Brain Awareness Week: Kai class #3 Memory and Hippocampus/Cerebral Cortex
When I get asked to "remember" something often times it comes with some stress. My memory has never been something that I felt really strong about and years of traditional schooling forcing me to remember "facts" have left a distaste of "trying" to remember. Our memories are codes and maps in our brains that help us recognize who WE are, what we like, our relationships, our past and our present. Our memories are a complex action for our brains, utilizing a wide range of networks within the brain including all our senses, emotions, and higher thought. The main areas related are the hippocampus and the cerebral cortex which are basically the "inner" brain to the "outer" brain. Through movement, especially movement that resembles the cross/crawl we did as children ( ie. movements where the arms and legs cross the center line of the body) we can stimulate the complex action that memories create our brains. In Kai, we also add in the other complexities that "turn on" those areas of the brain that build networks to form dynamic ways of storing memories.
It's common to hear people say things like " it's my age" or "hormones" when they can't remember a name, or a thought. In both of these cases the thought may be the larger inhibiting factor than actual age or hormones. Having a "good memory" is often talked about as if it's something you're born with. The reality is on some level we have to "choose" to remember and the thoughts that it is "age" or something else greatly hinders the ability to remember. PLANT THE NEW THOUGHTS that will help you to pay more attention and your memory will build. When we experience something, say, like a first kiss.....we take it in with our eyes, our sense of touch, taste, or smell as well as emotions. The information is all guided thru the hippocampus to be wrapped together as a memory and then sent to frontal lobes to be processed whether it's a memory to store in long term memory or not. These various memories that begin with perceptions are then stored in various areas of our brain in the chemicals and electricity that fires up the neural networks. This is not something we are conscious of generally and much of what we experience we naturally filter out as "unimportant". Scientists are just beginning to understand this complex function and have much more to identify. However, they do know that becoming conscious and choosing to remember something is the first step to making this network stronger. In the process of this intention to remember we tap into the amazing ability of our brains to change, heal and utilize more networks, this is called plasticity.
All memories begin with the perceptions and start in the "short term" waiting area. We only can remember 7 items for 20-30 seconds. Once we've either repeated something many times or deemed something very important through our senses, it goes into long term memory. Have you ever been looking for your sun glasses only to realize after a bit they were on your head??? This can happen from not registering where you put them down....not "paying attention". It's when our minds are FULL and we are distracted that these things can happen, and really just means to slow down, breathe, and start a practice of clearing your mind. There is some truth that as we age we lose some of the neurons in the primary areas of the hippocampus for memory, however there are so many things you can do to lessen "forgetfulness" and even REVERSE it. Most people have healthy memory activity well into their 70's and beyond. Do you know the #1 thing for this????? Movement and Exercise.....and I might add here that in Kai we activate memory networks through the cross center line movements, the patterns and steps that are built up and repeated, social interaction, the music that is chosen from different genres, emotional expression and the senses provide mindfulness as well as imagery. All this contribute to a healthy "fired" up brain!