Does your memory have a limit?
Unlike digital cameras, which cannot save more pictures when the memory card is full, the recording capacity of the human brain does not seem to decrease at all. But the human brain’s ability to save without limits is difficult to perceive.
Neurologists have long tried to measure the capacity of the brain. But the cognitive abilities of people who have accomplished incredible things with their memory offer surprising results.
Most of us have trouble memorizing even a phone number, only to remember a number with thousands of digits. But 24-year-old Chinese university student Chao Lu broke the world record in 2005 by memorizing the number 67,980 of the number pi.
Some geniuses are able to memorize everything from names, dates, to the tiniest of detailed and complex visual information. Rarely, it can happen that healthy people become like this after an accident. 10-year-old Orlando Serrell began to memorize countless license plates, telling what day a decades-old date corresponds to, after he was hit on the left side of the head with a baseball bat.
Training the brain
Our memory capacity depends on the physiological structure of the brain. The brain consists of 100 billion nerve cells (neurons). Of these, only a billion play a role in long-term memory; These are called pyramidal cells.
Assuming that a neuron corresponds to a unit of memory, our brain would have to be completely filled. Psychology professor Paul Reber states that memory is not as large as the number of neurons and will fill up immediately.
For this reason, researchers believe that memory occurs in connections between neurons. Network-like connections from each neuron reach thousands of other nerve cells.
Reber points out that this way, the memory capacity is greatly increased, opening up “tons of space”.
So the brains of people with extraordinary memory capacities are also extraordinary? No. People like Lu who memorize the number Pi state that they are normal, training their brains to remember only selected information.
US Memory Champion Nelson Dellis says he had a very bad memory before he tended to the issue, but through practice the situation has changed. “After a few weeks of training, you start doing something that would seem impossible to the normal person. However, we all have this ability,” he says.
When Dellis started her brain training years ago, it took every 20 minutes to memorize the order of a deck of playing cards. Today, it does the job in 30 seconds. But for this, he does memory exercises for five hours a day.
One of the tried and tested methods Dellis uses is to build a “memory palace”. For this, he envisions a structure he knows very well. He thinks of the things he wants to remember as images and arranges them on the table next to the door of his dreams. Then he moves to the kitchen table, etc. “You enter that structure in your imagination and express the images you leave there as things you memorized,” he says.
Pi number memorizers also use similar methods, such as a “memory palace” or turning a string of numbers into a sentence of the story.
The widespread success of these memory strategies fosters the idea that anyone can do it if they put their minds to it. But can this be done without spending so much time on brain training? That’s what Allen Snyder of the University of Sydney is aiming for. He says that with the right technology, it is possible to bring out the “knowledge within”.
According to Snyder, the human brain is driven not by trivial details, but by connected thinking. “We are aware of the whole, not the parts that make up the whole,” he says.
For example, in one experiment, he asked subjects to memorize a shopping list of auto parts, and although he never mentioned the word automobile to them, they all mentioned the word “auto” to him. “They put the parts together and made the whole,” Snyder explains.
In other words, many of the data that our senses transmit to the brain do not actually come into consciousness. But in gifted people this higher level of connected thinking does not come into play; so they remember countless details. For example, remember individual lamps, wipers, windshield, etc. while remembering the shopping list. they remember; Based on these, they do not immediately cling to the automobile connection.
Data download speed
Starting from the example of Serrel, who was transformed by the blow of a stick on the left side of his head, Snyder tried to find out which part of the brain functions in remembering countless information in this way. The anterior temporal lobe above the left ear was a candidate. In autism and giftedness syndrome, dementia patients with subsequent artistic skills had dysfunction of this region.
Snyder notes that when subjects temporarily inhibited neural activity in this region of their brains, their ability to draw, count, and find mistakes increased. While some researchers are skeptical of these data, interest in stimulating the brain is growing. Reber of Northwestern University makes this analogy to the brain: “The limit of human memory is in the speed of downloading data, not the capacity of the computer’s hard drive. The problem is not the stuffing of the brain; The reason is that the speed of information coming to it is much higher than the speed of storage of the memory system.”