Watch John Medina talk about how memory works
How does memory work? To begin with, we have to destroy the premise behind the question. We don't just have a memory system - like a computer has a hard-drive. We have various memory systems, each in charge of different types of learning. And they work in a semi-independent way from each other.
Though we've spent a long time looking, we don't actually know much about how these individual systems work. We know even less about how they are integrated.
Let me give you one striking example of how separate the systems are. James McGaugh has worked with a woman for a long period of time called A.J.
A.J. doesn't impress you with dramatic memory abilities when you first meet her. She is a C student. She doesn't have any flashbulb tendencies. Her declarative memory systems - the ability to remember things you can declare, like "Lincoln was the 16th president" appears to be pretty average. If all you looked at were her declarative systems, you wouldn't want to study her at all.
The problem is, AJ has more than just one memory system.
A.J.'s has a memory system that is anything but average.
She has very powerful what we call semantic autobiographical memory. She can remember anything she has ever done, what she has worn for dinner 15 years ago, what flowers she cut and put on the table, and so. Jim has studied her for years and can confirm that she remembers anything of a semantic autobiographical nature. In fact, she is eidetic in this category, photographic, flashbulb like.
Now here we have a conundrum. How come she can't apply that same talent to her schoolwork? The reason is simple. She has two memory systems that work in a semi-independent fashion. She has a great memory for personal experience, She has a poor memory for facts.
You see, memory isn't simple. So when you ask me "how does memory work?" my first response must be "Pray, about what memory system are you talking?"
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Watch the performance envelope video
Though we really don't know very much about how the brain processes information - we have yet to be able to determine why you know your name - to give just one flagrant example - we are not clueless about how the brain works.
Those are the conditions under which our brain thrives. We have not escaped the blast radius of our evolutionary predilections forged over millions of years simply because we have - for the last few thousand - been able to live in sedentary cities.
Get the updated and expanded edition of John Medina's NYT bestseller Brain Rules. Learn more at www.brainrules.net
Why we should all take a nap in the afternoon
Watch the video
It turns out we need a nap during the afternoon. And historically, it seems we've always needed one. There is the Spanish concept of siesta. Italians call it riposo. If you go to China, you are likely many businesses shut down between 11:30 - 2:00 pm. They take a combination lunch and siesta before going back to work. Americans used to call it a power nap, but the research world calls this a nap zone.
The research world calls this the nap zone. Other benefits have been found, mostly related to changes in memory performance. Both declarative and procedural memory tasks improve if you take a regular nap. One paper has the delightful title - and remember, this is a research paper "Good sleep, bad sleep! The role of daytime naps in healthy adults.
I have personal experience with this, and I bet you do too. When I don't take a nap in the mid-afternoon, I typically fight being drowsy from about 1:30 on. If I do take a nap in the mid-afternoon, just a small one, I suddenly get a burst of energy and an alertness that allows me to be productive the entire day. I am pleased to say this anecdotal information has strong empirical support.
Get the updated and expanded edition of John Medina's NYT bestseller Brain Rules
Brain Rules for Baby has grown! The book now features a chapter on the science of sleep -- the No. 1 question parents ask Dr. Medina.
sleepy baby - new chapter
"How do I get my baby to sleep through the night?"
John Medina introduces the new sleep chapter: video
A note from John MedinaI was hesitant, I admit, about adding a sleep chapter to Brain Rules for Baby. The science about getting your child to go to sleep is fairly wobbly.
But you keep asking me about it. Whenever I lecture, whenever you write me, the question “How do I get my child to go to sleep?” keeps reappearing like a public-television fund-raiser.
I do understand your need for junior to get regular sleep. I know one couple who decided not to have any more children because of the toll their first-born’s sleep habits took on their marriage. The issue can’t get much more important than that.
So I get it. Here is your chapter.
Besides, the professor in me can’t help but want to show you how weak-kneed science can be when it’s yoked to real-world problems. Infant sleep is a terrific illustration of science’s strengths and limitations.
In the Sleepy Baby chapter, you will discover two powerful, opposing ideas about how to get your baby to go to sleep. They’re not mutually exclusive, but they don’t tolerate each other very well. Which one you end up believing depends more on personal preference than peer review. It would be nice if the data were better behaved, but they’re not.
I do provide a solution, however. If you are having trouble getting your child to go to sleep, you will find this chapter useful. And if it solves your problem, feelings of love for your child will once again expand in your heart, like a second Big Bang. That’s the most compelling reason for me to add a new chapter on sleep.
Get the book!
Just want the sleep chapter? Get it here.
Each ebook comes in PDF format, which you can send to your Kindle or other reading device.
Become a fan of Brain Rules for Baby on Facebook.
P.S. Zero to Five by Tracy Cutchlow is due June 17th!
As John Medina’s editor, I worked closely with him to shape Brain Rules and then Brain Rules for Baby. It’s been a thrill to watch both books climb onto the bestseller lists while getting rave reviews from you. I’m grateful for the books on a personal level as well. I imagine you feel the same way.
Brain Rules for Baby is the one book I asked my husband to read before our baby was born. (I even considered threatening that we couldn’t have a baby until he read it.)
Then our baby arrived.
I wanted to revisit some of the things I’d learned, but suddenly I had no time for long books. And while I understood why doing this or that was beneficial for baby’s brain, I still had questions about how. (Speak 2,100 words an hour to your baby? Seriously? How?) I dug back into the original research. Thus, my new book, Zero to Five, was born. I’d love to tell you about it.
Zero to Five has exhausted new parents in mind
- how to give baby’s brain a boost—including specific language you can use or actions you can take.
- bite-sized information in a clean design. Flip the book open to any page and you’ll get something out of it.
- spiral-bound, so it stays open. You can read while holding baby, or keep your place when you get interrupted two minutes later.
- anecdotes from my first two years with baby, just to liven things up (I made it—phew!)
- beautiful photographs of real families. These make Zero to Five a truly special book.
I’m excited to share this book with my fellow Brain Rules fans. It’s due June 17.
Want a sneak peak of the book, free? Click the yellow "free tips" button at www.zerotofive.net.
Tracy Cutchlow is the editor of the bestselling books Brain Rules for Baby and Brain Rules. As a journalist, she has worked for MSN Money and the Seattle Times. She lives in Seattle with her husband and daughter.
Connect with Zero to Five on Facebook and Twitter
- Want to read the music chapter now? Get it at https://gumroad.com/l/musicbrainrule
- Or get the full ebook here: https://gumroad.com/l/brainrules
We also have great new videos with Dr. Medina to share in the coming weeks. Watch to find out why he decided to write a chapter on music and the brain.
John Medina talks with Sixty&Me about the importance of exercise, managing stress, sleep, visual learning and how to use tricks and tips to address and reduce memory loss. He explains how understanding the brain can be applied to education and business. Dr. Medina explains the difference between simple forgetfulness and more serious brain disease and also surprises us with a 13 ‘rule’ that he would add if he was updating his best-selling book – power of nostalgia to improve brain function.
There's a great ongoing conversation over at the Brain Rules for Baby Facebook page amongst new parents who have learned from Brain Rules for Baby. Author Dr. John Medina recently shared his 5 essential Brain Rules for Parents:
1. You are going to make lots of mistakes.
2. That’s okay.
3. If you pay close attention to the safety needs of your children, – both the emotional and physical ones - you will almost always win.
4. If you treat your kids like they were merit badges, you will almost always lose.
5. Be prepared to live with contradictions. The parenting social contract is singular: they take and you give. Yet if you do it right, it won’t matter. You would die for them anyway, which means parenting is the best way to become a saint. Or a martyr. It is hard to believe that ripping your heart out of your pleural cavity and pinning it to your shirtsleeve could be the best thing that will ever happen to you. But it is. Parenting is probably the hardest thing you will ever do, but it is so much on the right side of worth it.