After listening to today’s guest and having some of my own observations about memory and emotional capital, I wonder what happens to our perception or feelings of our memories as we age. It seems to me that those impressions of a childhood event not only are seemingly more difficult to recall but also to feel. In fact creating new memories doesn’t seem to have the same emotional depth as previous especially childhood memories. I’d love somebody with a background in neuroscience to weigh in on this. I’ve actually been thinking about this for the past 10 years
I think one mistake you are making is in assuming that everyone is the same in this. They are not.
In my own experience rational connections between things play a big role in memory. That includes our emotions, for these too can be part of the rational web that weaves our life into a whole. I find dreams nearly impossible to remember because of their lack of rational coherence. I do not assume everyone has the same experience.
Actually, I wasn’t assuming that we experience memory the same way just that aging impacts our memory in similar ways biologically. It is the connection between memory and emotion as we age that I am exploring. There’s a great Nat Geo special edition issue that I’m going through. It was recently published.
I can remember my memories of various emotional experiences I’ve had. The human brain is the most fascinating, mysterious, complex entity in my known universe.
“The reticular activator acts as a mental trigger in your mind that directs your attention and causes you to notice and remember things you never intentionally committed to memory. It’s a part of your brain that is on constant alert, even when you’re sleeping. It makes you notice certain things and ignore other things.” It is so powerful in 1970 Congress made it illegal to attach music to tobacco ads.
What was the legislation from 1970?
My experience is pretty different. I remember many dreams. I remember a decent amount of dreams on a day to day basis. But it’s probably not even half. I recall dreams probably 3-4 days a week when I wake up. I use to keep a dream journal for fun. I probably have 20 vivid dreams that I still remember from my childhood until now. Once or twice a month i tend to have dreams that directly help me in my real life. Like once there was a client and I was struggling with what to do for them exactly and I dreamed of a solution and recreated it then next day. Once while going over blueprints I’m thinking subconsciously I saw that it was calling for straps and 2x4 stud bases for each post. But somehow it did not register. I created a bid and fell asleep. That night I dreamed of myself , it was like I was watching the dream snd not part of it, saying I need to bid for the straps snd I woke up and made a note and went back to sleep. In the morning I went to check it and sure enough I did need to redo the bid and add those numbers.
Memories are funny though. It’s weird when you clearly remember something and are 100% positive it’s true and accurate and don’t even second guess it until someone else retells it and it’s different snd then you begin to work back through it and realize they must be right even though you remember it differently.
President Nixon signs legislation banning cigarette ads on TV and radio
Attach music to the ads or ban them altogether?
No. They went into print hard. Radio and broadcast television got killed. Tobacco ads were their singular largest source of ad revenue.
And what are memories, literally? They are microscopic bursts of electric energy, changes in the concentration of chemicals within cells. “Selective permeation of sodium ions through voltage-dependent sodium channels is fundamental to the generation of action potentials in excitable neurons. These channels are large integral membrane proteins and are encoded by at least ten genes in mammals.”
The profusion of billions of these processes become a shade of blue and form the initial structure of the letter t.
I’ll have to take your world. I know next to nothing about this subject.
All of those may be proximal causes but I wouldn’t say memories are nothing but those things. How we access them is still a little mysterious. I think the idea that memories are like a vault of video clips has been debunked. When we experience a memory we actively contribute to its reconstruction. At no point do we replay the event itself. It’s why first person witnesses are far from the best evidence one could have in a trial. They may sway a jury but if we understand how memory works we would be more skeptical.
One thing that I have noticed is that the things that are not important to me or no longer important to me are harder to recall. Events and conditions that I consider are still important to me for one reason or another I can very easily recollect. Things that no longer hold any significance to me I have forgotten enough to not recall almost at all.
I also noticed another thing, that the doctors didn’t seem to appreciate. My late husband was tested for dementia some years before he died. The doctor asked him “what day is it?” and he couldn’t answer. He didn’t know the date either but had a fair ideas of what time it was at the interview. This was taken to be a sign of dementia. In fact when we retire, virtually every day is the same. The idea of weekends and weekdays is meaningless, unless there is some activity one is to do. Otherwise Monday is the same as Friday or Sunday. I was paying all the bills for him so he didn’t have to know or care to know what the date was. I don’t think these things count as dementia as the circumstances count and count a lot. If we are working then we need to be mindful of what day it is. If we are retired who cares!
It is fascinating to learn how much scientists are learning about memory and sleep, cognition, ADHD, etc.
The point I wanted to make is that the brain is made of flesh and blood. That’s all. So is my right arm. My arm can’t think. My brain? Well, it tries! But, how does it take information received through the senses and interpret it, process it and express what it means in language?
What is a thought? Just one thought? How does a swirling mix of chemicals and minute pulses of electricity formulate a thought? How do chemicals come together and communicate an idea? I take it for granted. Rarely think about it. But, when I do, it boggles my mind.
There are miracles happening all around me, all day, every day, and I am oblivious. Some say they are not miracles. Life itself, being here, breathing, experiencing this incredible thing called life is unspeakably phenomenal when I stop to think of it.
I just meant to point out that thinking itself, and memories alone, are brain functions based on processes that are so complex, that to me they suggest a higher power was likely involved in making them possible.
For me that’s a “ God of the Gaps” argument. Given billions of years is also long enough for mutations to result in fantastical things. In every century we are turning out significant discoveries. Things that seem crazy now may be common knowledge in a century and they will have newer and crazier things to understand.
I agree. The will to live, to survive and to adapt are amazing. Just amazing.
There is much that is miraculous. The only point on which we likely disagree is whether there is just one source of miracles and each one bears a Christian trademark.
Could be. But whatever else it may be it is a mystery and I don’t look for authoritative sources to decide which box to put it in. God is supposed to have told Moses “I am that I am”. Out of respect I prefer to say the mystery is what it is.
Miracles or the miraculous or the utter mystery of life and the universe are. They just are, no matter what we believe about God, IMO. The beauty, the vastness, the intricacy, the artistry, that we spin around on earth and as part of the Milky Way galaxy and the universe, are breathtaking, period. And like the Moody Blues, I can miss all that beauty even though I look right at it. Yet, I can choose to slow down and contemplate how life, our lives, are caught up every second in the profound wonder of it all.
There doesn’t seem to be any bone of contention then.