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Scientists Reveal The Secret To Create Long-Lasting Memories

Scientists Reveal The Secret To Create Long-Lasting Memories

Have you ever struggled with a missing memory you’d like to recall but can’t seem to–the title of a book or name of an actor, for example?

Memory lapses can be scary and frustrating. However, long-term memories (the ongoing storage of conscious and unconscious information for a few days or for many years), naturally fade as we get older. This is completely normal. In fact, if you could count memories (which you can’t, by the way), you’d discover that more than half of what we experience is inaccessible to memory within a single hour. That’s because memories often start decaying as soon as they have begun to form.

Important information gradually moves from short-term memory (which has a fairly limited capacity; it can hold only about seven items for no more than 20 or 30 seconds at a time) into the relatively larger capacity long-term memory. Unfortunately, we also lose the information in long-term memory over time as we age.

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However, just because memory loss is a natural occurrence that becomes more pronounced as we grow older doesn’t mean we can’t do anything to slow it down and expand our long-term memory. In fact, improving our long-term memory is simpler than you might think.

How you can create durable memories

According to a recent study from the University of Sussex in the U.K., rehearsing information immediately after being given it may be all you need to make it a permanent memory.

The study found that the brain region known as the posterior cingulate–an area whose damage is often seen in Alzheimer’s patients–plays a pivotal role in creating permanent memories. This region not only helps us to recall the details of an event, but also helps integrate the memory into our knowledge and understanding, thereby making details of the event more resistant to forgetting.

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The study involved a group of participants who were shown 26 short videos clips from YouTube. The clips were around 40 seconds long with a narrative element. For the first 20 videos, the participants were given 40 seconds after each video to relate (either in their heads or out loud) details of the video. For the remaining six videos, this rehearsal period was not given.

The researchers found that the participants were still able to recall many details of the videos they had rehearsed up to two weeks later. However, the participants had largely forgotten the non-rehearsed videos two weeks later. MRI scans revealed that the same area of the brain–the posterior cingulate–was most associated or linked with the benefits of rehearsal.

The researchers could even predict how well the videos were remembered a whole week later based on the degree to which brain activity matched when watching and rehearsing the videos.

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“We know that recent memories are susceptible to being lost until a period of consolidation has elapsed. In this study we have shown that a brief period of rehearsal has a huge effect on our ability to remember complex, lifelike events over periods of 1-2 weeks,” said Dr Chris Bird, the lead researcher of the University of Sussex study.

What this scientific revelation means

“The findings have implications for any situation where accurate recall of an event is critical, such as witnessing an accident or crime. Memory for the event will be significantly improved if the witness rehearses the sequence of events as soon as possible afterwards,” said Dr. Bird, whose research group is conducting further studies to investigate how these processes relate to memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease.

This particular study, published on October 27th in the Journal of Neuroscience, appears to reinforce what German cognitive psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus discovered in the 19th century. Ebbinghaus discovered that memories grow continuously weaker, but that the rate of “decay” lessens each time you review the information.

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Ebbinghaus’s “forgetting curve” explains why we so often remember nothing shortly after cramming intensely for an exam. It’s because all the learning takes place in a week or so and, if not subsequently reviewed, it begins to be forgotten after only a month. However, if reviewed, memory gets stronger and stronger. This discovery has become one of the few certainties of neuroscience.

So, review or rehearse memories after a few seconds, then after a few minutes, then an hour, a few hours, a day, a week, a month, a year, two years, five years and so on. This is known as spaced repetition, and is very effective for improving long-term memory and enhancing learning. It can keep your most precious memories intact and available for as long as possible.

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Last Updated on June 21, 2018

Science Says Screaming Is Good For You

Science Says Screaming Is Good For You

There are many reasons why people might scream – they’re angry, scared, or in pain (or maybe they’re in a metal band!). Some might say that screaming is bad, but here’s why science says it’s good for you.

“For the first time in the history of psychology there is a way to access feelings, hidden away, in a safe way and thus to reduce human suffering. It is, in essence, the first science of psychotherapy.” — Dr. Arthur Janov

Primal Therapy

Dr. Arthur Janov invented Primal Therapy in the late 1960’s. It is a practice that allows the patient to face their repressed emotions from past trauma head on and let those emotions go. This treatment is intended to cure any mental illness the patient may have that surfaced from this past trauma. In most cases, Primal Therapy has lead Dr. Janov’s patients to scream towards the end of their session, though it was not part of the original procedure. During a group therapy session that was at a standstill, Dr. Janov says that one of his patients, a student he called Danny, told a story that inspired him to implement a technique that he never would have thought of on his own.

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How it Started

“During a lull in our group therapy session, he told us a story about a man named Ortiz who was currently doing an act on the London stage in which he paraded around in diapers drinking bottles of milk. Throughout his number, Ortiz is shouting, ‘Mommy! Daddy! Mommy! Daddy!’ at the top of his lungs. At the end of his act he vomits. Plastic bags are passed out, and the audience is requested to follow suit.”

It doesn’t end there, though. Dr. Janov said that his patient was quite fascinated with that story, and that alone moved him to suggest something even he believed to be a little elementary.

“I asked him to call out, ‘Mommy! Daddy!’ Danny refused, saying that he couldn’t see the sense in such a childish act, and frankly, neither could I. But I persisted, and finally, he gave in. As he began, he became noticeably upset. Suddenly he was writhing on the floor in agony. His breathing was rapid, spasmodic. ‘Mommy! Daddy!’ came out of his mouth almost involuntarily in loud screeches. He appeared to be in a coma or hypnotic state. The writhing gave way to small convulsions, and finally, he released a piercing, deathlike scream that rattled the walls of my office. The entire episode lasted only a few minutes, and neither Danny nor I had any idea what had happened. All he could say afterward was: ‘I made it! I don’t know what, but I can feel.’”

Delving deeper

Dr. Janov says he was baffled for months, but then he decided to experiment with another patient with the same method, which lead to a similar result as before. The patient started out calling “Mommy! Daddy!” then experienced convulsions, heavy breathing, and then eventually screamed. After the session, Dr. Janov says his patient was transformed and became “virtually another human being. He became alert… he seemed to understand himself.”

Although the initial intention of this particular practice wasn’t to get the patient to scream, more than once did his Primal Therapy sessions end with the patient screaming and feeling lighter, revived, and relieved of stresses that were holding them down in life.

Some Methods To Practice Screaming

If you want to try it out for yourself, keep reading!

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  • Step 1: Be Alone — Be alone. If you live in a place that you can’t be alone, it might be a good idea to talk to your family or roommates and explain to them what you’re about to do and make sure they’re okay with it. If you’re good to go, move on to step 2.
  • Step 2: Lie Down — Lie down on a yoga mat on your back and place a pillow underneath your head. If you don’t own a yoga mat, you can use a rug or even a soft blanket.
  • Step 3: Think — Think of things that have hurt you or made you angry. It can be anything from your childhood or even something that happened recently to make yourself cry, if you’re not already crying or upset. You could even scream “Mommy! Daddy!” just like Dr. Janov’s patients did to get yourself started.
  • Step 4: Scream — Don’t hold anything back; cry and scream as loud as you can. You can also pound your fists on the ground, or just lie there and scream at the top of your lungs.

After this, you should return your breathing to a normal and steady pace. You should feel lighter, like a weight has been lifted off of you. If not, you can also try these other methods.

Scream Sing

Scream singing” is referring to what a lot of lead singers in metal or screamo bands will do. I’ve tried it and although I wasn’t very good at it, it was fun and definitely relieved me of any stress I was feeling from before. It usually ends up sounding like a really loud grunt, but nonetheless, it’s considered screaming.

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  • Step 1 — Bear down and make a grunting sound.
  • Step 2 — Hiss like a snake and make sure to do this from your diaphragm (your stomach) for as long as you can.
  • Step 3 — Breathe and push your stomach out for more air when you are belting notes, kind of like you would if you were singing.
  • Step 4 — Try different ways to let out air to control how long the note will last, just make sure not to let out too much air.
  • Step 5 — Distort your voice by pushing air out from your throat, just be careful not to strain yourself.
  • Step 6 — Play around with the pitch of your screams and how wide your mouth is open – the wider your mouth is open, the higher the screams will sound. The narrower or rounder your mouth is (and most likely shaped like an “o”), the lower the screams will sound.
  • Step 7 — Start screaming to metal music. If you’re not a huge metal fan, it’s okay. You don’t have to use this method if you don’t want to.

If you want a more thorough walkthrough of how to scream sing, here’s a good video tutorial. If this method is too strenuous on your vocal chords, stop. Also, make sure to stay hydrated when scream singing and drink lots of water.

Scream into a pillow

Grab a pillow and scream into it. This method is probably the fastest and easiest way to practice screaming. Just make sure to come up for air.

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Always remember to make sure that you’re not going to disturb anyone while practicing any of these methods of screaming. And with that, happy screaming!

Featured photo credit: Sharon Mollerus via flickr.com

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