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January 30, 2008


I read this report as well, and thought at the time what a bunch of baloney it is. Either the neurosurgeon has gone nuts, or the reporter has. I suppose you can guess who I blame. They area they are stimulating has nothing directly to do with memory. It's called the hypothalamus, and it is concerned with motivation. When stimulated, the hypothalamus can make certain perceptions REALLY important.

For example, supposing a ship castaway realizes that, "the only place on this desert island where there is fresh water is right here." The hypothalamus, deep in the brain, will stimulate the higher memory centers in the cortex, to make sure that he/she remembers where the water is.

Thus, the hypothalamus can increase the perceived importance of a piece of information, but it does not directly store the information. If we made Alzheimer's patients think everything was important, would they learn more? No one knows. They may just become exhausted, or learn a whole bunch of useless day-to-day trivia.

We already know how people can grow their memories: (1) don't smoke, (2) don't drink very much at all, (3) exercise regularly, (4) eat well, (5) maintain your health, and (6) keep exercising and using your brain by learning new things, talking with others, and visiting Gina Cobb :)

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