The psychology of smell [video]

April 25th, 2020, or the last Saturday in April is National Sense of Smell Day. Sponsored by the Sense of Smell Institute, this annual event is held in children’s museums and science centers to highlight the importance of olfaction – that which pertains to the olfactory nerve inside the nose.

Psychological smell research by Wallenbergstiftelserna, on YouTube

Your brain says cheese

Dairy products, such as yogurt and low-fat Camembert cheese, may prevent Alzheimer’s disease due to calcium, vitamin B12, probiotic and other neuroprotective agents.

January 20th is National Cheese Lover’s Day. To all Steve Urkels, come celebrate your favorite dairy – from asiago and Monterey jack to Velveeta and Zufi.

😐

Alright. You might find this confusing… Some say cheese is bad and contributes to Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Some say it’s good as it may reduce the risk of cognitive decline and prevent AD. Here’s what I found…

Gouda news

There are old reports that say the bigger or fatter the body, the smaller the brain 🧠 gets. If cheese and yogurt were also reported to help lower the risk of obesity, then that means it will also aid in preventing cognitive decline. (1)

📖

Studies have shown that dairy products, such as yogurt and low-fat cheese 🧀 , may indeed prevent Alzheimer’s disease. This is due to some brain-power components of dairy 🐄 , such as calcium, vitamin B12 and probiotics to name a few (as the others are quite complicated for you to even care about. lol). (1)

🧪

An evaluation of 1,183 participants shows that men 👱‍♂️ who had higher protein intake seemed to have lower stress while low-fat yogurt consumption resulted to good memory recall. Women who consumed low-fat cheese, on the other hand, was reported with decreased cognitive impairment. To summarize, low-fat yogurt and cheese contributed to good brain 🧠 health. (1)

🤓

More research, however, has to be done to understand how all cheese components really work within our brain and body. (1)

Camembert cheese neuroprotection

Camembert cheese has oleamide and dehydroergosterol – two anti-inflammatory compounds found to induce microglia that leads to the protection of neurons in your central nervous system. (1)

Microglia is a collection of cells that are key to overall brain 🧠 maintenance. As primary immune cells of the central nervous system, microglia identify threatening foreign bodies and destroy them. (2)

References:
(1) Ano, Y. & Nakayama, H. (2018, June 30). Preventive Effects of Dairy Products on Dementia and the Underlying Mechanisms. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6073537/.
(2) Microglia. (2018, December 7). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microglia.

Memory as key to learning

Memory is the mental faculty that retrieves information that had been encoded and stored in the brain. This is key to learning.

Memory is the mental faculty that retrieves information that had been encoded and stored in the brain. This is key to learning.

Memory as defined in Psychology here

Memory - depicted as treasure kept and retrieved through time - I Call Her Mnimi | AboutMnimi.com
Memory – depicted as treasure kept and retrieved through time
I Call Her Mnimi | AboutMnimi.com

National Hot Tea Day: brain benefits of tea

January 12th is National Hot Tea Day. Let’s toast our teacups and celebrate by understanding the brain benefits of tea, like peppermint, chamomile, green and black.

January 12th is National Hot Tea Day (with January as the National Hot Tea Month) as declared by the Tea Council of the USA in 2016. Let’s toast our tea cups and celebrate by exploring some types of tea – chamomile, peppermint, black and green – and their cognitive benefits.

Tea and memory

A regular cup of tea is found to be beneficial to your cognitive health.

In a study of 1,003 Japanese participants aged 70 and above, it was concluded that the more green tea 🍵 they consumed, the lesser the cognitive impairment was. In another study of 2,501 Chinese adults aged 55 and above, regular consumption of black (fermented) and oolong (semi-fermented) tea ☕️ “was associated with lower risks of cognitive impairment and decline independent of other risk factors.” (1)

Both black and green tea inhibited an enzyme activity in relation to a brain 🧠 neurotransmitter imbalance that causes Alzheimer’s disease. According to Dr. Ed Okello, lead investigator: “Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, tea could potentially be another weapon in the armoury which is used to treat this disease and slow down its development.” (2)

Dr. Okello, a green tea 🍵 drinker, also said, “The ageing politician, Tony Benn, is a prime example of somebody who drinks tea and has a fantastic memory. He is said to drink 18 pints a day and has a very sharp mind for a man of his age.” (2)

Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, tea could potentially be another weapon in the armoury which is used to treat this disease and slow down its development.

Dr. Ed Okello

Brain tea for two: peppermint vs. chamomile

In an experiment conducted by the Psychology Department of Northumbria University, peppermint and chamomile tea had been proven to have contrasting effects… While peppermint tea makes you alert; thereby, improving memory, chamomile tea impairs cognition as it calms you down. (3)

Doris Day – Tea for Two (1950) uploaded by Kudret Laurentius, on YouTube

Picture me upon your knee –
With tea for two and two for tea;
Just me for you
And you for me alone.

Doris Day song, Tea For Two

Peppermint tea

Peppermint contains theanine, an amino acid (a building block of protein), found in green tea. Its combination with caffeine is found to promote better memory and learning; thus, became popular as a nootropic supplement typically found in the form of a pill, drink or gum. (4)

While theanine is good for treating anxiety and high blood pressure, it is also used to make cancer treatment more effective. Similar to glutamate, theanine also transmits nerve impulses in the brain and helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease. (5)

Chamomile tea

Like peppermint, chamomile can alleviate anxiety and possibly prevent cancer cells from developing. But in addition, it also ease menstrual cramps and reduce inflammation, as well as “help” prevent blood sugar increase, slow down osteoporosis and relieve cold symptoms (although more research is needed on those last three claims). (6)

Because chamomile calms you down and lowers mental alertness, it will naturally and temporarily impair your memory.

Please note:
Peppermint and chamomile should be taken as supplements; and should not, in any way, replace medicine, especially when prescribed. Please consult your doctor.

References:
(1) Okello, Ed. (2016, September 14). A memorable cup of tea. Retrieved from https://www.ncl.ac.uk/media/wwwnclacuk/instituteofneuroscience/files/A%20memorable%20cup%20of%20tea%20and%20other%20natural%20products%20%20-%20ARUK%202016-Ed%20Okello.pdf.
(2) University Of Newcastle Upon Tyne. (2004, November 1). Tea Could Improve Memory, Study Shows. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/10/041030144110.htm.
(3) Herbs that can boost your mood and memory. (2016, April 29). Retrieved from https://www.northumbria.ac.uk/about-us/news-events/news/2016/04/herbs-that-can-boost-your-mood-and-memory/.
(4) Theanine. (2018, December 30). Retrieved January 4, 2019 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theanine.
(5) Theanine. (n.d.). Retrieved January 4, 2019 from https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1053/theanine.
(6) Villines, Zawn. (2017, November 15). What are the benefits of chamomile tea? Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320031.php.

11 nasty reasons why we forget

Forgetfulness is a memory lapse in which a person is unable to recall stored information from his brain. This may be a sign of cognitive decline or a moment of inattentiveness due to some underlying factors.

Forgetfulness is a tendency to forget things. (1) Oftentimes referred to as the state of being neglectful, it is when failure to remember happens. (2)

When forgetting does happen and it seems recurrent, like, where you put your keys for the nth time, stay calm. Though you may think your memory lapse may be a sign of cognitive decline, that could just be due to your inattentiveness. Let’s check it out…

Your 2 forgetfulness checkpoints

If you are unable to remember some things, you may begin to think of it as a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease.  But wait a minute!  You may want to examine the situations first.  Here are two simple checkpoints for you:

  • Have you focused enough to get the info into your short-term memory store?
  • Have you rehearsed or repeated enough just so your brain can transfer the info from your short-term to long-term memory store? (Otherwise, it could just be pseudo-forgetting.)

If you answered no to any of the above questions, then again, please worry not.  You just need to pay a little more attention next time. Consider mnemonics.

I have had many instances where I forgot simple things.  In fact, I am using my old reading glasses because I couldn’t remember where I put my new pair (sigh).  I don’t think my brain is deteriorating.  Of course, not (even if I misplaced my specs a million times)!  But I do know that I was multi-tasking, as I always do, like when I blabber with excitement while typing some articles. I sometimes lose track. (Haha… Facetious? Hmm…)

Memory, for all that it does for us every day . . . for all the feats that can sometimes amaze us, can also be a troublemaker.

Daniel Schacter

Common causes of forgetfulness

Common causes of forgetfulness by Dr. Zulfiquar Ahmed, on YouTube

In high school, I memorized multiple dance steps in the shortest period of time. I was absent when my classmates did the 1st and 2nd rehearsals so I had to instantly learn our presentation before the next class began. It was a success.

Years flew by and in 2016, I joined an advanced hip-hop class and found out – a bit amazed (duh) – that I can no longer recall new dance steps (sigh). While the “twenteens” mastered the moves in 15-or-so minutes, I felt like I no longer have the talent . . . or the fresh neurons that will wire that dang thing up in my deteriorating aging brain. SMH.

Now, here are the common causes of forgetfulness…

  1. Lack of sleep
  2. Dehydration
  3. Too much alcohol
  4. Chronic stress
  5. Anxiety
  6. Depression
  7. Isolation
  8. Some medication
  9. Hypothyroidism
  10. Hyperthyroidism
  11. Aging

Lack of sleep

The well-known brain researcher and so-called sleep evangelist, Matthew Walker explains in his book, Why We Sleep: Unlocking The Power of Sleep And Dreams, that sleep can prevent diabetes that may damage nerves in the brain due to high insulin levels.  The sleep expert from UC Berkeley’s Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab also reveals that 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night can be powerful means to improve our bodies, including our brain function.

Too much alcohol

Anything that drowses, including alcohol, will cause you to be inattentive, such that your memory functions weaken.

Chronic stress

Having to deal with overwhelming stress, such as personal responsibilities, may wear you and your brain down.  Dwelling on a past sad event may make you uninterested of the present situation.

Anxiety

Anxiety is a normal part of our lives but too much of it may affect your psychological well-being. It may result to excessive nervousness and worry that may affect your mental health overtime.

Depression

Depression is the cousin of anxiety.

“Forgetfulness can also be a sign of depression—or a consequence of it.” If you are depressed, you will produce less serotonin and that will make you less attentive.

Depressed people may have the tendency to isolate themselves from the rest of the world.  People, especially old folks, who do not want to mingle or socialize anymore tend to have a faster rate of mental deterioration.

Some medication

Some medications, like sedatives, anti-depresants, blood pressure drugs, including those prescribed by your doctor, may have amnesic side effects.  Please be cautious when propping a pill and certainly let your doctor know of any concern.

Hypothyroidism

Under-active thyroid may disturb sleep and cause depression, too.

Studies have shown that there is a link between subclinical hypothyroidism and mild cognitive impairment, specifically the *working memory* and *executive function*.

“Thyroid hormone regulates metabolism in every organ of the body, including the brain. When thyroid hormone is low, it can affect your memory span and ability to concentrate.

Hyperthyroidism

Just like hypothyroidism, overactive thyroid can also hurt your memory function.  Anxiety, as the result of too much thyroid hormones, may…

Studies have also shown that “there is a strong body of evidence to support the association between subclinical hyperthyroidism and cognitive impairment.”  Neuroscientists are yet to discover its “clear mechanistic associations” and any evidence that will “prevent or improve cognitive decline” by administering antithyroid measures on older people.

References:
(1) Forgetfulness [Def. 1]. (n.d.). In Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries. Retrieved June 25, 2019 from https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/us/definition/english/forgetfulness.
(2) Forgetful [Def. 2]. (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster. Retrieved June 25, 2019 from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/forgetfulness.
(3) Murray, Bridget. 2003, October. The seven sins of memory. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/monitor/oct03/sins.

– Pendick, D.  (2018, April 05).  7 common causes of forgetfulness.  Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/7-common-causes-of-forgetfulness-201302225923.
– Gan, E. H. and Pearce, S. H. S. (2012, August 3). The Thyroid in Mind: Cognitive Function and Low Thyrotropin in Older People. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3496329/.
– Suszynski, M. (2016, April 07). 9 Ways to Improve Your Memory If You Have Hypothyroidism.

Pseudo-forgetting or mental blur

Pseudo-forgetting is like forgetting but “not in a real sense”. This is because there is no true learning and that information was never really stored as long-term memory for it to be recalled. This is sometimes referred to as mental blur.

Pseudo-forgetting is a combination of two words – false and failing to recall. Actually, it is an instance where you are unable to remember something simply because you did not learn it in the first place!

Pseudo-forgetting is also referred to as mental blur in which there is no complete learning as information was never fully stored in the brain. (1)

There is no true learning since perceived information was never rehearsed nor transferred to long-term memory. It was only held briefly as short-term memory. (2)

(1) Models of Memory. (n.d.). Retrieved June 24, 2019 from http://www.massey.ac.nz/~wwpapajl/evolution/assign2/AA/mainpage.html
(2) AAC Study Tips: Forgetting: Why Do I Forget? (n.d.). Retrieved June 24, 2019 from https://webapps.ohio.edu/studytips/Memory_forgetting.html.

The giver quotes: what a Receiver of memories do

When the new Receiver failed, the memories that she had received were released. They didn’t come back to me. They went…

I don’t know, exactly. They went to the place where memories once existed before Receivers were created. Someplace out there – . . . And then the people had access to them. Apparently that’s the way it was, once. Everyone had access to memories.

It was chaos… They really suffered for a while. Finally it subsided as the memories were assimilated. But it certainly made them aware of how they need a Receiver to contain all that pain. And knowledge.

The Giver, page 131, written by Lois Lowry

How to improve your short-term memory

Short-term memory includes remembering a new name and series of cards, as well as where you put down your keys. Experts say it’s not that you’re forgetful. It’s just that you need to focus more. The brain should be properly trained for this.

Hi!  My name is Mnimi.  What’s yours?  Nice to meet you, _______!

Short-term memory includes recalling faces and their associated names.  It may probably sound easy for some but for most of us, it’s not.  I have heard many slightly embarrassing stories about forgetting one single name of a person who was just introduced to you in less than a minute ago… ⏱

Uh…  Pardon me.  What’s your name again?  …friend?

It’s really not that difficult if you just pay close attention. (“Sure” while you roll your eyes 👀) Some experts say it’s not that you can’t remember.  It’s just that you didn’t focus as much and that your brain is not “properly trained” on even the simplest short-term memory of where you put down your reading glasses 👓 . . . For.The.3rd.Time.Now…

Oh, it’s on my head.  Duh!

3 tips to remember names

According to Ron White, there are things to consider when remembering a person’s name. Let’s watch how this 2-time memory champion astonish us with his face-name and playing-card recall skills below…

Brain Games- Short Term Memory Tricks uploaded by Professor Ross, on YouTube
  • Focus on getting the person’s name.
    1. Predispose yourself to getting the person’s name by repeatedly asking yourself, “What is your name?”
  • Have pre-determine interest on that person’s name.
    1. When you’re interested on something, your natural tendency is to learn it. Similarly, if you make that new person particularly intriguing, you may want to learn more of him/her during your first meeting. Thus, you’ll remember the name.
  • Match the name to the owner’s feature.
    1. There should be a unique or distinctive feature on that person’s face that will make you remember. So, instead of asking yourself what that person’s name was, picture what stood out from his/her features.
    2. Examples: Iris might have pretty purple eyes while Barry might have a cool baritone voice.

4 tips to remember cards

  • Chunk the cards into 3 so you only need to remember 17 plus 1 left-over, out of a deck of 52 cards.
  • Use the PAO Method – person, action, object
    1. When you chunk the cards, you ‘assign’ the first card a name, 2nd, what that person is doing and 3rd, with what object.
    2. Examples: Card1 = King of Hearts = your husband or partner (person); Card2 = driving (action); Card3 = car (object).  This will make 3 cards into one image.
  • Use a memory palace.
  • Practice. Practice. Practice.

How to remember more easily using the memory palace technique [video]

The memory palace or mind palace is a mental place to store images enabling you to recall later. It is also called the method of loci or journey method because you can travel through it in your mind to retrieve what you visually input on those loci or locations.

Using a pen and paper or your mobile phone is great. It aids you in remembering things by simply writing or typing down grocery items, phone numbers and other stuff on a notepad to view later. But wouldn’t it be better to have your own virtual list, one that doesn’t require any tangibles nor electronics? Yes, your beautiful brain…

What is a memory palace?

The memory palace, also known as the mind palace, is a mental picture of a place where you can store images and that enables you to recall later. It has been used during the ancient times and even up to now, it still is a powerful mnemonic strategy that enables you to remember a list of things in particular order.

The method of loci

The memory palace is sometimes called the method of loci or journey method because you can travel through it in your mind to retrieve what you have visually put in those loci or locations.

How the memory palace technique works?

The Memory Palace Technique by Sprouts, on YouTube

The trick to remembering numbers, things and other facts using the memory palace is to perceive items in crazy, funny, out-of-this-world ways. Outrageous objects are what people tend not to forget, don’t you think?

Now, if you’re ready, let’s begin…

  • Define your own mind palace – one that is very familiar to you.
  • Close your eyes and concentrate.
  • Imagine yourself entering the first door.
  • Mentally place – an average of 7 items – strategically in each room. For example, starting with your living room, you put an apple on the tv, a banana on the sofa, a pear on the coffee table and so on and so forth…
  • Go to your next room and leave things around.
  • Keep going to the next room if you feel necessary.
  • When you’re done and it’s time to recall, just journey back to your memory palace and walk though the locations as you visualize the items.

Regarding no. 4 above, neuroscientists postulated that an average human brain can remember 5 to 9 things at a time. This is based on the Miller Law.

So, if you have 10 virtual rooms and left 7 things each, then you are possibly going to retrieve 77 things in order when you go back in there. Just imagine . . . if you have more than 10, 20 or 30, those amazingly multitude of mental locations become part of your enormous mind palace of memories. Chances are you will never forget important matters again. 🙂

Alcohol-related brain damage and thiamine deficiency

Too much alcohol and deficiency in vitamin B may lead to brain damage, such as Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome. Those are two medical conditions that often happen together or successively. It is important to know the difference for appropriate treatment.

Clinical testings and quantitative analysis have proven that excessive alcohol can result to structural and functional organ damage as well as brain abnormalities. For one, alcoholics can develop liver cirrhosis (liver with scarred tissue) that can impact the brain. It is also possible that with chronic drinking, one may have a poor diet that will lead to Vitamin B1 or thiamine deficiency. This can also cause severe brain damage and dysfunction.

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS) is a term for two medical conditions that often happen together – Wernicke encephalopathy and Korsakoff psychosis. While the Wernicke disease happens suddenly such that treatment is needed right away, Korsakoff patients experience long-term cognitive issues, including memory loss. (1)

Wernicke’s encephalopathy

Wernicke sufferers may have the following:

  • Confusion – You may feel confused of what is going around you.
  • Loss of muscle coordination – Your arms and legs may feel weak such that standing up and walking will be a little difficult.
  • Vision problems – Your eyes may move around quickly and you may have double-vision.

In addition to the above symptoms, there may be a feeling of dizziness when standing up due to low blood pressure. A patient may also feel a faster heartbeat but with less energy; and even feel drowsy or faint. With no immediate treatment, Wernicke encephalopathy can lead to Korsakoff syndrome. (1)

Korsakoff’s syndrome

“Korsakoff syndrome, also called Korsakoff dementia, Korsakoff psychosis, or amnesic-confabulatory syndrome, is a life-altering, permanent neuropsychiatric condition characterized by anterograde and retrograde amnesia as well as frontal lobe dysfunction and affective disturbance.” (2)

With the Korsakoff syndrome, learning is impaired because remembering new things and recent events becomes difficult. However, other thinking and social skills are relatively unaffected. An individual may seem to be able to converse properly but later forgets that occurrence entirely. (3)

This chronic memory disorder is caused by severe vitamin B1 or thiamine deficiency. It is most commonly caused by alcohol abuse although some other conditions may also cause this brain-debilitating disease. (3)


References:
(1) What Is Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome? (2018, January 11). In WebMD Medical Reference. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/brain/wernicke-korsakoff-syndrome-facts#1.
(2) McCormick, L. M., Buchanan, J. R., Onwuameze, O. E., Pierson, Ronald K., and Paradiso, S., (2013, January 22). Beyond Alcoholism: Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome in Patients With Psychiatric Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3551444/#R3.
(3) Korsakoff Syndrome. (n.d.). Retrieved February 11, 2019 from https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia/types-of-dementia/korsakoff-syndrome.

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