In the Holy book it was mentioned: On the earth are Signs for those of assured Faith, (20) As also in your own selves: will ye not then see? (21) And in heaven is your Sustenance, as (also) that which ye are promised. (22) Then by the Lord of heaven and earth, this is the very Truth, as much as the fact that ye can speak intelligently to each other.
This is one of the drives that made me write about this subject: Memory & Cognition. Here, I will try to highlight one of our brains’ powers and the fineness of creation inside us. Knowledge is our best weapon to navigate through our lives and explore the Universe around us. Knowledge is the product of us(humans) over the ages gazing at things, watching events, observing natural occurrences, pondering about them… then , making our own theories in life and living, and finally out of our intelligence, motivations, dreaming, aspirations, and desires we managed to prove or disprove our theories and ended up making new rules and regulations to guide us towards a better tomorrow. Every new discovery we’ve achieved over the ages was in reality not new at all. It was new for us creatures, but not for the Creator. We are in essence exploring but not discovering, and that on its own is a great achievement we deserve to celebrate, feel ecstatic, and congratulate ourselves for it as part of our successes.
Humans are the finest creatures on Earth, and their brains are the best in structure and function. We (humans) own that finest organ, and we need to be so proud of it. Here are some facts:
- Human brain at birth weighs about 400 grams.
- The most rapid growth of the brain occurs in the womb and in the first 4 months of life.
- By the age of 3 years, the brain weight is about 1400 grams, which is almost the size of an adult brain. Brain growth will however continue until the age of 18 years.
- An average male brain weighs about 1360 grams, while that for a female is 1275 grams. However, there is no evidence of a relationship between the size of the brain and the level of intelligence.
- The brain starts to shrink at the age of 50 years. By the age of 75 years, a brain looses about 25% of its size. However this natural decrease in size is not associated with intellectual deterioration.
- Everything we do is electrically generated. The brain is the biggest electricity generator of the body.
- The functional unit of the bran is the neuron. There are around 100 billion neurons concentrated in the grey matter.
- Each neuron connects with other neurons via electrical connections called “synapses. The number of these synapses reaches 100 trillions.
- A normal brain requires in 24 hours in normal circumstances the following: 1000 litres of blood, 71 litres of Oxygen ( only 4% of that is used), 100 grams of glucose ( only 10% of that is used), 71 litres of carbon dioxide is released, and 7% of lactate is produced.
- Only about 14% of brain ability is used, and the maximum usage was found to be about 17%.
Just imagine how much of the human brain power is reserved for different circumstances, and how much of the brain power is not used?. What will happen if any one of us manages to use just an extra 1% of brain?.
The mental act or process by which knowledge is acquired, including perception, intuition, and reasoning. It is the mechanism of learning and retaining.
Cognition involves not only the things that go on inside our heads but also how these thoughts and mental processes influence our actions. Our attention to the world around us, memories of past events, understanding of language, judgements about how the world works, and abilities to solve problems all contribute to how we behave and interact with our surrounding environment.
The sensory processor allows information from the outside world to be sensed in the form of chemical and physical stimuli and attended to with various levels of focus and intent. Working memory serves as an encoding and retrieval processor. Information in the form of stimuli is encoded in accordance with explicit or implicit functions by the working memory processor. The working memory also retrieves information from previously stored material.
Any information before they are acquired by your brain they need to be converted into sensory messages and to be sent to the right receiver.
For example, a beautiful flower to be appreciated by your cognitive centre has to pass through your eyes as image(photo-rays) to fall on photo-sensitive neurons in the retina in the back of your eye to convert them into electrical signals (rods for black & white, and cones for colours), then the created electrical signals can pass through myelinated(sheathed) nerve fibres(electric wires) in the optic nerve(vision) to the back of your brain(occipital lobe, optic area) and over there, the electrical signals will be analysed and understood. The acquired information in the occipital lobe will then be sent to the memory centres in the grey matter of your brain to be stored for later recall when you wanted to remember the details of that flower you saw earlier.
Memory is the ability of the brain to retain information for some time to be recalled later to influence current and future actions.
Memory is so important for our lives to continue as humans and as animals. If we could not remember past events, we could not learn or develop language, relationships, nor personal identity.
Memory has to include these processes (sequence of events) to be effective:
Types of memory
Basically, re-collection of events can be divided into two categories based on the nature of information storage :
- Explicit(declarative): It is the conscious, intentional recollection of factual information, previous experiences and concepts.
- Implicit(non-declarative): Unconscious memories such as skills e.g. learning to ride a bicycle or learning to drive a car.
People use explicit memory throughout the day, such as remembering the time of an appointment or recollecting an event from years ago. Explicit memory involves conscious recollection, compared with implicit memory which is an unconscious, unintentional form of memory. Remembering a specific driving lesson is an example of explicit memory, while improved driving skill as a result of the lesson is an example of implicit memory.
Other types of memory:
- Episodic memory: Is the memory of autobiographical events, such as: Times, places, associated emotions, and other contextual (who, what, when, where, and why) knowledge that can be explicitly stated or conjured. It is the collection of past personal experiences that occurred at a particular time and place. For example, if one remembers the party on his or her 4th birthday, this is an episodic memory. They allow an individual to figuratively travel back in time to remember the event that took place at that particular time and place.
- Semantic memory: Refers to general world knowledge(facts, ideas, meaning and concepts) that can be articulated and is independent of personal experience. This includes world knowledge, object knowledge, language knowledge, and conceptual priming. Other examples of semantic memory include types of food, capital cities of a geographic region, or the lexicon of a common language, such as a person’s vocabulary. Semantic memory is distinct from episodic memory. For instance, semantic memory might contain information about what a cat is, whereas episodic memory might contain a specific memory of petting a particular cat. Semantic and episodic memory together make up the category of declarative memory.
- Spatial memory: Is the part of memory responsible for recording information about one’s environment and its spatial orientation. For example, a person’s spatial memory is required in order to navigate around a familiar city, just as a rat’s spatial memory is needed to learn the location of food at the end of a maze. It is often argued that in both humans and animals, spatial memories are summarised as a cognitive map. Spatial memory has representations within working, short-term and long-term memory. Research indicates that there are specific areas of the brain associated with spatial memory. Many methods are used for measuring spatial memory in children, adults, and animals.
- Short term & long term memory: Recall is based on many well-established studies about memory, refers to the way we recall memories from adolescence and early adulthood more vividly as we grow older – compared to, say, remembering something from last week. Recall, is probably not entirely related to our mental state for the moment, but it does include as well the state of our brain when the memory was first registered. So, it is to say that, storage intensity could be related to the emotional intensity of our earlier years, the kind of “free spirited living”, or may be due to the lack of that banal of distractions in our adult lives. No one knows for sure, but either way, it seems clearly that, it’s not getting older what stops us remembering events from last year, but it’s just that events and actions were probably experienced or laid down so strongly when we were much younger(youth years !).
Dementia is not a specific disease. Dementia describes a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking, and social abilities severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.
Types of dementia
Primary dementia: This could be familial(inherited), or acquired later in life.
- Other learning disabilities: Dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, dyspraxia, dysphasia, visual & auditory disorders.
- Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Secondary to congenital defects such as Down syndrome, Turner disease, etc.
- Secondary to acquired conditions such as infections, injuries, medications, heavy metal exposure.
- Alzheimer’s disease.
- Huntington’s dementia.
- Lewy body dementia
- Pick’s disease.
Secondary Dementia: This is secondary to acquired conditions, and it can happen early in childhood, or later in adult life.
- Secondary to congenital defects such as Down syndrome, Turner disease, etc.
- Secondary to acquired conditions such as: Infections( meningitis, encephalitis, measles, etc), Injuries(trauma, boxing, CO poisoning), Metabolic disorders(hypothyroidism, vitamin deficiencies, etc.), Drugs(therapeutic, intoxicating including overdoses, and recreational), Heavy metal exposure(lead, mercury, copper in Wilson’s disease).
- Vascular: stroke(infarction, haemorrhages), small vessel disease(multi-infarct dementia).
- Infections: Meningitis, encephalitis, abscesses, etc.
- Cancer: Primary tumours, metastases, and para-neoplastic syndromes.
- Metabolic: Hypothyroidism, diabetes mellitus, Vitamin deficiencies, etc.
- Drugs: Therapeutic, overdoses, and recreational.
- Habitual: Alcohol, smoking, etc.
- Degenerative conditions: Multiple sclerosis, progressive supranuclear palsy, multi-system atrophy, Parkinson’s disease, normal pressure hydrocephalus.
- Injuries and trauma including, concussions, post-traumatic amnesia, some sports, such as boxing, wrestling, and rugby.
- Can following brain surgery.
- Depression; if untreated !.
HOW MEMORY CAN BE HELPED?
What to do if you think that your memory is not as it was, or you don’t feel confident to trust your cognition ?
I can only suggest the following to help you and make you feel more confident or at least that you’ve done your best:
- Stay calm and never panic.
- Think carefully, and check your circumstances.
- Search in your life, house hold, work environment, circle of friends about any possible causes for stress or anxiety for you.
- Make sure that you do sleep well and enough at night. Remember always that good sleep means quality but not quantity.
- If all your circumstances are fine to the best of your knowledge, but you are not happy with your memory or intelligence, then contact your doctor for advise.
- Always remember that many causes for memory problems can be treated if they were found. Your doctor will sort that out for you.
- Always remember about prevention(blood pressure, cholesterol, diet imbalances, stress, anxiety, lack of exercises, and obesity).
- Always remember about harm habits: smoking, alcohol, recreational drugs, your own medications including sleeping tablets.
- Always remember to train your brain. Yes, train your brain, and keep motivated. Never give up, and always remain hopeful. Please remember that there is always tomorrow, and that tomorrow will be better than today. If tomorrow is not better, the the following day will be better.
- Please remember that, interaction with your friends and work or class mates is the best exercise for your brain, and the best stimulant for your memory and intelligence. This is proven to be superior than you and your hand held machines(mobile, iPad, PC, or book).
- Please welcome challenges, learn how to put targets and achieve them. Please make a habit of rewarding yourself when you achieve a new target. Please make your targets achievable.
- Change of life style is paramount. Breaks, holidays, excursions, picnics, camping, celebrating every occasion in your life such as birthdays, anniversaries, etc. Music is so relaxing, and comforting, as well as mood soothing. Chose your music, and avoid monotony when possible.
I wish you very good luck, and please remember, whenever you try you will achieve.