B is for Brain Blips

On 60 Minutes, Lesley Stahl reported on a very rare ability: to remember each day of your life as if it happened yesterday. It’s called ‘superior autobiographical memory’.

A couple months ago, I came across this interview of Barbara Strauch, author of “The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain: The Surprising Talent of the Middle-Aged Mind.”

This paragraph jumped out at me: “Strauch notes that people in midlife start experiencing more brain blips. She opens the book in her basement, pondering what she went there for. She asks around, and finds that her middle-aged acquaintances have similar zone-outs.”

I so recognize this. Oh, and this: “Names in particular are easy to forget if all we’ve learned is the sound. The more context we have — the more ways something is cross-referenced in our memory banks — the better chance we have of excavating it from storage.”

When we were children, my sisters and I used to razz my grandmother for saying things like, “Oh, that’s the old [such and so] building.” It had never been called that in OUR lifetimes; why couldn’t she call it what it’s called now?

Move forward 40 years. I seriously can’t remember the name of my bank. It used to be Albany Savings Bank, then Albank, then it was purchased by Charter One, then THAT was bought up by Citizens Bank. The brain knows it’s not ASB or Albank, so it settles on Charter One, which, like Citizen’s, starts with the letter C, until I’m trying to look up my bank online.

Likewise, my power company used to be the geographically descriptive Niagara Mohawk, but is now (yawn) National Grid; it DOESN’T help that they both start with the letter N.

Sorry, grandma.

Both Demeur and Arthur have touched on this recently; the latter referred to “holiday brain”. Then there was this piece about adult ADHD, which I swear I experience periodically.

On the other hand, Newsweek magazine had a cover story called Can You Build a Better Brain? Notable is this piece: “taking up a new, cognitively demanding activity—ballroom dancing, a foreign language—is more likely to boost processing speed, strengthen synapses, and expand or create functional networks.”

I was most fascinated by a story on the TV show 60 Minutes. “Lesley Stahl reported on a very rare ability: to remember each day of your life as if it happened yesterday. It’s called ‘superior autobiographical memory’ and scientists have only identified a handful of people in the world who have it. One of them is actress Marilu Henner of ‘Taxi,’ oddly enough.”

I’m not sure I would WANT the ability to remember EVERY day; forgetting DOES have some definite benefits.
Roger’s brain:

Arthur may have liberal politics on the brain.
Oh, I need to thank Lily at Long Island Daily Photo for a $100 gift certificate!

ABC Wednesday Round 8

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

42 thoughts on “B is for Brain Blips”

  1. Ha, ha.. Yes I recognize that. I am for instance in the kitchen and want to use my teatowel, but notice that it’s dirty, so I take it upstairs and throw it in the laundry basket, than I go downstairs again, but I see that I have to go upstairs again to fetch a clean tea towel. Names are the same. It’s because our brain is so full of information that we cannot store any new information.

  2. Oh, I’m so glad it’s not just me!!!! I make dozens of trips up and down stairs, to and from the car — wherever because I can’t remember why I’m there, why I went and what I planned to do once I got there????? Terrific post for the day, Roger! Thanks!


  3. I’m the master of putting things down and then immediately forgetting where I put them. Total amnesia in two seconds, it would be amazing if it weren’t so annoying.
    I definitely wouldn’t want to remember every day of my life. A bit more, yes, but not all of it.

  4. congratulations dear Roger, it’s impressive!
    I need to exercise my memory!
    Maybe it will be good to take some vitamins as well! 🙂
    Wish me luck, I need because I can not memorize all French verbs!

  5. Oh I am with you on this one Roger – we call them “senior moments” over here! lol! Safe places eh – what are they again? lol! Thanks so much.

  6. Fun post for the letter B and there are definitely things I don’t want to remember as well as some I wish I did, like where I put my glasses before a shower since I’m blind as a bat.

  7. Love it! Those brain blips are happening more and more! A very interesting and informative read. Thanks Roger. Love your brain! Can’t think of a better one!

  8. Oh this is so very interesting. Have to agree, I’m at that stage. I can’t help thinking about the recovery of the Congress Woman in Tucson, and how her brain will respond to all the therapy. I’m so in hopes it’s a full recovery.

  9. Lots of times I have to back track, before I can remember why I went to the other room. I think we all chuckled at our grammas when we were young, now they are all chuckling at me. Someday their time will come. Hahaha.

  10. Good play on words by Rune!

    Sadly I have had these senior moments since I was a teen ager! Over the years I have learned to compensate. I count the number of things I take out with me; I always put things in the same place; I write things down. Because of many little tricks like this I have managed to function fairly normally. But I cannot put names to faces. Learning kids names in school and coming up with the right name at the right moment is still a major ‘senior moment’ for me.
    Very interesting blog.

  11. Brilliant post! I was panicking for a while that I was getting Alzheimers (like my mother had and from which she died in 02) but after getting the courage to talk about my little “blips” with a friend, was reassured that she was having the same thing happen to her! Whew! Of course, it doesn’t mean I “won’t” get ALZ one day, but hopefully not! I keep busy doing word puzzles – crosswords, wonderwords, jumbles, etc. and I think it does help keep the brain active. Plus I teach French and beginners Spanish – d’ya think it’ll help with those brain blips???

  12. So that’s what you call them…happens more and more. I love the brain diagram. Great post, Rog!

  13. Leslie- the jury’s out as to what, if anything, will slow ALZ, but your mind exercises couldn’t hurt!

  14. You’re right, there are some days I’d rather not remember. There are some I remember that I’d rather forget. On the other hand, there are many more I’d like to remember.
    Very interesting.
    — K

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie’s Guide to Adventurous Travel

  15. Great post, and “Yep” I’m familiar with the experience in all its manifestations. It can be especially embarrassing when the item temporarily unavailable for recall is the name of a common household object. Still, I reckon we can all be thankful our brains are still blip, blip, blipping along.

  16. Yes, at 56, I have a lot more brain blips than ever! Recently, I’ve used the ‘senior moment’ as an excuse (and I can’t believe I referred to myself as a ‘senior’).
    It does make it easier to forget why one was mad in the first place though. I just think of it as an aid to live in the moment.

  17. Brain blips is a great descriptive term, better than Senior Moments! I go the cupboard to get something then stand there wondering what it was I wanted, ho hum. And no I don’t think I’d want to remember every day of my life with that clarity!!

  18. Brain blip, pre-senior moment, hard disk overload, and more recently, brain fart… all words I have used for years to describe any one of my many momentary lapses. You forgot to add that blogging is an excellent way to exercise the brain. Brilliant B post, Roger!

  19. Fortunately I don’t remember every day of my life ! what a mess ! with names I also have difficulties. For months I got comments from a guy in Mumbai. I knew it was somewhere in India until I found out that it only was Bombay !! the same with Peking which is Bejing. Maybe my brain looks like a swiss cheese, but I got used to it !

  20. My brain protects me from too much input. I only remember what I need to know.

    So if you ask me things I don’t consider important, I really cannot recollect.

    Thanks Re: my brother Joseph’s birthday post. He is a great brother too. He is a successful lawyer, lives on a private island, has his boat. But he always welcomes me when I go to Australia.

  21. My hubby has some serious brain blips. He is doing sudoku and other brain teasers in the daily paper, but at least once or twice a day… sorry, what was I going to write next? ;-P

  22. That old saw about everything having a place is something I have to practice as I grow older. If I don’t leave my ‘stuff’ in the same place every day, god help me.

  23. In 40 years I think we kan connect knowledge to the brain fex during the night so in the morning we can speak a new language … ha ha … I would like to be able to speak Hungarian 😀
    Have a great day!

  24. We all have moments of forgetfulness – the result of living busy/interesting lives. It can become a habit, though, using ‘what’sit’ or ‘thingummyjig’ when we can’t remember or be bothered to try and remember the correct word. My mother-in-law has done this for years and now she is having a seriously difficult time recalling vocabulary as dementia takes over her brain function.

  25. Surely it just cannot be possible – to remember each day of your life as if it happened yesterday. My brain tells me there can’t be time enough for anyone to prove that they do!!! Surely if we tried today to remember every moment even of yesterday… we’d end up in a sort of perpetual “Groundhog Day” (the movie)… 😉 I agree about context though. Just now, recently being round to a lot of new (to me) blogs, I do find things getting rather messy in my head…

  26. Thanks for giving me a valid excuse for those “senior moments” Great information. As usual, I’ve learned something new from you. 🙂

    Thought you might like to know that “those blue robin eggs” were the second set laid that year. That was the only year that our resident Robins have done that.

  27. Ah blips, I’ll use that as an excuse next time, and they will always be a next time. I can remember some obscure information I’ll never have the need to use and yet forget a name that it would be useful to know.

  28. Ahhh, yea…brain blips. That’s a nice way of saying it. Sometimes I call them blond moments. I can do that because I am one. I’d like to believe if one keeps learning new, challenging things, the brain will continue to fire on all cylinders for a long, long time. I hope so!

  29. I met a lady in the supermarket yesterday. We had a lengthy conversation, as it was one of those times when the should have called for another checker about ten minutes sooner. We talked about what the kids were doing now, about how long it had been, that yes we still live here but hubby usually does the grocery shopping, and such.

    I have no idea whatsoever who she was.

    And I had fogotten completely about the incident till I read this.

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