WBEZ | memory http://www.wbez.org/tags/memory Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Husband and wife battle Alzheimer's together http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/husband-and-wife-battle-alzheimers-together-110260 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Capture_10.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Ben Ferguson, 66, and his wife of more than four decades, Robyn, 64, grew up in Texas. It&rsquo;s where they met and fell in love. About a year ago, Ben was diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer&rsquo;s disease. And so the couple moved to Chicago to be closer to their daughter and grandchildren. They recently came to the StoryCorps booth in the Chicago Cultural Center to relive Ben&rsquo;s earliest memories, and to describe what the disease has meant for their family.</p><p>Alzheimer&rsquo;s disease, which negatively impacts the brain&rsquo;s ability to remember things, may affect more than five million Americans, according to the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/alzheimers-disease-fact-sheet" target="_blank">National Institute on Aging.</a> That number is growing, however, and could reach as many as 16 million by the year 2050, according to the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.alz.org/documents/greaterillinois/statesheet_illinois(1).pdf" target="_blank">Alzheimer&rsquo;s Association of Greater Illinois.</a></p><p>&ldquo;These memories are going to fade,&rdquo; Robyn said. &ldquo;They&rsquo;ve already begun to,&rdquo; Ben said.</p><p>In the booth, the couple talked about how Ben got into all kinds of trouble in elementary and high school. He once wrecked two of the family cars in one day. He was kicked out of several universities, before finding his footing and eventually earning a PhD in Psychology.</p><p>&ldquo;There have always been two sides to you,&rdquo; Robyn said. &ldquo;You&rsquo;re a bad boy. But you&rsquo;re a good boy too. I liked the bad boy first and now I like the good boy better.&rdquo; &ldquo;Yeah, but the bad boy got you,&rdquo; Ben said, laughing.</p><p>When Ben met Robyn, he said it was love at first sight. She thinks the attraction might have been more physical at first. &ldquo;I was pretty sure I wasn&rsquo;t gonna be able to run over you,&rdquo; Ben said. &ldquo;I was definitely sure that you were one of the prettiest women I have ever seen and I had tender feelings toward you.&rdquo; They married two months after meeting. They had two kids, one of whom moved to Chicago.</p><p>Then about a year ago, Ben started showing signs of Alzheimer&rsquo;s. &ldquo;It was the worst thing that&rsquo;s ever happened to me,&rdquo; Ben said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m still trying to figure out how to deal with it.&rdquo;</p><p>Now, Ben and Robyn live in Chicago and enjoy spending time with their grandkids. Ben participates in some long-term research programs at&nbsp;<a href="http://www.brain.northwestern.edu/" target="_blank">Northwestern University&rsquo;s Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer&rsquo;s Disease Center (CNADC)</a>. He also takes classes there to help build memory through improvisation and takes part in a buddy program.&nbsp;<a href="https://soundcloud.com/morningshiftwbez/workshop-offers-new-form-of" target="_blank">He and Robyn are part of a storytelling group for Alzheimer&rsquo;s patients and their families.</a></p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ll just keep working on things,&rdquo; Robyn said. &ldquo;I think we&rsquo;re doing really good,&rdquo; he added.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Fplaylists%2F6250422" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Fri, 30 May 2014 15:26:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/husband-and-wife-battle-alzheimers-together-110260 U of C study finds dolphins display memory better than elephants http://www.wbez.org/news/u-c-study-finds-dolphins-display-memory-better-elephants-108319 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/dolphin.png" alt="" /><p><p>WASHINGTON &mdash; Forget elephants. Dolphins can swim circles around them when it comes to long-term memory.</p><p>Scientists in a new study repeatedly found that dolphins can remember the distinctive whistle &mdash; which acts as a name to the marine mammal &mdash; of another dolphin they haven&#39;t seen in two decades.</p><p>Bailey the dolphin hadn&#39;t seen another dolphin named Allie since the two juveniles lived together at the Dolphin Connection in the Florida Keys. Allie ended up in a Chicago area zoo, while Bailey got moved to Bermuda. Yet 20 1/2 years later, Bailey recognized and reacted to Allie&#39;s distinctive signal when University of Chicago researcher Jason Bruck played it on a speaker.</p><p>Other dolphins had similar steel-trap memories. And it&#39;s not just for relatives. It&#39;s non-kin too.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s mind-blowing; I know I can&#39;t do it,&quot; Bruck says. &quot;Dolphins in fact have the longest social memory in all of the animal kingdom because their signature whistle doesn&#39;t change.&quot;</p><p>Studies have shown that monkeys can remember things for about four years and anecdotes have elephants remembering for about 10, Bruck says in a paper published Wednesday by Proceedings of the Royal Society B. But remembering just a sound &mdash; no visuals were included &mdash; boggles even human minds, he says.</p><p>For Bruck, 33, it&#39;s as if a long-lost classmate from middle school called him up and Bruck would be able to figure out who it was just from the voice.</p><p>Faces, yes, yearbook pictures, definitely, but voices that change with time, no way, Bruck says.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;re not as acoustically as adept as dolphins,&quot; Bruck says. It helps that dolphins have massive parts of the brain that are geared toward sound.</p><p>Bruck thinks dolphins have the incredible memory because it could help them when they approach new dolphins on a potential group hunt. And even more likely it probably allows dolphins to avoid others that had mistreated them in the past or dominated them, he says.</p><p>Male dolphins had a slightly better memory than females and that&#39;s likely a case of worrying about dominance. Some males would hear Lucky or Hastings, dominant males, that they hadn&#39;t heard in years and they&#39;d react by going into an aggressive S-posture or screaming their own signatures, Bruck says.</p><p>Outside dolphin researchers praised the work, saying the next effort is to see whether somehow the dolphins visualize their old buddies when they hear the whistle. Bruck says he is working on that.</p><p>&quot;The study raises some very interesting questions and hints at the wider importance of long-term social memory in nonhuman mammals and suggests there are strong parallels between dolphin and human social recognition,&quot; said dolphin researcher Stephanie King at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.</p></p> Wed, 07 Aug 2013 10:59:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/u-c-study-finds-dolphins-display-memory-better-elephants-108319 Reporter Joshua Foer explains how to remember everything http://www.wbez.org/story/reporter-joshua-foer-explains-how-remember-everything-96728 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-February/2012-02-24/Memory Palace_Flickr_Maureen Flynn-Burhoe.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-24/Memory Palace_Flickr_Maureen Flynn-Burhoe.jpg" style="width: 630px; height: 500px;" title="Joshua Foer became an expert in a spatial and visual memory-enhancement technique known as the Memory Palace. (Flickr/Maureen Flynn-Budhoe)"></p><p>Science reporter <a href="http://joshuafoer.com/">Joshua Foer</a> was standing outside the building where the <a href="http://www.usamemorychampionship.com/">U.S.A. National Memory Championship</a> competition was taking place. He was there covering the event, which was new to him, and which he thought of as a kind of quirky curiosity.</p><p>A British competitor who had come to the American championships as a kind of “spring training” in advance of the world championships stood outside smoking a cigarette.</p><p>“You’re a journalist,” he said to Foer. “Do you know Britney Spears?”</p><p>No, Foer said. He did not.</p><p>Ah, it was too bad, the competitor replied. He had a dream of teaching Britney Spears some age-old memory-enhancing techniques on live television, to prove that <em>anyone</em> could learn to memorize hundreds upon thousands of random words or digits in a row, as he and the other would-be memory champs did every year.</p><p>Foer reasserted that he did not know the young pop star.</p><p>“But maybe you can train me,” Foer said.</p><p>That was the beginning of how Foer went from observer to competitor, training himself with those same memory-enhancing techniques, and eventually going on to win the 2006 U.S. championship. (He documented his journey in his much-praised book, <a href="http://joshuafoer.com/moonwalking-with-einstein/book/"><em>Moonwalking with Einstein</em></a><em>.</em>) In the process, he also set a new U.S. record, memorizing the order of a randomly shuffled deck of playing cards in 1 minute 40 seconds. (His record has since been broken, and currently stands at 29 seconds.)</p><p>Foer went on to represent America at the world championships that year, where unfortunately, he “had his tuchas handed” to him by the Brits, the Germans and the Malaysians, among others.</p><p>But through his journey, Foer learned that the British competitor he met that first day was right: People who succeed at this memory thing aren’t geniuses. They aren’t smarter than the rest of us, nor do they have brains that are anatomically superior.</p><p>What they’ve done is trained themselves with a technique called the Memory Palace -- a mnemonic device that dates back to ancient Greece that allows users to trick themselves into using the visual and spatial parts of their brain to remember things that don’t always have a visual or spatial dimension.</p><p>In the tape above, Foer demonstrates the Memory Palace technique to the audience at the talk he gave at Elmhurst College last week. And in doing so, he proves that whether you’re Britney Spears or not, you too can turn an ordinary assembly hall into your very own Memory Palace.</p><p><a href="../../series/dynamic-range">Dynamic Range </a><em>showcases hidden gems unearthed from </em>Chicago Amplified’s<em> vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. Joshua Foer spoke at an event presented by </em><a href="http://public.elmhurst.edu/"><em>Elmhurst College </em></a><em>in February. Click </em><a href="../../story/joshua-foer-art-and-science-remembering-everything-96519"><em>here </em></a><em>to hear the event in its entirety.</em></p></p> Sat, 25 Feb 2012 12:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/reporter-joshua-foer-explains-how-remember-everything-96728 Clever Apes #23: First memories http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2011-12-13/clever-apes-23-first-memories-94877 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-December/2011-12-13/Gabe trike for web.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="Each time we recall a childhood memory, we're rewriting it. (WBEZ/Gabriel Spitze" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-13/Gabe trike for web SMALL.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 442px; float: left; margin: 10px;" title="Each time we recall a childhood memory, we're rewriting it. (WBEZ/Gabriel Spitzer)">I’m sitting at a picnic table in our screened-in porch. It’s my third birthday party, and I’m opening presents. I unwrap a Tonka truck, and drop to the floor to start playing with it.</p><p>That’s been my earliest memory ever since I can, well, remember. But as the years wore on, something weird started happening. I started to feel less attached to the person in that memory. Now, I feel like I’m seeing the memory through someone else’s eyes, watching myself push that truck on the green astroturf carpet. I’m not even sure it’s a real memory anymore.</p><p>This has been on my mind because my own son recently had his third birthday. It got me wondering what his first memory will be, and more broadly, what is the nature of early memories? How reliable might they be, and how important to the construction of our identities?</p><p>On the latest installment of Clever Apes, we dig into what science has to say about early memory. Young kids actually have lots of memories that don’t make it into long-term storage. The phenomenon, called <a href="http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-child-in-time/201012/the-shifting-boundary-childhood-amnesia">“childhood amnesia,” </a>is not very well understood. But it seems to have something to do with the lens through which we see the world, and how it changes from early childhood (say, age three) to the more verbal period starting around age five or six. It’s tough to bridge that divide, and that may explain why I’m having a hard time connecting with my three-year old self.</p><p>And there’s another reason: memories are made from networks of neurons in our brains. That wiring gets used for lots of things, and so with each new memory, the networks change a little. When we remember something, we effectively rewrite it. That means that in some sense, each time we reflect on a memory, we’re putting a little more distance between ourselves and the actual event. Recent research suggests we’re even doing this in our sleep.</p><p>It’s enough to give a fellow a dose of existential distress. But there’s an upside too: A Chicago researcher has demonstrated <a href="http://www.luc.edu/childrensmemory/elaborative_conversation.shtml">ways that parents can reinforce and help solidify a child’s memories. </a>If you listen to the show, you can hear me trying this out on my son, Ezra. I bribed him with M&amp;Ms to get him to sit still.</p><p>Watch this space in the next day or so for a collection of first memories from our colleagues here at WBEZ. You can also get it via <a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/CleverApesPodcast">podcast</a>. We’re on <a href="http://twitter.com/cleverapes">Twitter </a>and <a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clever-Apes-on-WBEZ/118246851551412">Facebook</a>, too.</p></p> Tue, 13 Dec 2011 23:11:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2011-12-13/clever-apes-23-first-memories-94877