Access time in a fifty-five year old brain

The main reason I’ve created this blog is to help me remember.   After that I want to study how information is organized with the ultimate plan of taming the horde of competing topics that have tangled up my synapses.  I’m hoping if I can find a way to organize my thoughts I will be able to remember facts and details more efficiently and faster.  If I can’t, then the search box will do the job my neurons can’t.  My access time for my gray matter runs from instant, to many hours, to total failure.  This started as a noticeable problem in my late forties and has been getting worse ever since.

I assume this is a natural side-effect of getting older and that I don’t have Alzheimer’s.  My condition causes growing frustration and acceptance.  It is annoying not to be able to recall a specific piece of information that I just know is there somewhere in my brain.  On the other hand I can just laugh it off as a foreshadowing of the absent-minded old man I will become.  It’s almost pleasant to think, “Oh well, I really don’t need all those pesky facts.”  However, in conjunction with memory failure there seems to be a related trait for forgetting how to say words.  My speech has never been very grammatical and my pronunciation of many words is rather mangled, but things are getting worse.  I’m guessing these glitches in my neural hard drive are related.

Most people have memory lapses that get worse with age.  Diseases like Alzheimer’s are far different and more complex and are usually signaled by the failure to learn new skills, rather than simple forgetting words.  I’m hoping my brain is just getting rusty and I can find ways to exercise it.  I also have a theory that I can use computers as a crutch for my brain.  In other words, use software, hardware and networks as an extension to my three pounds of gray matter.

My problem started with the simple act of forgetting words.  For example, on Christmas Eve I was talking with my nephew David, who is joining the Army.  We were talking about boot camp and I wanted to ask him if he had seen Full Metal Jacket, a film that dramatically educates about the nature of military training.  I couldn’t remember the title of the film no matter how hard I struggled or furled my brows.  Requesting access started about 7pm Christmas Eve.  The title popped into my head around 10am Christmas day.

Why did my brain require 15 hours to dredge up that title?  I saw the movie when it came out in 1987 (had to look that up on ) – and maybe I’ve thought about it a few times since.  I’ve read about Full Metal Jacket and seen clips about it in documentaries – but I doubt if my brain has had to deal with the title more than ten times in almost twenty year.  Maybe frequency of recall determines the access time in my brain.  However, that doesn’t explain why can take a class on Photoshop and forget nearly everything I learn within hours and never recall those facts and techniques no matter how long I wait.  Or explain why I can forget the name of someone I’ve worked with for years and see every day.

One hypothesis I’d like to test is the belief that if I write things down in little essays for this blog it will help me remember.  I’ve read thousands of books but I’ve forgotten 99.999% of what they said.  I read newspaper articles, essays, short stories, web pages every day – but they don’t stick with me either.  I think I’ve probably seen thousands of episodes of the evening news and who knows how many hundreds of documentaries.  I take in a lot of information – so why don’t I retain more if it?

Why do I remember some details and not others?  I can still remember the multiplication table I learned in grade school but I can’t remember which grade I learned them – was it the second grade?  Imagined if I had started a blog as soon as I could write?  I could search on “multiplication table” and find my diary about singing seven times seven is forty-nine.  Can a blog become my auxiliary memory? 

3 thoughts on “Access time in a fifty-five year old brain”

  1. I think some of this may be vitamin related/health related? My friend who has had a heart attack cannot remember friends we had in 9th grade without seeing a picture in a yearbook, while I can remember them clearly without a picture. I haven’t had any memory issues at all at 55 and find the idea disturbing. 65 I could understand one or two….

    I have always had a near photogenic memory so that may contribute, but I suspect having no major illnesses, taking no prescription meds and taking specific, targeted vitamins while working out three times a week and drinking a gallon of water a day, helps tremendously.

    While we may not need our memory as much in this age of computers, it’s still true that the human brain far exceeds the ability of computers to make connections and derive meaning.

    I rue the day 55 feels old to me!

    1. I think everyone is very different. It sounds like you might stay sharp until ninety-nine. I’m going to be sixty-two soon, and my memory problems haven’t gotten worse. I’ve read that my kind of memory problems are typical though. Jlina, you might not ever feel old. Some people never do. It’s all relative.

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