extreme experiences can affect memory formation. Eye witness accounts are often at odds amongst witnesses at a vehicle collision or a riot. There is no clear cut method for guaranteeing memory accuracy. One suggested strategy is to work especially hard at recall. The harder you think about a memory, the more likely you are to remember it accurately. Thinking will create a stronger link between active neurons.
    • Most people forget about 95% of dream content.
      • During a typical lifetime, people spend an average of six years dreaming. Yet very few people can remember their dreams. Dream content most often focuses on recent events captured in short term memory. That’s why dreams fade quickly once you wake up: they aren’t being recorded into long-term memory.


  • Cramming for an exam the night before isn’t the answer


      • There isn’t a lot of room in short-term memory. Studies show that spacing out studying allows more information to move from short term to long term memory. Studying the material as though you were going to teach it is also effective. It can help you organize information in a way that improves recall.


  • (Almost) Forgetting something makes you more likely to remember it


      • Partially forgetting something and then struggling to remember it is a component of memory formation. This is exercise for the brain. It emphasizes the importance of a memory and can make it more accessible in future. Closing your eyes can help you remember. It works by removing distractions and freeing up your brain to use more resources on remembering.


  • Sex and memory: not so good


    • Temporary memory loss, called transient global amnesia is experienced by fewer than 7 people per 100,000. Among other things, the condition can be brought on by vigorous sex. However, rodents who engaged in “chronic” sex (once a day for 14 consecutive days) grew more neurons in the hippocampus, a region of the brain associated with memory. There is no evidence that this carries over into humans, but you can always hope.
Kevin Kinsella