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Your plastic brain 23

11: Useful phone numbers


How much do you try to memorize on a daily basis? Lets test your memory
for phone numbers you probably use quite often. Mark an x in the
answer space if you do not know the answer.
3
4
A: What is your closest friends 5
phone number?
6
B: What is your doctors phone 7
number?
8
9
C: What are the phone numbers of
the two family members you call
most often?

D: What is your dentists phone


number?

TOP TIP: USE YOUR MEMORY How well did you


perform in the above exercise? If you couldnt
answer any of the questions, then its a good
indication that you didnt memorize the numbers
in the rst place. Theres nothing strange about
that. In fact, why bother memorizing these
numbers when your mobile phone, computer, or
sticky notes can do it for you? Therein lies the
problem. We tend to rely a lot on external aids
these days and thus fail to use and develop
our huge internal potential. One way to take
advantage of neuroplasticity to boost memory
is to use your memory
on a daily basis. As you
enter a number in your
mobile phone, why not
try to memorize it?
You can do the same Throw me awa
y!
thing when you have
only a few items to
get from the store or
when you write a
date in your diary.
24 YOU ARE WHAT YOU REMEMBER

Finding your way around an


urban jungle
The next time you set off on a car
trip, try not to rely on your
satellite navigation system to
reach your destination, but
instead study a map before
you leave and try to get
there by relying on your
memory. Start with a
short trip and, as your
condence develops,
begin memorizing more
complicated routes. What
effect might this have on
your memory skills?

Taxi vs bus drivers


To answer this question, lets take a
look at the brains of people who navigate
roads on a daily basis: taxi drivers and bus drivers.
Both use their hippocampus (see p.14) to navigate
routes that can sometimes be very complicated. In contrast, most bus drivers follow the same route
Bearing in mind that the brain changes according every day and therefore do not stimulate their
to our experiences (see p.22), who would you hippocampus as much. Over a period of time, the
guess has the larger hippocampus: the taxi taxi drivers role triggers a growth of neurons and
driver or bus driver? synapses in the hippocampus, resulting in its
The answer is the taxi driver. This is because increased size. Brain changes such as this are
taxi drivers need to take new routes quite often. the basis for seeing improvement in mental
To do this, they use their hippocampus intensively performance. So if you put away your satellite
(among other brain structures) to memorize all navigation system and regularly use your memory
kinds of routes and landmarks and gure out instead, you may end up with a larger hippocampus
the quickest way to reach their destinations. and perhaps a better memory, too.
Finding your way around an urban jungle 25

12: Final destination


Read the instructions telling you how to get from point (starting at point A) by drawing the route on the map
A to point B. Take 2 minutes to visualize and memorize until you reach point B. Mark point B on the map and
the route. Then cover them up and recall the way write the road name in the answer space.

o ad

W
y
A Fox Crescent ill

Wa

idn
tH
er R

Me n
ado

es
a
B wC as
nv

Ple

L
los

an
T
De

e
ns

RE
aco

ST
1) Walk to the end
ILL
Be

M
of Fox Crescent Park
D

2) Turn left
OL

3) Walk to the end


se

of Brooke Road HIG


Clo

4) Cross High Street HS


TRE
ry

5) Turn right and ET


au

D
M

take the rst left

A
Ca
RO
A m
nt

onto Old Mill Street let


ce

W
ad
s

6) Take the rst left ay

ew
re

Ro
xC

and walk to the end

Vi
G
e
ke

RIN
Fo

nu

st
of the street
oo

Ea
e

SP
Av
Br

e
id

ry
as

er
Le

Ch

Solution on p.180

HOW IT WORKS: A STUDENTS BRAIN The brain of


a musician is different from that of a person who doesnt play
an instrument, while the brain of a bilingual person is different
from that of a person who speaks just one language. Their brains
benet from greater plasticity because they have these extra abilities. But
do you have to be bilingual or a musician to experience these plastic changes
in the brain? Of course not. Plastic changes have been observed in the brains of
medical students right after their exams as compared with their brain states three
months before the exams. These changes occurred in brain regions associated with
learning and memory, which developed more synaptic connections as a result of studying.
26 YOU ARE WHAT YOU REMEMBER

Check-out
How attentively have you been reading this chapter? How much of it can you
recall? Answer the questions below to test your memory for what you have
learned so far. As you will nd out in chapter 3, testing your memory for what
you have recently learned is one of the best ways to register new information.

13: The memory quiz


Circle the correct answer for each question. Do not refer back to the chapter
to search for any of the answers, but try to rely on your memory alone.

1. Memories are located in 2. Mnemonics have been


a specic place in the brain. around since:
A: True A: Ancient Greek times
B: False B: the 12th century
C: Depends on the individual C: the 18th century

3. An average brain weighs 4. Memory of an event may


approximately: be forgotten because it:
A: 3 lb 5 oz (1.5 kg ) A: is very similar to a
B: 5 lb (2.3 kg) memory previously
C: 4 lb (1.8 kg) registered
B: has been poorly
registered at the time
it was experienced
C: both A and B

5. What is the name of the 6. When registering


lobe behind your forehead? information you can boost
A: The parietal lobe your memory by:
B: The occipital lobe A: forming visual images
C: The frontal lobe B: drumming your ngers
on the table
C: counting in your head
Check-out 27

7. Information is 8. An average brain


memorized only when contains approximately:
we make an effort to A: 100 million neurons
remember it. B: 100 billion neurons
A: True C: 100,000 neurons
B: False
C: Depends on age

9. Taxi drivers have a larger 10. To say that the brain is


hippocampus than bus plastic means that:
drivers because: A: the brain is not mature
A: taxi drivers need to take when we are born
new routes quite often B: the brain changes
B: taxi drivers drive a more according to our
complex vehicle experiences
C: taxi drivers converse C: the brains connections
more with their passengers are xed in adulthood

11. Which structure in the 12. Memory can be


temporal lobe is important improved:
for memory formation? A: only until the age of 20
A: The cerebellum B: until middle age
B: The hippocampus C: throughout life
C: The hypothalamus

13. The different steps 14. You may have trouble


involved in memorization recognizing a familiar face if:
are: A: you see the person
A: registerstore outside the normal setting
retrieve B: you werent introduced
B: recordorder recall properly
C: registerimagine C: the person has a bland
recognize personality

1 0
HOW DID YOU DO?
Time to add up your points. Your score:
_____ 14 points = ( _____ x 100) = _____ %
At the end of chapters 27, you will be tested with
a set of check-out exercises. Compare this score
with the check-in score at the start of each chapter
Solutions on p.180
to assess your overall progress.
CHAPTER 2
GONE IN A FEW BLINKS OF THE EYE
(SHORT-TERM MEMORY)
30 GONE IN A FEW BLINKS OF THE EYE (SHORT-TERM MEMORY)

Check-in: how well do you


remember the very recent past?
Memory for the very recent past (up to a minute ago) and memory for the past
(everything beyond a minute) are different. The former is called short-term
memory and the latter is known as long-term memory. Short-term memory
allows you to hold in your mind what you have just heard, read, or seen. In
the following exercises, your aim is to look at the material once, try to hold it
in your mind, and then recall it as accurately as possible.

1: What is your limit? 2: Sofa colors


Below are several series of numbers. To determine your In a phone conversation, the salesperson at the furniture
memory span, starting with the shortest series, read the store tells you the 6 available colors for the armchair you
numbers once in your head and then cover up the want to buy. You need to remember the names of these
series. Recall the numbers in the order you read them. colors until you can write them down on a piece of paper.

Read the names of these


6 colors once. Cover them
up while repeating the
burnt sienna
auburn
taupe
magenta
chestnut
teal
6 names to yourself for
10 seconds and
5 7 0 4 8 2 6 3 1 9
then write them
8 2 5 3 0 7 1 6 4 down in the
2 9 4 0 7 1 3 8 space below.
4 7 1 3 8 6 2
8 4 6 2 5 9
4 9 0 3 1
5 2 1 8 Your digit span
= how many
numbers you
recalled correctly
before you got
your rst series
wrong.

Your Score Your Score: _____


(your digit span): 12 colors: 2 points
_________ 34 colors: 3 points
(from 4 to 10) 56 colors: 4 points