Monday, 16 April 2012


Amar Limbu (Immortal)

  I    wonder why some birds can remember months later the places where they stored seeds for the winter and squirrels can remember the locations where they buried nuts, but we(human beings) may easily forget where we left our keys an hour ago? Our answer is always straightforward: Many of us complain of a faulty memory. Yet, the human brain, though imperfect, has an amazing capacity to learn and remember. The secret is to make the most of what we have.
       The human brain weighs about 1.4 kilogram and is roughly the size of a grape fruit, yet it contains some 100 billion neurons, or nerve cells, al of which form an incredibly complex network. Indeed, just one neuron may be connected to 100,000 others. This wiring gives the brain the potential to process and retain a vast amount of information. The challenge, of course, is for a person to recall the information when it is needed. Some excel at this, including many with little if any secular schooling.
           For instance, in West Africa, non-literate tribal chronicles called griots can recite the name of many generations of people in their villages. Griots helped US author Alex Haley, whose book Roots bagged a Pulitzer Prize, to investigate his family tree in Gambia back through six generations. There are a good many people across the globe have poor eyesight. In spite of this, they are able to carry out several tasks from memory.
         Such feats may astonish us. Yet most people have the potential to remember much more than they think, and retrieval. Your brain encodes information when it perceives it and registers it. This information can then be stored for future retrieval. Memory failure occurs when any of these three stages break down. Furthermore, memory itself has been split into various kinds, including sensory memory, short term memory, and long term memory. Sensory memory receives information form stimuli through the senses, such as smell, sight, and touch. Short term memory, also called working memory, holds small amounts of information for brief periods. Thus, we can add up number in our head, remember a telephone number the first half of a sentence whilst reading a memory listening to the second half. But as we all know, short term memory has its limits.
      If you want to store information indefinitely, it must go into your long-term memory. How can you put it there? Cultivate an interest in the subject, and remind yourself of the reason for learning it. As your own experience in life may tell you, when your emotions are involved, you enhance your memory.
          Most memory failures actually represent failures in attention. Be interested and, where possible, take notes. Note-taking not only focuses on the mind but also enables a listener to review the material later. When you do not understand a teaching or concept, likely you will not remember it well, if at all. Understanding illuminates the relationship between the parts, knitting them together to form a biological whole. Categorize similar concepts or related ideas. Divide the information into manageable chunks of not more than five to seven items.
          Repeating aloud what you want to remember (a foreign language word or phrase, for example) will strengthen the neural connections. Make a mental picture of what you wish to remember. The more senses you use, the deeper the information is embedded. When learning something new, associate it with something you already know. Linking thoughts to memories already shared makes encoding and retrieving easier, with association serving as a clue. Allow time for the information to be processed, to soak in, as it were. One of the best ways to do this is to review what you have learned. An effective mnemonic for remembering lists of words is the acronym--combining the initial letters or letters of a group of words to form a new word. Therefore, many of Nepalese can remember the name of the four famous mountains--Laangtang, Annapurna, Makalu and Everest-by the acronym "LAME".
             The following additional tips will be beneficial to you.
- Stimulate your memory by learning new skills, a new language or a musical instrument.
- Focus on mnemonic techniques.
- Drink plenty of water, Dehydration can cause mental confusion.
- Get enough sleep. During sleep the brain stores memories.
- Relax whilst you are studying, stress triggers the release of cortisol which can disrupt nerve interactions.
- Avoid alcohol abuse and smoking. Alcohol interferes with short-term memory, and alcoholism can lead to a deficiency or working of the memory. Smoking reduces oxygen to the brain.

This article was published in The Rising Nepal on April 13, 2012. Your comments on this writing will be heartily welcome anytime.