full transcript

From the Ted Talk by Catharine Young: How memories form and how we lose them

Unscramble the Blue Letters

Think back to a really vivid memory. Got it? Okay, now try to remember what you had for lcnuh three weeks ago. That second memory probably isn't as strong, but why not? Why do we remember some things, and not others? And why do memories eventually fade? Let's look at how memories form in the first place. When you experience something, like dialing a phnoe number, the epirxnecee is converted into a plsue of electrical ergney that zips along a network of neurons. Information first lands in short term memory, where it's available from anywhere from a few seconds to a couple of minutes. It's then transferred to long-term mormey through areas such as the hippocampus, and finally to several storage rneigos across the brain. nuonres throughout the brain communicate at deaetdcid sites called synapses using specialized neurotransmitters. If two neurons cicotmamune repeatedly, a remarkable thing happens: the efficiency of communication between them increases. This process, clelad long term potentiation, is considered to be a mechanism by which memories are srteod long-term, but how do some memories get lost? Age is one factor. As we get odelr, sespyans begin to falter and weaken, anffecitg how easily we can retrieve memories. Scientists have several theories about what's behind this deterioration, from auactl brain shrinkage, the hippocampus lseos 5% of its neurons every decade for a total loss of 20% by the time you're 80 years old to the drop in the pciurdoton of neurotransmitters, like acetylcholine, which is vital to learning and memory. These changes seem to affect how people retrieve stored information. Age also affects our memory-making abilities. meiorems are encoded most strongly when we're paying attention, when we're deeply engaged, and when information is meaningful to us. Mental and pyacihsl htaleh problems, which tend to increase as we age, interfere with our ability to pay attention, and thus act as memory thieves. Another leading cause of memory plroebms is chronic stress. When we're constantly overloaded with work and personal responsibilites, our bdoies are on hyperalert. This response has evolved from the physiological mechanism designed to make sure we can survive in a ciisrs. Stress clhiaecms help mobilize energy and increase alertness. However, with chronic stress our bodies become flooded with these chemicals, resulting in a loss of brain cells and an inability to form new ones, which affects our ability to retain new information. Depression is another culprit. People who are depressed are 40% more likely to develop memory problems. Low levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter connected to arousal, may make depressed individuals less attentive to new ioraifmotnn. Dwelling on sad events in the past, another symptom of depression, makes it difficult to pay attention to the present, affecting the ability to store short-term memories. Isolation, which is tied to depression, is another memory thief. A study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that older people with high levels of social integration had a slower rate of memory decline over a six-year period. The exact reason remains unclear, but extreps suspect that saciol interaction gives our brain a mntael workout. Just like muscle stnrtegh, we have to use our brain or risk lionsg it. But don't diaespr. There are several steps you can take to aid your brain in preserving your memories. Make sure you keep physically active. Increased boold flow to the brain is helpful. And eat well. Your brain needs all the right nuttniers to keep functioning correctly. And finally, give your brain a workout. Exposing your brian to challenges, like lneairng a new lunaagge, is one of the best defenses for kpeineg your memories intact.

Open Cloze

Think back to a really vivid memory. Got it? Okay, now try to remember what you had for _____ three weeks ago. That second memory probably isn't as strong, but why not? Why do we remember some things, and not others? And why do memories eventually fade? Let's look at how memories form in the first place. When you experience something, like dialing a _____ number, the __________ is converted into a _____ of electrical ______ that zips along a network of neurons. Information first lands in short term memory, where it's available from anywhere from a few seconds to a couple of minutes. It's then transferred to long-term ______ through areas such as the hippocampus, and finally to several storage _______ across the brain. _______ throughout the brain communicate at _________ sites called synapses using specialized neurotransmitters. If two neurons ___________ repeatedly, a remarkable thing happens: the efficiency of communication between them increases. This process, ______ long term potentiation, is considered to be a mechanism by which memories are ______ long-term, but how do some memories get lost? Age is one factor. As we get _____, ________ begin to falter and weaken, _________ how easily we can retrieve memories. Scientists have several theories about what's behind this deterioration, from ______ brain shrinkage, the hippocampus _____ 5% of its neurons every decade for a total loss of 20% by the time you're 80 years old to the drop in the __________ of neurotransmitters, like acetylcholine, which is vital to learning and memory. These changes seem to affect how people retrieve stored information. Age also affects our memory-making abilities. ________ are encoded most strongly when we're paying attention, when we're deeply engaged, and when information is meaningful to us. Mental and ________ ______ problems, which tend to increase as we age, interfere with our ability to pay attention, and thus act as memory thieves. Another leading cause of memory ________ is chronic stress. When we're constantly overloaded with work and personal responsibilites, our ______ are on hyperalert. This response has evolved from the physiological mechanism designed to make sure we can survive in a ______. Stress _________ help mobilize energy and increase alertness. However, with chronic stress our bodies become flooded with these chemicals, resulting in a loss of brain cells and an inability to form new ones, which affects our ability to retain new information. Depression is another culprit. People who are depressed are 40% more likely to develop memory problems. Low levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter connected to arousal, may make depressed individuals less attentive to new ___________. Dwelling on sad events in the past, another symptom of depression, makes it difficult to pay attention to the present, affecting the ability to store short-term memories. Isolation, which is tied to depression, is another memory thief. A study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that older people with high levels of social integration had a slower rate of memory decline over a six-year period. The exact reason remains unclear, but _______ suspect that ______ interaction gives our brain a ______ workout. Just like muscle ________, we have to use our brain or risk ______ it. But don't _______. There are several steps you can take to aid your brain in preserving your memories. Make sure you keep physically active. Increased _____ flow to the brain is helpful. And eat well. Your brain needs all the right _________ to keep functioning correctly. And finally, give your brain a workout. Exposing your _____ to challenges, like ________ a new ________, is one of the best defenses for _______ your memories intact.

Solution

  1. experience
  2. experts
  3. keeping
  4. pulse
  5. blood
  6. neurons
  7. despair
  8. chemicals
  9. lunch
  10. memory
  11. dedicated
  12. phone
  13. strength
  14. production
  15. regions
  16. language
  17. losing
  18. crisis
  19. actual
  20. mental
  21. synapses
  22. information
  23. energy
  24. communicate
  25. nutrients
  26. older
  27. memories
  28. stored
  29. social
  30. bodies
  31. affecting
  32. problems
  33. physical
  34. health
  35. brain
  36. learning
  37. loses
  38. called

Original Text

Think back to a really vivid memory. Got it? Okay, now try to remember what you had for lunch three weeks ago. That second memory probably isn't as strong, but why not? Why do we remember some things, and not others? And why do memories eventually fade? Let's look at how memories form in the first place. When you experience something, like dialing a phone number, the experience is converted into a pulse of electrical energy that zips along a network of neurons. Information first lands in short term memory, where it's available from anywhere from a few seconds to a couple of minutes. It's then transferred to long-term memory through areas such as the hippocampus, and finally to several storage regions across the brain. Neurons throughout the brain communicate at dedicated sites called synapses using specialized neurotransmitters. If two neurons communicate repeatedly, a remarkable thing happens: the efficiency of communication between them increases. This process, called long term potentiation, is considered to be a mechanism by which memories are stored long-term, but how do some memories get lost? Age is one factor. As we get older, synapses begin to falter and weaken, affecting how easily we can retrieve memories. Scientists have several theories about what's behind this deterioration, from actual brain shrinkage, the hippocampus loses 5% of its neurons every decade for a total loss of 20% by the time you're 80 years old to the drop in the production of neurotransmitters, like acetylcholine, which is vital to learning and memory. These changes seem to affect how people retrieve stored information. Age also affects our memory-making abilities. Memories are encoded most strongly when we're paying attention, when we're deeply engaged, and when information is meaningful to us. Mental and physical health problems, which tend to increase as we age, interfere with our ability to pay attention, and thus act as memory thieves. Another leading cause of memory problems is chronic stress. When we're constantly overloaded with work and personal responsibilites, our bodies are on hyperalert. This response has evolved from the physiological mechanism designed to make sure we can survive in a crisis. Stress chemicals help mobilize energy and increase alertness. However, with chronic stress our bodies become flooded with these chemicals, resulting in a loss of brain cells and an inability to form new ones, which affects our ability to retain new information. Depression is another culprit. People who are depressed are 40% more likely to develop memory problems. Low levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter connected to arousal, may make depressed individuals less attentive to new information. Dwelling on sad events in the past, another symptom of depression, makes it difficult to pay attention to the present, affecting the ability to store short-term memories. Isolation, which is tied to depression, is another memory thief. A study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that older people with high levels of social integration had a slower rate of memory decline over a six-year period. The exact reason remains unclear, but experts suspect that social interaction gives our brain a mental workout. Just like muscle strength, we have to use our brain or risk losing it. But don't despair. There are several steps you can take to aid your brain in preserving your memories. Make sure you keep physically active. Increased blood flow to the brain is helpful. And eat well. Your brain needs all the right nutrients to keep functioning correctly. And finally, give your brain a workout. Exposing your brain to challenges, like learning a new language, is one of the best defenses for keeping your memories intact.

Frequently Occurring Word Combinations

ngrams of length 2

collocation frequency
memory problems 2
chronic stress 2

Important Words

  1. abilities
  2. ability
  3. acetylcholine
  4. act
  5. active
  6. actual
  7. affect
  8. affecting
  9. affects
  10. age
  11. aid
  12. alertness
  13. areas
  14. arousal
  15. attention
  16. attentive
  17. blood
  18. bodies
  19. brain
  20. called
  21. cells
  22. challenges
  23. chemicals
  24. chronic
  25. communicate
  26. communication
  27. connected
  28. considered
  29. constantly
  30. converted
  31. correctly
  32. couple
  33. crisis
  34. culprit
  35. decade
  36. decline
  37. dedicated
  38. deeply
  39. defenses
  40. depressed
  41. depression
  42. designed
  43. despair
  44. deterioration
  45. develop
  46. dialing
  47. difficult
  48. drop
  49. dwelling
  50. easily
  51. eat
  52. efficiency
  53. electrical
  54. encoded
  55. energy
  56. engaged
  57. events
  58. eventually
  59. evolved
  60. exact
  61. experience
  62. experts
  63. exposing
  64. factor
  65. fade
  66. falter
  67. finally
  68. flooded
  69. flow
  70. form
  71. functioning
  72. give
  73. harvard
  74. health
  75. helpful
  76. high
  77. hippocampus
  78. hyperalert
  79. inability
  80. increase
  81. increased
  82. increases
  83. individuals
  84. information
  85. intact
  86. integration
  87. interaction
  88. interfere
  89. isolation
  90. keeping
  91. lands
  92. language
  93. leading
  94. learning
  95. levels
  96. long
  97. loses
  98. losing
  99. loss
  100. lost
  101. lunch
  102. meaningful
  103. mechanism
  104. memories
  105. memory
  106. mental
  107. minutes
  108. mobilize
  109. muscle
  110. network
  111. neurons
  112. neurotransmitter
  113. neurotransmitters
  114. number
  115. nutrients
  116. older
  117. overloaded
  118. pay
  119. paying
  120. people
  121. period
  122. personal
  123. phone
  124. physical
  125. physically
  126. physiological
  127. place
  128. potentiation
  129. present
  130. preserving
  131. problems
  132. process
  133. production
  134. public
  135. pulse
  136. rate
  137. reason
  138. regions
  139. remains
  140. remarkable
  141. remember
  142. repeatedly
  143. response
  144. responsibilites
  145. resulting
  146. retain
  147. retrieve
  148. risk
  149. sad
  150. school
  151. scientists
  152. seconds
  153. serotonin
  154. short
  155. shrinkage
  156. sites
  157. slower
  158. social
  159. specialized
  160. steps
  161. storage
  162. store
  163. stored
  164. strength
  165. stress
  166. strong
  167. strongly
  168. study
  169. survive
  170. suspect
  171. symptom
  172. synapses
  173. tend
  174. term
  175. theories
  176. thief
  177. thieves
  178. tied
  179. time
  180. total
  181. transferred
  182. unclear
  183. vital
  184. vivid
  185. weaken
  186. weeks
  187. work
  188. workout
  189. years
  190. zips