Sunday, June 19, 2011

Turning memories on and off

I read an article in the paper last week about a new discovery scientists have made about how memory works.  They were working with rats to determine how the hippocampus is involved in the development of long-term memory from short-term memory.  As part of the process, they used certain drugs to block the impulses from one section to another and found that they could turn on or turn off the processes involved in memory production.  It's exciting to think that this might lead to therapies to help people recover memories - those with brain injuries, Alzheimer's disease, and other conditions that impair memory.  Conversely, it could also be used to help those with traumatic memories to "turn off" those terrible memories that can incapacitate a person.

Of course, it would be nice to be able to have a "switch" that could turn on student's brains to help them remember what goes on in class.  Think how great their test scores would be!  Unfortunately, we don't have anything like that available to us at the present time.  Students have to learn methods to "turn on" their own memories by actually paying attention in class and studying for tests and to "turn off" distractors such as Facebook and TV and iPods.  Maybe someday there will be a way to flip a switch to help remember.  But for now, you'll have to depend on the "old fashioned" type of switch - the one that turns off the devices that distract you, in order to turn on your capacity to remember material more than one day at a time!