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  • - People are worried about their memory.

  • If you're forgetting to show up

  • for your four o'clock meeting,

  • or you forgot the actor who played Tony Soprano

  • in the HBO series 'The Sopranos.'

  • "Can't remember that guy's name, what is it?"

  • A lot of us tend to blame ourselves.

  • This absent-mindedness is a sign of mental weakness,

  • or a failing memory, or a lack of character,

  • but 99% of forgetting that happens to all of us,

  • is normal.

  • So there are things that we can do

  • to be less afraid, less panicked,

  • to have a better relationship with our memory today-

  • because forgetting is a normal part of being human.

  • My name is Lisa Genova.

  • I am an author and neuroscientist.

  • The name of my book is "Remember: The Science of Memory

  • and the Art of Forgetting."

  • So how do we reinforce our memories?

  • How do we make our memories stronger, resilient to time,

  • so that we can recall them decades later?

  • The first essential ingredient in creating a memory

  • that's going to last longer than this present moment

  • is attention.

  • If I put my glasses down

  • and don't give it a moment's attention

  • to notice where I've put this,

  • I can't remember where they are because I never formed

  • that memory to begin with.

  • Your brain will never remember

  • what you don't pay attention to.

  • Chronic stress is really bad for our memory.

  • Stress hormones mobilize your brain and body to respond,

  • to fight, to flee, to react quickly-

  • not to think.

  • Stress is meant to be an acute, quick,

  • on and off phenomenon.

  • So what happens in your brain and body

  • if you're exposed to chronic, unrelenting stress,

  • and how does that affect your memory?

  • Under chronic stress, your body will just keep dumping

  • adrenaline and cortisol, and it can't shut off.

  • This is bad for memory.

  • You are actually shrinking your hippocampus-

  • the part of your brain that's essential

  • for forming consciously-held memories

  • is going to be smaller.

  • You'll be inhibiting 'neurogenesis,'

  • the birth of new neurons.

  • The very good news about all of this,

  • because I've probably just scared everyone,

  • is that there are things that we can do to combat stress.

  • This is where things like yoga, meditation,

  • mindfulness, and exercise come into play.

  • All of these have been shown

  • to restore the size of people's hippocampus

  • who have been chronically stressed.

  • A quick word on meditation:

  • A lot of people are intimidated by meditation.

  • They sort of know that this is probably good for them

  • in lots of ways, but maybe don't know how to do it.

  • Here's a nine-second meditation

  • to help restore your cortisol levels,

  • and to help save your hippocampus

  • and your ability to remember.

  • Close your eyes if you can.

  • Breathe in through your nose to the count of four.

  • Hold it for a second, and then breathe out through your nose

  • to the count of four.

  • And notice how you feel.

  • Here's what's going on:

  • Stress response causes you to breathe like this-

  • By breathing slowly in and out through your nose,

  • you are telling your brain and body that you are safe.

  • We also wanna get enough sleep.

  • Sleep is not a state of doing nothing

  • where you're unconscious and it's a waste of time.

  • You're very biologically busy while you sleep,

  • and there are a number of super-important things

  • that are going on in your brain with respect to memory.

  • For example, if I got a horrible night's sleep last night,

  • I'm gonna wake up today and my frontal lobe

  • is gonna have a hard time dragging itself to its day job-

  • and one of its most important jobs is paying attention.

  • And if I can't pay attention to what's going on today,

  • what am I not gonna be able to do well today?

  • Form new memories.

  • Also, your hippocampus consolidates the information

  • you're learning into a lasting memory

  • that you can consciously retrieve while you sleep.

  • So what happens if you don't get enough sleep?

  • Your hippocampus might not have had enough time

  • to do the job, and so your memories

  • from what happened yesterday and the stuff

  • you learned yesterday, might not be fully formed today,

  • or they might not be formed at all.

  • Caffeine is actually good for memory,

  • because caffeine increases your attention.

  • So anything that's an attention booster

  • is gonna be a memory booster.

  • We know that sleep is super important for forming memories,

  • so caffeine's good for memory.

  • You just wanna be careful

  • that it's not compromising your sleep.

  • Our brains are not designed to remember people's names.

  • These are abstract concepts.

  • They live in neurological cul-de-sacs.

  • Ultimately, there's only one way into that house

  • that lives at the end of that street,

  • and there's no other way to get there.

  • So can we supply more associations to the person's name

  • to give us a chance?

  • In psychology, this is called the 'Baker-Baker Paradox.'

  • If I'm trying to remember your name

  • and your name is Mr. Baker,

  • that's really tough for me to remember-

  • abstract concept.

  • But if I were asked to remember the word "baker,"

  • I can picture him wearing an apron,

  • and he's got flour on his face and,

  • "Oh, I remember the bakery I used to love as a kid

  • and we used to get danishes there on Sundays."

  • So now I've got all of these associations in my brain,

  • attaching to that word "baker,"

  • and gives me a chance to hook into it.

  • For all of these memories, they benefit from repetition.

  • The more we repeat, the more we practice,

  • the more we rehearse a memory,

  • we are strengthening those neural connections,

  • making that neural circuit stronger,

  • and more likely to be fully retrieved.

  • One of the ways that we can repeat a memory

  • is by writing it down.

  • If I've experienced a certain number of things today,

  • and I keep a journal-

  • what I've chosen to write down

  • will become a stronger, more reinforced memory in my brain.

  • I will also have the opportunity to revisit

  • that memory by reading it later.

  • So many people come up to me, so worried, saying,

  • "If I don't write what I need to do later down,

  • I'm gonna forget to do it.

  • That's gotta mean I'm getting Alzheimer's."

  • And I tell all of them, "No, it's your prospective memory.

  • It's terrible.

  • It's not cheating to write it down.

  • It's actually good practice."

  • Airline pilots do not rely on their brains

  • and their prospective memories

  • to remember to lower the wheels before landing the plane.

  • They outsource the job to a to-do list, a checklist.

  • We should all write it down, put it in your phones,

  • put it in your calendar alerts, make to-do lists.

  • If you wanna remember to pick up milk at the grocery store,

  • write it down.

  • Another way to better remember this information

  • has to do with self-testing.

  • If I'm trying to consolidate something into memory,

  • and I'm only putting the information in,

  • I'm traveling one way on the neurons.

  • If I then try to recall the information,

  • I'm pulling the information out-

  • now I'm going the other way.

  • Going over those circuits in both directions

  • will help reinforce and make that memory stronger.

  • Okay, having a word stuck on the tip of your tongue

  • is a normal glitch in memory retrieval.

  • It's just a byproduct of how our brains are organized.

  • So looking up a word, Googling a word

  • that's on the tip of your tongue isn't cheating.

  • It will not cause digital amnesia.

  • It will not make your memory weaker in any way.

  • It frees you up.

  • We can Google anything that we can't remember