“Memory is everything. Without it we are nothing.”
The promise of brain-changing games is hard to resist.
Who doesn’t want to improve memory and thinking and have fun doing it? Especially as you grow older? That’s just what products like Lumosity, the computer-based brain training program, aim—and claim—to do. Are there certain kinds of “brain games” more effective than others? Well, Dr. Julio Martinez, Professor at Western University and Researcher at Robarts institute says that
“Any brain exercise is better than being a mental “couch potato” but the activities with the most impact are those that require you to work beyond what is easy and comfortable.”
Without our memory, we’d be prisoners of the present, unable to use the lessons of the past to change our future. From our first kiss to where we put our keys, memory represents who we are and how we learn and navigate the world.
But how does it work?
We all might have our own definition or idea what memories are and how they work. But what exactly are memories? Dr. Martinez, defines what he believes memory is
“So memories are records of our past experiences. If you take information of the past and you can bring it into the present and you can replay it in your brain theses things that happen in the past, It’s like a time machine. So you can go back in time and replay those things that happened in the past and they are not available to you anymore, thats is called memory”
On the surface, pulling up memories may seem simple but the process for forming and storing them is complex because of all the activity in your brain.Your brain is home to 86 billion neurons, which send impulses throughout your nervous system. If your brain was a computer, it could store approximately 1 million gigs of data. There’s a great deal of information to sort through whenever a memory is formed, stored, or accessed.There are several different types of memories, some of which are fleeting, and others that last a lifetime. Most experts put memory into 2 main categories
- Short term
- Long term.
Dr.Stefan Kohler, Head of the department of Psychology at the Mind and Brain institute at Western explains in simple terms what short term or what he calls working memory is
“So their is a limit and different ways to estimate that limit but it’s a relatively small amount of information that we could hold on to in the fore front of our mind”
Dr.Kohler says that the capacity of the working memory is limited to about seven items at a time plus or minus 2. But how long can we retain these seven or so items? Dr.Kohler believes there isn’t a set time and it
“Varies person to person but typically it can last anywhere from seconds to even minutes at most.”
Long-term memory is the ability to remember things for a very long time or the entire lifespan. In contrast with the working memory, this type has no capacity limitations. If we look deeper their are 3 different kinds of long term memory.
- First, Procedural memory is responsible for knowing how to do things, It does not involve conscious thought and is not declarative.
- Second, Declarative memory is responsible for storing information about the world. This includes knowledge about the meaning of words, as well as general knowledge like trivia facts.
- Lastly,Episodic memory is responsible for storing information about events that we have experienced in our lives. It involves conscious thought.
So how do we improve our memory for our everyday lives?
Well, just as we can strengthen any other muscle in our bodies, we can train our brains to remember more and learn anything faster. Playing endless games of Lumosity and watching the latest documentary marathon on the History Channel may not be enough to keep our mental skills and memory in tone.
Back in January 2016, we see that The Federal Trade Commission has barred Lumosity from
“making any representation, expressly or by implication” that the product “improves performance in school, at work, or in athletics” or “delays or protects against age-related decline in memory or other cognitive function, including mild cognitive impairment, dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease.” The settlement also says the company cannot claim that the product “reduces cognitive impairment caused by health conditions, including Turner syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), stroke, or side effects of chemotherapy.”
Lumosity also had to settle this case for $2 million with FTC that year. If you look at Lumosity’s website today, it does not make the claims it used to make previously, on stopping age related decline of memory, improving IQ and so on. Rather, it mildly states that Lumosity users improved on
“aggregrate measure of cognition”.
CBC conducted an experiment on 54 people back in early 2015. Their brain activity was tested before and after one month of playing Lumosity and as expected the test result did not show of any improvements in their brain activity.According to research no matter how long you play the brain activity remains the same.