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.
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.”