The Creating of The Mind & Processes of The Memory- Cognitive Memory Training
The most interesting and common-sense evidence speaking for memory is the creation of memory and its processes. Simonides approach to loci is deeply creative: It’s enough to have some basic understanding of the processes of mind structures to understand why memory works the way it does, and why Mnemonics is the ultimate solution to the problem of forgetting. The nervous system has been the creation or invention that introduced central control in, otherwise, homeostatically controlled organisms.
It was like introducing a global communist government in a conglomerate of countries and federations, i.e. cells and organs, governed by purely a free market of enzymes, free-flowing metabolites and hormones. In its introduction of communism, the memory was smarter than the other parts of humans in this sense that the communist practices were introduced not outright, but in proportion to available means. The developing nervous system, in the successive stages of the memory creation, took over an increasing control over the organism in tandem with the increasing complexity of its neural structure. The culmination of this process was the human brain. The greatest creator of our neural civilization, not only for the successful introduction of neural communism, the mind can be viewed as an incredibly smart designer which would not miss an opportunity for improvement.
Though its processes are dead slow we think sometimes and purely random, what could not be accomplished by guided progress has been accomplished by the power of neural construction that has passed since the appearance of the first living cell. The infallibility of the mind creation in the range of what can be accomplished by living matter based on DNA and proteins can be a very useful guidance in understanding neurophysiology and human psychology; including the processes of memory. Optimization of the processes involved in memory has been based on fine-tuning the regulatory properties of metabolic processing, and to a degree, electrochemical processes occurring in the synapse. It did not need the involvement of new organs, nor even cells. Therefore unlike the invention of flight, which has been worked out by the creation of the airplane more than once, optimization of memory can be compared to tuning up a radio receiver as opposed to constructing it from scratch (as in the case of developing wings and the ability to fly). It is not difficult to notice that the memory processes have been very much conserved in the course of creation. After all, famous American neuroscientist Dr Eric Kandel spent a few decades studying the primitive nervous system of a mollusk Aplysia caliphornica (just a couple of nerve cells making up the entire system). Kandel’s involvement with Aplysia did not prevent him from drawing far-reaching conclusions concerning the processes of memory in humans.
Similarly, one of the most important discoveries in the molecular research on memory in the last two decades is the involvement of the membrane protein kinase C in conditioning. It has first been spotted in a marine snail Hermissenda. In other words, creation of memory did not take long to figure out the best properties of memory, which, according to some of our neuroscientist, are as widespread in the nervous system as the citric acid cycle in the organism. In the next section, we will have a look at most properties of memory and their relationship with the mind. If indeed creation is infallible, the mind makes the best use of most memory properties. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention here that the Univ. of Texas in Houston and The Univ. of Houston have made real strides in a new transformational growth factor B that taking the protein Kinase C and just the right environment the memory traces helped by TFGB and its congealing properties will produce a closer to near perfect memory trace. If a synthetic TFGB can be produced it will be substantial in fighting Alzheimer’s and other maladies such as Parkinson, ALS and other disease we are now experiencing some which are on a rise.
Is it the Optimization in Our Minds of Forgetting or Remembering?
Let us have a more detailed look why, according to our mind, memory and forgetting work the way that makes living possible. To think about the brain like a computer is a very useful metaphor. Everyone who has some basic understanding of computation will know that no computer can solve problems without memory. Memory is needed to keep the record of the computation; however, it can also be used to keep a modifiable program. After all the power of computers rests in their programmability. Human beings, more or less consciously, program their brains using the so-called long-term memory, i.e. memory which lasts for months and years. However, they can also use short-term memory, different in its physiological nature, to keep the record of the computation, or thinking, which leads to the solution, response, reflex, etc. Short- term memory, apart from its short-term functions, also serves as the framework for establishing long-term memories.
One of the first questions the user of a PC asks is how much RAM does a computer have? The same question was asked by the mind in reference to the brain. Human RAM is enormous in its capacity. Some researchers estimate its size at mid-point of life to be the equivalent of 10 to the power of 9. However, memory is unlimited, and a living organism can attempt storing all incoming information. In a computer a very substantial selection has to be made if the storage capacity is not to overflow in a life-time. Our brains or minds do not have such a limitation. It appears that the solution is forgetting. Let the brain filter the incoming messages and store as much as it is only possible in the long-term memory. Then let forgetting do the rest of the job by eliminating pieces of information in the order of least relevance.
An important question that had to be answered by the mind was in what order should pieces of information be forgotten so that to maximize the survival or knowledge acquisition rate. It is obvious, at least for those who understand the concept of probability in an incompletely specified event space, that encountering an average event increases the probability of the same event being encountered again. For example, if you do not know Mr. X and you meet him on the street today, the probability that you meet him again tomorrow must be considered greater than from before the first meeting. Naturally, if you meet him again, you have yet more reasons to believe in more meetings in the future. In other words, successive repetitions should have an increasing stimulatory effect on memory. Unfortunately, mind proceeded mostly in the absence of volitional aspects of the human brain; hence, we do not have the capability to forget at will. We cannot decide to free memory by forgetting Mr. X on hearing the news that he has died or moved away to the North Slope in Alaska.
Is it helpful to have a “Spacing effect” or spaced learning?
The little problem remains of how the brain can prevent events that are not likely to be encountered in the future from being permanently transferred to memory as a result of a great number of repetitions? The answer was found in applying the so-called spacing effect, which says that the longer the interval between repetitions, the better the memory effect. This way a large number of repetitions in short intervals have very little impact on memory. Simply speaking, memory uses the spacing effect and the principle of increasing intervals to most effectively fix relevant information in the brain. I should also say here that the putamen also has the same concept for procedural memory or memory in muscles etc. Upon encountering an event it is temporarily transferred to long-term memory and forgotten in the matter of days. However, if the event is reencountered, the memory assumes increased probability of the event in the future and increases the retention period. Initially, in the retention period, memory is not sensitive to more encounters of the same event. Only at later stages does memory become sensitive again and a new encounter will act as a repetition that will increase the retention period and make memory temporarily insensitive to further encounters.
If anybody doubts the importance of the spacing effect, think of how the mind must consider the following example: Could the reader provide the name of the infamous lady that alleged having slept with the majority of Polish parliamentarians? If the reaction is: Sure, yes, wait a second, I am sure I remember it but… aha! Then this can be taken as an example of spacing effect. Despite the fact that the lady did dominate Polish political life for a short period of time, many of us might find it hard to recall her name. The reason is simple; hundreds of repetitions concerning the name of the lady were cramped in a very short period of time. Because of the spacing effect, memory reacted to the phenomenon more like to a single repetition rather than a volley of memory stimulations. The biological value of such a property of the brain may be explained by the fact that events occurring densely in a short period of time may be unworthy of the precious memory storage. Otherwise, a great number of repetitions in a week could leave a useless memory trace for lifetime. Do we really need to remember the name of the promiscuous lady? We don’t… unless we are members of Polish parliament at breeding age, naturally.
Using again the computer metaphor, the problem of choosing the least relevant pieces of knowledge in the process of forgetting is analogous to the problem of paging in virtual memory. In paging, the question is which memory blocks should be discarded to maximize the probability that the next memory reference will concern a block that is already placed in memory. Unlike in operating systems, the LRU (Least Recently Used) would not work fine for human memory. If LRU were used, first to forget then it would become like the rusty primitives mastered in the primary school. It would be enough to use a calculator for a few months to have all the multiplication table discarded in priority behind the morning breakfast. The grandmother that has passed away a decade ago would serve as another early victim. Definitely, LRU would deprive the brain of flexibility and us… of humanity.
Human Memory Correlated To Computer Memory in Operating Systems.
The question arises immediately: If the mechanical optimization of the memory storage could be as efficient as in the case of humans, why don’t developers of operating systems assign memory attributes to blocks of memory, and use increasing-intervals combined with the spacing effect in developing, say, the next version of Windows or apples operating system. The key to the answer is in one major difference between the brain and the operating system of a computer: memory blocks can be reloaded from the disk in a wink which is not true with forgotten memories. You will not see a student at an exam say to the examiner: Wait a second, I have just forgotten it, and must reload it from my slow external storage. Obviously, a crutch, or any kind of external reference or cheat sheet can serve as a smart crutch for those who do not wish to burden their mind with the effort of remembering. Sadly, in the dog-eat-dog pace of our civilization, the LRU approach becomes more and more often applied in humans. Crutches help systems and encyclopedias play a greater role than the memory training. The poor record of American graduates in verbal, analytical and logical tests as compared with Chinese, Koreans, or even students coming from Eastern Europe is a sad side effect of a dynamic capitalist economy promoting the shallow LRU education and a race to early accomplishment at any price. Does this LRU trend bode ill for mind? No, individuals and governments have long realized the importance of education targeted at areas of lifelong applicability to a modern man.
The pressure of the urgent is considered a negative factor not only in education. Even in business! Get into the office of a modern businessman, arguably the primary candidate for stress-related heart disorders (consequence of LRU thinking and prioritizing), and increasingly often you will find in broad display famous tools targeted on fighting urgency. To ground the belief in the new trends even deeper, it is worth noticing that businesspeople are indeed one of the major customer groups of mind and memory creation world. Or what I like to call the empowering of mental efficiency through Mnemonic tool training, or Cognitive Memory Training.
Recall Ability and Stability of Memory.
The expert memory trainers arrived at the point where the creation of mind interpretation of memory indicates that it works using the principles of increasing intervals or what they have coined priming and rapid cognition and the spacing effect. Is there any proof for this model of memory apart from the memory construction speculation? In MTI’s construction model of memory discussed widely in public memory training workshop, or in-house programs, molecular aspects of memory is presented in the process of learning. The novel element presented in this thesis or theory is the distinction between the stability and recall ability of memory traces. This could not be used to support the validity of creation of mind because of the simple fact that it was the mind itself that laid the groundwork for the hypothesis. However, an increasing molecular evidence seems to coincide with the stability-recall ability model providing, at the same time, support for the correctness of assumptions leading to mind creation. In plain terms, recall ability is a property of memory which determines the level of efficiency with which synapses can fire in response to the stimulus, and thus elicit the learned action. The lower the recall ability the less you are likely to recall the correct response to a question. On the other hand, stability reflects the history of earlier repetitions or visual bonding to the mental file folder, and determines the extent of time in which memory traces can be sustained. The higher the stability of memory, the longer it will take for the recall ability to drop to the zero level, i.e. to the level where memories are permanently lost.
According to research, when we learn something for the first time we experience a slight increase in the stability and recall ability in synapses involved in coding the particular stimulus-response memory construction. In time, recall ability declines rapidly; the phenomenon equivalent to forgetting. At the same time, the stability of memory remains at the approximately same level. However, if we repeat the visual construction before recall ability drops to zero, recall ability regains its initial value, while stability increases to a new level, substantially higher than at primary or initial learning. Before the next repetition takes place, due to increased stability, recall ability decreases at a slower pace, and the inter-repetition interval might be much longer before forgetting takes place. Two other important properties of memory should also be noted: (1) repetitions have no power to increase the stability at times when recall ability is high (spacing effect), (2) upon forgetting, stability declines rapidly.
The proven molecular basis of memory, as mentioned earlier, the molecular processes thought of underlying the memory have not been used as the basis to develop the mind. Though the cross-inspiration was mutual, it is rather the recall ability-stability model which is likely to contribute more to understanding the molecular aspect of memory than vice versa. The correlates between the model and the findings on molecular memory might not be striking at first. After all, most of research on memory consistently focuses on the concept of the recall ability of a synaptic connection. The concept of mental file folder stability is absolutely new and no mention of similar phenomena can be found in widely published research that I have read. However, both short-term memory, as well as the components of long-term memory: recall ability and mental file folder stability, fit nicely into the presently investigated or researched models of memory and learning.
The Internal Mind As We Know It.
We have already seen that creation, in memory findings in the field of psychology coincide with the method and that facts of molecular biology and memory construction seem to go hand in hand. Here is the time to see how the described processes have been put to work in the program itself. In the course of repetitions, our scenario plots the forgetting curve for the student and schedules the repetition at the moment where the retention, i.e. proportion of remembered knowledge, drops to a previously defined level. The mnemonic trainers strongly believe that accountability or discipline in hippocampus driven construction that we personally activate through intention learning will render a stronger encoding-storage and retrieval process or cycle. In other words, our mind if disciplined during our learning with follow up checks on how much we remember. In other words if after a week and if you remember less than desired you must ask our interpreter as Dr. Michael Gazziniga calls it to make repetitions in intervals less than one week long. Otherwise, it checks the retention after a longer period and we discipline our mind through increases in the intervals accordingly.
A little kink to this simple picture comes from the fact that items of different difficulty have to be repeated at different intervals, and that the intervals increase as the learning process proceeds. Moreover, the optimum inter-repetition intervals or what I call priming have to be known for an average individual, and these must be used before our mind to knowledge acquisition cycle can collect data about the real student. There must be obviously the whole mathematical apparatus involved to put the whole encode, store and retrieve process to work. All in all, it seems that there has been at least duration in days in our life when we had an impression that the learning cycles used by our created mind have significantly been upgraded. Each of the cases seemed to be a major breakthrough.
The whole development process was just a long succession of trials and errors, testing, improving, implementing new ideas, etc. Unfortunately, those good days are over. There have not been any breakthrough improvements to the role of rote memorization theory for some time in these expert memory trainers’ opinions. Some comfort may come from the fact that since mnemonics started developing rapidly providing the memory specialist with new options and solutions our mind can then be yet better, faster, and more effective! I am defiantly super optimistic. Any further fine-tuning of mnemonic creation or neural networks development would be drowning in the noise of resistance to change. After all, we do not learn in isolation from the world.
When our educational system program schedules the next repetition in 365 days, and the fact is recalled by chance at an earlier time, our mind has no way of knowing about the accidental recollection and will execute the repetition at the previously planned moment. This is not optimal, but it cannot be remedied by improving the recapitulation rote process. Simply because cortisol a stress hormone produced by our adrenal gland is active in rote memorization where in picturizeing your way through learning cortisol isn’t produced or activated within the FPG mental file folder system. Improving our mind now is like fine tuning a radio receiver in a noisy car or assembly hall. The guys at the helm of our slowly creeping ship are now less focused on science. In their view, after the scientific invention, the time has come for the social invention of life. So in comes social media and more information overload.
The Theory and practice of Mind and Memory.
Using a simple mathematical model, according to our educational powers to be show, one can easily predict how the learning process will look in the long term perspective without what I call rapid cognition. One of the most striking observations is, that apart from the initial period, the speed of learning does not decrease substantially in time (one would rather expect a rapid decline of the knowledge acquisition rate because of the accumulation of outstanding repetitions). Another interesting fact is that even with rote memorization; one is not likely to master more than several hundred facts and figures corresponding to mnemonic visually bonded items in a lifetime. The average learning speed of an average student amounts to about 300 items/year/min if you believe educational statistics.(i.e. the student can memorize 300 items per year if he or she works one minute per day). This theoretically predicted speed of learning has been confirmed more than once in structured small groups of subjects. A researched model of learning shows that a student who stops repetitions after a 5-year-long work with rote memorization is likely to forget 60% of the learned material in the first year after the cessation! [This figure has later been proven exaggerated] Though for shorter periods of time, this staggering figure has been confirmed in practice. At this point one might be disappointed with the volatility of knowledge gained by rote learning, but the above figures also confirm once again that learning without understanding is no learning at all. We remember what we understand, we understand only what we pay attention to, and we pay attention to what we need, like or want. A mental file folder makes us focus! Therein lies the problem, lack of focus.
Rote Learning-It Might Work to Some Extent but It Cannot Be That Good.
If one is convinced of the validity that has been said about rote memorization until now, will he or she be already convinced that the program is a perfect cure for the ailing memory? Can it really capitalize on the properties of the nervous system and let learning proceed a dozen times faster than in standard circumstances? After all there have been generations of students trying to figure out better methods of learning, (one being my brother-in-law the physician) and a breakthrough comparable with what mnemonics claims to be seems highly unlikely even to quite an open-minded observer. Two doctors that are married both said formal mnemonic training was lacking in medical school and they were forced to create their own mnemonic systems personally. We tend to discount the low-probability argument as the viable source of skepticism, and it truly says that he has more than once traced down evidence that mnemonics-like approaches to learning have already been tried before with lesser or greater degree of success. Moreover, it is worth noticing that rote memorization might not see the light were it not implemented as a rule which can easily be transferred between individuals. In other words, it could have fallen into oblivion as the previous attempts to put order in the process of learning. One must remember that the very essence of repetition has been around unsuccessfully or with minimal success for the whole time. Another turning- point to be kept in view is that rote memorization throughout the World would not have been formed in the international sector like Asia and India were it not for the inspiring meeting of minds between the aggressive few from the University. All this shows that despite the fact that the principles of mnemonics are extremely simple and might have been invented several dozen times independently in several dozen countries on the planet; it is not just a run-of-the-mill learning process. The distinctive merit of Memory Training companies is to put the idea into practice, invest a great deal of man-hours in development of cognitive memory training programs and focus on marketing the idea to the potential customer. Otherwise, Empowerment through Mnemonics would have for ever remained limited to the small circle of its early enthusiasts.
How was Mnemonic Memory Training and Cognitive Memory Training developed?
Perhaps, while in the context of fulfilled-vs.-unfulfilled inventions, it is interesting to take a short look at the entire story of memory training, from its very beginning. It was 1990, when a 39 year-old student of memory training, became quite frustrated with his inability to retain newly learned knowledge in his brain after having lacked success in passing the Insurance license exam twice. The study of the brain and its parts or roles evolved. This referred to the vast material of biochemistry, physiology, psychology and neuroscience, which one should master wishing to embark on a successful career in Cognitive Memory Training. One of the major incentives to tackle the problem of forgetting in a more systematic way was a simple observation made from a Southern Baptist Preacher named Roger McDonald, a close and very dear friend of that individual 30 plus years. This gentleman in all sense presented that by continuing his work on mastering English using his standard learning by doing methods, he would need 120 years to acquire all the important vocabulary or justification of going back for a graduate degree.
This not only prompted the mnemonics researcher to work on methods of learning, but also, turned them into a determined advocate of the idea of one memory method experiential teaching coupled with positive psychology available for all people (bearing in mind the time and money spent by mankind on translation and learning languages). Initially, the trainer went to a workshop with facts and figures and training of my mind and mnemonics. It did not take long to discover that forgetting requires infrequent repetitions and nothing less than a systematic approach is needed to manage all the newly collected and memorized knowledge. Using an obvious intuition, the trainers’ attempted to measure the retention of knowledge after different inter-repetition intervals, and in 1995 formulated the first outline of cognitive memory training. Effectiveness of the program appeared to go far beyond what had been expected. This triggered an exciting desire to learn everything they could about memory construction and the ability of the mind/brain learning processes. A dozen of workshop attendees, at their workshops took on the role of guinea pigs and memorized thousands of items providing a constant flow of data and critical feedback. This assisted the memory experts a great deal of knowledge on coupling positive psychology with experiential training and was helpful in formulating the model of memory formation using mnemonic devices. Even though some that were used throughout similar techniques throughout history and modeled the phenomena occurring in the synapse they were determined to shorten the learning curve and at the same time improve comprehension and retention values. The many workshops that were conducted over the past 21 years contributed to the analysis of evolutionary aspects of optimization of memory by mental file folders and vivid visualization. Learning difficulties and inefficient retention problems made the experts relate to the model of intermittent learning and simulation of ionic currents during the transmission of action potential in nerve cells. A dozen different workshops showed that the expert memory trainers must use these experiential methods in one cohesive theory that would encompass molecular, behavioral, psychological, and even societal bias and norms in aspects of the training. The training experts have never claimed to have discovered the neuro-plasticity phenomena of the brain. They do take credit for implementation or use or applicability to uncover at least several important and probably never published or frequently used properties or ability of the mind and memory. Their intentions are to validate these theories in the academic arena in psychology with emphasis in neuroscience sometime in the near future. The expert mnemonics trainers have done so somewhat just in the increased ability of those having attended the 7-hr. Cognitive Memory Training workshop in the last 21 years they have delivered.
When trainers were asked when working with different people on understanding the likes of recall and stability learning as the optimum repetition spacing, etc. or mental file folder process has been proven yet. Memory experts use to simply say It has been confirmed by other researchers in the field of memory and learning to some extent. Why hasn’t it been validated by publishing the theory in a respectable journal? Great deals of skepticism have been generated by the regularity of the findings or the increase ability of those having learned the methods. The results of the methods or collected data looks too good or sounds to good to be true; with reality probably being more like they were grounded in the rule of rote memorization and recapitulation techniques. All in all, memory instructors’ felt like one can either trust the instruction, or continue to wait months or years before its true scientific recognition or validation came about.
Over the past 5-10 years studies have shown the ability of the mind using learning tools like mnemonics and successfully proven the ability of one to improve their fluid intelligence by training their working memory. In the meantime, the research and marketing teams in memory instruction are beaming with optimism: because it’s enough to ask users of cognitive memory training by mnemonics, thousands of them in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma alone, how the method fares in their educational pursuits. The general results of opinion or answers to the question are more than enthusiastic. Cognitive memory training simply works and memory trainers do not need to prove it to their customers they experience it.
Taking this rosy picture into heart, one might wonder why this isn’t being taught in schools yet and why millions of copies aren’t sold worldwide. It’s always answered with the following: It’s taken 21 years to turn necessity into invention, give the cognitive memory researchers and MTI half that time, and they will turn this invention into an educational necessity!