In a complex world such as ours, man needs to have a sharp memory for abundant
information before he can be productive even in the immediate family (the micro
system) before the macro `ystem which is the “external world” outside the family
circle. This macro system comprises the tertiary level of education, the ministerial
sectors and the world at least including the choice of man or woman you may want
to spend the rest of your life with.
To expand means to have information and the amount of correct information you
have make you the “giant” of the membership of the set. Information gives power
and makes you dominant, over others who lack it. Information is the key to get you
one and the flight of distinction. There is no substitute for appropriate information. It
requires diligent exploration and description.
In order to be informed it means you need to have a good structural physiological
make up, that is, the brain that will collect, process, retain, retrieve and put the data
or information to a good use.
If you cannot do any of these as a living human
being, you would soon attract labels.
Some of such labels can be mental
retardation, mental illness, and learning disabilities. This latter involve difficulties in
two or more of the following: writing, spelling and oral communication, perception,
cognition, emotional /behavioural abnormalities and reading.
In EUe, teachers will use verbal aggressive words as “tagb‫כ‬kukut‫“ כ‬literally meaning
a “person with dead brain”, “asoviwo.
In Fanti, the word
gyimigyimi” and in Ga “Buulu” are used. Each tribe has an equivalence to learning
difficulties for the victims. Those labels have associated social stigma for the client
also, such as social withdrawals, rejection and other punishment.
Anyone whether, child or adult whose behaviour is a deviation from those of his
peers, in some cultures is underrated and undermined of his integrity. Self esteem
is ought to be preserved; that ego of staying at the level of “ who you are” is to be left
intact for the individual.
Our genes inalterably determine every thing about us ( Sternberg 1994:78).
There is no doubt that the upbringing, our parents’ personalities, our schooling,
physical surrounding (ie our environments) greatly affect who we become. How
ever, how much of genetic effect is not very clear. Gene, is a fundamental unit of
It is a unit of
inheritance, a piece of the genetic material that
determines the inheritance of a particular characteristic or group of
characteristics (trait) – The reference is made to how tall or short; dark or fair skin
colour; brown or blue eye colour a person possesses. Genotype is the genetic
constitution of an organism, which is hidden and transferable from parents to
their siblings.
The phenotype is the physical expression.
The genes
contribute to our traits and our behaviour.
Nature (genes) and nurture (environment) both affect the way we act.
nature and nurture our intelligence is affected. The interaction of genetic and
environmental factors can affect our intelligence and many other traits.
Genetics and environment therefore affect our intelligence ( thinking, idea
problem solving,
retention etc)..
The unique features of this book are : i. What memory is?
Types of memory,
Memory and learning
how memory can be improved;
What is Memory?
iii. Memory and brain structure
v. Cause of memory loss
(Psychology) is a faculty mental ability by which things from
the past are brought to mind or retained there, or that which is recalled. Memory is
our distinctive characteristic. Our unique memories define who we are, a record
of our personal past that also acts as a guide to our present and future. Memory
defines your destiny and personality
Memories Endure:
Recall of remote childhood can be brought to the fore. Though cells will have been
replaced many millions of times, yet memories persist and with them our sense
of identity.
Since memories are so essential for man’s living, anything that gets it damaged like
the Alzheimer’s disease is so devastating. This disease shows cardinal symptoms
of loss of memory. Since the 19th century, scientific study of human memory began
on losses of memory resulting from the brain damage or alcoholism began to be
Again, Hermann Ebbinghaus experimentally studied normal human memory and
asked people to remember lists of words or nonsense syllables.
His finding
indicated that within the first hour or so, a large proportion of the words were
forgotten. But those items which remained persistently in memory gave rise to the
short term and long term distinction. Hence, the psychological study of memory,
has been built around the two poles of normal and abnormal ever since.
Types of Memory
Taxonomy of normal human memory are:
Long term memory
Short term memory
Procedural memory
Declarative memory
a. semantic
b. Episodic/autobiographical memory
Long term memory:
Relates to information held for life time, memory
which is persisting. It is an indicating of memory span.
Short term memory:
“Working memory” relates to information held for a
short time, minutes or even seconds. It can be transferred to Long Term
memory through repetition and rehearsal.
This is also an indications of
memory span.
Procedural memory :
Memory of skills or how to do things eg, ride a
Semantic memory: Is a way of describing our store of knowledge,
much of which we share with others (eg. the names of objects: A dog
is a four legged domestic animal.
Episodic/autobiographic: Has to do with remembering an activity done
-eg I went riding a bicycle last Tuesday (Steven Rose & Igor
Aleksander Microsoft Encarta Encyclopaedia).
Most of the thoughts (cognition) which occupy our mind, appear to rely on
mechanisms of memory. Cognition has to do with knowing, perceiving and thinking.
Imagining; creativity
Memory and brain structures
The Human brain
It is located in the brain and the brain is that part of the central nervous system
within the cranium having to do with the thought, memory and emotion. The
brain contains the higher centres for various sensory impulses and initiates controls,
and coordinates muscular movements in human and vertebrates.
The human brain is a master organ of the body. It looks like a walnut of a--3 pounds
size sitting on top of the spinal cord (Davidoff, 1980).
Shelved in a cranium.
Although the size varies, the average weight of that of male is 1600 g or 3.51bs and
that of the female weights about 1450g. However, in terms of brain weight per
body weight, males and females have equivalent brain sizes. The brain is a pinkish
gray tissue with wrinkled surface that looks like a cauliflower. It is a collection of
neuron groupings which are intricately interrelated. The brain and the spinal cord
make the central nervous system which is a component of the nervous system.
Mamninon (1995) stated that the brain is composed of approximately 100 billion
neurons and an equal number of neuroglial cells which support, protect, and nourish
the neurons.
Development of the brain
Davidoff stated that, the brain starts as a bumpy tube (sealed at the two ends) which
is divided into three main subdivisions: Fore brain, midbrain and hindbrain.
Due to growth, the forebrain gradually expands. As the organisms capacity for
processing information increases in quantity and quality, the forebrain enlarges.
(Support with a diagram).
Then the midbrain decreases in size but the hindbrain remains approximately the
same size.
The hindbrain forms the cerebellum (small brain) pons and medulla oblongata. The
cerebellum is for balancing coordination and muscle tone Damage to it causes
motor problems Jerky movement.
The Cortex
The forebrain and midbrain form the cerebrum. Cerebral cortex or cortex meaning
“rind” or “ bark” covers a vast region of forebrain and midbrain. The cortex gives
enormous information processing capabilities. It receives and processes sensory
information, thinks and performs other cognitive processes, plans and sends motor
information. The more the organism is capable of intelligent behaviour the more
cortex it appears to have.
The cerebrum is often used when referring to both the
midbrain and the forebrain.
The Cortex of different species:
Reptiles and birds have tiny cortex
Mammals (dogs and cats, for instance) have small cortex
Primates ( Chimpanzees and human beings) have large cortex.
Fish and amphibians (frogs and turtles) have no cortex. (Davidoff,
The human cortex is a massive structure 1/10 of an inch thick, contains about three
quarters of the brains neurons. It looks wrinkled and folded with ridges and crevices.
There are deep cracks (Longitudinal Fissure) dividing the brain into nearly
symmetrical halves called hemispheres.
The brain is one but has two hemispheres, left and right hemispheres joined
together by a bundle of nerve fibres called the corpus callosum.
The two
hemispheres work together, are connected and share information through the
corpus callosum.
Both hemispheres are able to analyze sensory data, perform
memory functions, learn new information, form the thoughts and make decision.
Besides, the opposite sides of the body are controlled by each hemisphere. For
instance, the right side of the brain control muscles on the left side of the body and
the left sides of the brain controls muscles of the right side of the body Sensory
information from the left side of the body crosses over to the other side of the brain
information from the right sides of the body crosses over to the left side of the brain.
As a result damage from one part of the body will affect the opposite side of the
body. Various surface landmarks (sulcus and fissure ) divide the cortex into four
subdivisions called lobes. These are:
the frontal lobes are in the forehead area
Frontal lobes -
Parietal lobes-
Temporal lobesOccipital lobes-
Speech production information processes; integration
;cognition; formulating plans; processing memories
languages and problem solving. The frontal lobes of the
human brain are the most highly developed part relative
to other animals. People with damage to frontal lobes
exhibit changes in behaviour of information leave the
auxiliary verbs ---ing; es/ i, prepositions-/on, under, of
Speech, sensation of temperature, touch, pressure and
pain from skin.
hearing and understanding /comprehension
Visual information
Limbic System (Some called, It “emotional brain”)
“Limbic” means “border” This is an area just lying beneath the cerebral cortex. It is
a collection of highly interconnected neuron groupings within the forebrain.
Distinctive features of the limbic system
It includes the
amygdala (deals with anger and aggression and registers
the emotional content of memory)
hippocampus (influences learning and memory)
Septum(deals with anger and fear)
Cingulate gyrus (unknown)
portions of the hypothalamus (make us feel hungry,
Thirsty feel sexy/mating, stressed, cold and it prods us to
take action . (Sternberg, 1995)
thalamus: Is a large collection of cell bodies in the
forebrain that looks like two small foot balls. It relays
sensory information to the cerebral cortex. It also takes
active part in controlling sleep and wakefulness (Davidoff,
All these organs are found lying roughly at the inner borders of the cerebral
hemispheres. The limbic system is also described as involving portions of both
subconscious and conscious brains. It contains the neural path ways which connect
portions of the frontal lobes, temporal lobes, the thalamus, and the hypothalamus
(see figure).
Functions of the Limbic System
The limbic system is noted for expression of motivation and emotion. This system is
also noted for also playing the essential rules in hunger, thirst, sleep, waking,
body temperature, sex, aggressive, fear and docility (Davidoff 1980: 114).
Mamnino (1995) also stated that the limbic system deals with memory, pain
pleasure, rage, affection, sexual interest, fear and sorrow.
Where is memory located?
Memory lies in the area of hippocampus and amygdale.
Hippocampus: Serves important function in memory and organizing information
about animals and location in space. This areas is necessary for short term memory
and transfers from short term to long term memory (StephenRose-microsoft-Encarta
Amygdala: Is necessary for registration of the emotional content of memory. It is
linked with social behaviour. It deals with anger and aggression.
The limbic system is particularly
involved in emotions and in the processes of
learning and memory. Learning requires memory. The limbic system is essential for
both short-term and long term memory.
When do you get worried on memory loss?
Dr. Grossberg states that you get worried when the changes you experience affect
your daily ability to function. If the severity of forgetfulness is very frequent and it
does interfere with your ability to do your job, for instance, you should see your
Memory and Learning
When monkeys were taught to remember computer clip art pictures, research
findings indicated that they reduced the level of detail by sorting the picture into
categories of recall, such as, people, buildings, flowers and animals.
categorizing cells were found in the hippocampus – the brain area that
processes sensory information into memory.
Likewise, when you have meetings you need to remember the people you met. The
brain probably does not memorize each person’s facial features to help you identify
them later. Instead, it records vital information such as hairstyle, height or age, all
classifications that are familiar with from meeting people in general. ( Deadwyler,
Sam, 2004 http://www.advance for News/watch.aspx).
My experience is familiarization of faces and where people sit.
How does the hippocampus process the information?
The monkeys’ hippocampus processe the information to retain and retrieve
memories by effectively separating the pictures into categories. It is likely, that
humans use a similar process” Hampson Robert (Ph.D)
Recollection depends critically on the hippocampus but how it works is yet to be
known. New finding suggested that we are reminded of things experienced before
as a result of the hippocampus neurons categorization. (Deadwyler, Sam. &
Hampson, Robert (2004).http://www.advance for aspx).
Current theories on how the brain processes sight, sound and touch reveal that the
initial view that information is processed on sense-by-sense brains, does not come
together until much later has been challenged by studies (Wallace, mark 2004). The
new view is that “the visual processing can be influenced by hearing and touch”.
The neighbouring cell in the borders between them can share information from both
senses. This new view also might explain how individuals who lose one sense early
in life often develop greater acuity in the remaining senses.
This new view
represents the idea of multisensory integrating of cells sharing information in the
cerebral cortex but how this happens among the different senses is yet to be
understood (Wallace, Mart( PhD) – Proceedings of the National Academy of
Causes of Poor Memory
Research based causes for poor memory are:
Poor nutrition
Genetic predisposition
Biological abnormalities (eg) smaller hippo campus.
Dietary Problem
B12; B vitamin, folate deficiencies result in poor memory.
B vitamins help in mental functioning. Lack of it causes learning difficulty and
spina bifida in neonate. B vitamins are found in cereals; vegetables, milk;
diary products, fruits and bread. (Gadagbui, 1999 GEMTAJ)
Glucose is the format sugar obtained from carbohydrates. The brain runs on
glucoses and the blood sugar is obtained from carbohydrates (grains, legume
fruits and vegetables.
Glucose enhances heaving a memory. Glucose is the fuels normally used by
the brain cells.
The brains (maize, rice etc) legumes peas & beans,
groundnut and Soya beans which have protein (The human brain
carbohydrate:file//E:\20human%20Brain%20-%20 carbohydrates htm.
Poor nutrition
Undiagnosed vitamin B deficiencies (Neuropsychology , April 2004.
Genetic predisposition (eg. Azheimer’s Disease
This disease is for elderly people. It is noted for forgetfulness, misplacing of
reading glasses and even to use it ; difficulty to remember people’s names
even close relatives it causes depression in the early stages (Becky Ham; a
staff writer of the Health behavior News Service.
Oxygen deprivation Hypoxic injury in the womb or at birth can lead to brain
Dementia: Is a progressive brain dysfunction due to destruction of brain cells.
Symptoms: This brain dysfunction is characterized by loss of recent memory;
difficulty in performing familiar tasks; problem with words; confusion with time
and place, poor judgment, problems with abstract thinking; changes in mood
and personality; loss of initiation (Annals of internal medicine, June 3, 2003).
-People at over age 65 are at risk of dementia.
Smoking: In the elderly have also been found to reduce cognitive abilities in
the elderly. Research shows that alcoholic drinks and smoking destroy the
neurons of the brain.
Neonates also suffer due to passive smoking.
Prenatally, fetus suffers from Fetal Alcohol syndrome resulting in mental
impairment, low birth weight, heart problems, behaviour problems, and some
physical disabilities (smith and Luckusson 1992 cited in Avoke 1997:24).
Diabetes: Poor uncontrolled diabetes seems to cause cognitive problem in
elderly. There is an association between diabetes and dementia in older
people (Neurology, March 23, 2004- NewslinksdailyNewswatch.aspx)
Interference and decay: Interference
means Competing information and
decay also means passage of time cause forgetfulness
Inaccurate /Poor storage /or retrieval of materials : When mind is 10,000
miles away it brings about encoding failures in Long Term memory (Davidoff,
1980: 253).
Improving Memory
Dr. Grossberg’s Recipe for Brain Health- Geriatric Psychiatry St. Louis University
School of Medicine (USA). Dr. George Grossberg is an internationally recognized
researcher in Alzheimer’s disease and a geriatric Psychiatrist in St/Louis University,
A. Grossberg Suggested that when someone needs to improve the memory the
following procedure should be followed:
Figure out what is causing the forgetfulness. May have many things to do
at once. (Eg. making wrong turn when talking on mobile phone and
listening to the radio? Having many interactions with people and books or
office work so you forget the next person you have appointment with).
Exercise the body. Depression causes cognitive impairment and is a risk
factor to Alzheimer’s disease.
Exercise the mind.
(Find a new hobby, Play chess; use your non-
dominant hand or study a foreign language why? Research shows that
Mental challenge rewire connections in the brain.
Take care of self , eg. Nutrition to control the risk factors of cardiovascular
disease, such as, high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol and
obesity to help decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Get a good nights sleep
Not getting enough deep sleep and restful sleep causes cognitive
impairment later in life.
People who do not get enough sleep (sleep
deprived) cannot think clearly and are more likely to forget things.
Feed the brain
The B Vitamins, particularly B 12, and folate are important for brain cell
Check medications taken: Over the counter drugs and some prescriptions
can cause memory or concentration problem.
Doctor consultancy is
Habits for healthier Brain
A lead author, Ian cook MD of the Neuropsychiatry institute University of California,
Los Angeles stated in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, (March 2004)
that brain damage from mini-strokes related to normal aging progresses more
extensively in people with common heart health risk factors such as smoking,
diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Dr. Cook (2002) stated:
Some people age more successfully than others, and our
findings suggest everyday behaviour and preventive
measure may be able to make difference in the health of
our brains. If we don’t take care of our physical health,
our brains and mind pay a price as well.
The new study by the University of California suggests that medication, diet,
exercise and other lifestyle choices common to good heart health could
promote healthier brains as well (American journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, March,
2004. s/daily News
“Mnemonic” is another word for “memory tool.” Mnemonics are methods for
remembering information that is otherwise difficulty to recall. Mnemonic strategies are
intended to facilitate recall of school-related content.
Mnemonic strategies are types of reconstruction of unfamiliar or abstract words into
more familiar form which include techniques as “key words” and “ peg words” which
rhyme with numbers eg. one is bun; two is shoe, etc. to facilitate recall of numbered or
ordered information.
For instance, how will you remember the word “ Parkinson
disease?. The key word is (Park) for Parkinson is expanded with a peg word “ in son”
for “inson”.
Key letter/P/ is first to remember.
Research shows that mnemonic
techniques are used to facilitate recall of scientific information as well as other content
areas such as social studies.
Advantage in using mnemonic instruction is essentially a verbal memory to enhance
strategy and does not appear to impact on comprehension.
It helps students to retrieve more information than can be employed on
comprehension tasks.
For the learning disabled mnemonics may represent the best chance for them to
succeed in the mainstream environments although they need to have sufficient
vocabulary and hands- on science implementation.
Types of Mnemonic activities to improve memory
Mind maps and using mind maps to remember structured information. Mind
maps help to lay out the structure in your mind for easy remembrance. Help
in note taking, linking points and raw facts.
Remembering very long numbers by using key letters to associate with
Use links and story methods
Number/Rhyme mnemonic (One , two, buckle my shoes 3, 4,) “30 days has
Number/Shape mnemonic (Numbers are represented by images eg. body
shape, hand shapes; candle.
Alphabet Techniques (Aa is apple, Bb is Bee).
The Journey system
Associate landmarks
to the imaginary journey
(eg. traffic; queue etc.
(File://E:grace 8.htm).
Some links on positive reading skills and habits (Taylor and Asilevi,
Preview the chapter
get the general idea of what the next passage or chapter is about. This
helps you to see how the material is organized; helps in you
comprehension, improves your concentration, motivation and interest.
First, read the title, author and its printing history.
Read the chapter introduction for some background information.
Read the heading of each section, then subheadings.
Read words in italics or bold print which is often important terms.
Look at illustrations for more meanings with what you are reading.
Finally, read concluding paragraph or chapter summary.
Make some predictions/educated guesses of what will follow next .
After reading introductory comments, chapter titles etc. review in your mind
what you already know about the subject or topic.
Ask and answer questions to guide your reading or see if the author has
questions at the end of the chapter as a study guide. First read such questions
before you read the chapter.
Review by rehearsing what you read from short term memory, recall your
question and answers and recite or write it from memory.
Take time to rehearse important points
Create interest in what your read
Use the SQ5R techniques in reading
Survey; Question, Read, Recall or Recite Reflect Record Revise or
Survey: Look through whole book for its plan or organization read front
and back over publisher’s name and publisher’s blurb ( biodata of the publisher,
what the book is about etc).
title page, copy right, printing history
table of contents
index, glossary, appendix, bibliography or references, chapters ere:
Questions: has to do with all the “wh” questions on relevance of the
chapter which put to use, date of publication too old or relevance. Have
a set of questions to urge you to read on.
Read: Mark salient points. Don’t make notes, only make notes after you
finished reading. Engage in active and careful reading. Trying to read
and write at the same time will slow your reading.
Recall/Recite: Say main parts aloud- This locks the information more
firmly in your memory. Re-read if you can’t recall, recite it again and try
to answer questions.
Reflect: think of the information read and connect it to previous
Apply the information to real life situation personal
experiences or evaluation.
Record: The essential information you marked down during reading can
be written down as notes.
Revise (review)
Revisit what was read and see if you can recall correctly. Look again
critically, from a summary or discuss it comprehensively. Or read
another book to confirm information and add further or expand
Faster reading speed
Eye fixation of words
When you read your eyes should see four or more words at each
It is not an
easy road to success
This is a quality of a good reader. Researches say the eye can see between 500600 words per minute. Research shows that the average adult reads at about 250
words per minute.
No. of words
Speed (i.e)
Time taken to read
So if you took 5 minutes, to read 600 words
120 Words per minutes, then you are a very slow reader.
450 – 550 + : you’re a very fast reader; 75-125: you are very slow (Taylor and Asilevi
2005: 130).
Improve upon your reading habit and rehearsal skills. Read several weeks of 10 to
15 minutes of daily practice; grasp a phrase at a time rather then reading one word
at a time, try to understand what you are reading. This depends, however on what
you are reading and techniques for reading.
If you are reading text books and journals, the average reader is expected to read
between 200-300 words per minute because you need to grasp the information.
Managing stress
The repository of a healthy body lies in our own human brain.
A healthy brain in a healthy body depends on many factors; exercise, diet,
relaxation and our own life styles. However, the world around us can determines
or shapen our emotions and attitudes. How do we overcome stressors which fight
against healthy brains?
Orstein and Sobel (1987) stated what they termed as a “sense of coherence” which
make people survive trauma, and problems. These include three basic attributes:
comprehensibility, manageability and meaningfulness.
Comprehensibility: Means that the demands made on the person are ordered,
consistent, structured, clear and predictable but not chaotic, disordered etc.
Manageability: Means that the person feels the resources are at his disposal
adequate to meet the demands made upon them. The resources can be controlled
but access to the resources is available to help him cope.
Meaningfulness: Refers to the feelings that the demands posed are viewed as
worth while not as threats but challenges. The “sense of coherence” that life is
meaningful, that one has resources to cope with and that life is ordered and
predictable may allow you to engage in more health-promoting activities and avoid
those that endanger health are worth thinking of and pursuing.
Many people are “health optimists”. This means they view themselves as healthy
despite negative reports from their doctors.
On the contrary, there are “health pessimists” who view health as something slightly
greater risk of dying.
Our perception of the worlds around us determine or shape our emotions,
behaviour and the recall into memory bitter experiences. How do you perceive
the world in which you live? Do you see it as a threat or challenges?
The classical example was given by Antonovsky, an Israel Medical Sociologist cited
in Orstain and Sobel (1987) about the women in the Nazi concentration camps
during the World War II.
Despite the inhuman experience, some women were
assessed physically, psychologically and socially, functioning. They were healthy,
happy, raised families, worked, had friends and were involved in community
activities. How did they make it?
These women had the “sense of coherence”.
They believed that life was
meaningful, they would manage and saw life not as stress but a challenge.
I believe you could grow to be psychological hardy in times of trauma, ill health and
assign happiness and meaningfulness to living.
A good mind in a healthy body needs exercise, good diet, relaxation, psychological
hardiness and the positive perception of the external environment, good relationship
and family support, rehearsal, attention, organization, acquiring improved methods
of recording facts and appropriate spacing of learning sessions can improve
All these support, enhance the brain states, mental attitudes and emotional states.
As students, you need to find convenient learning strategies, easy-to-grab methods
to learn, store accurately e meaningfully. Manage time well and stop time wastage
activities. Focus, rehearse often times and have a “ big dream” to pursue your
visions no matter what- you would get there!.
Avoke, M. (1997). Introduction to Special Education for Universities and
Colleges Accra: City Printers.
Davidolf, L. L. (1980). Introduction to Psychology (2nd Ed.) New York: McGrawHill Book Company
Gadagbui G. Y. (1999) Technology for eliminating disabilities and handicapping
conducting in the Ghanaian Society Ghana Educational, Media &
Technology Association Journal, (GEMTAJ).
Mind tools mnemonic techniques and memory techniques file://E:\Grace.htm.
Mnemonics and mnemonic techniques from mind tools. File://E:\Grace.htm.
Mamnini (1995).
Ornstein R. F. Sobel, D. (1987). The healing brain New York: Simon and Schuster
Ostrander, S., Schroeder, L. & Ostrander, N(1979). Super Learning. New York:
Dela corte Press.
Steven, R. & Igor A/eksander. Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia
Sternberg, R. J. (1995). In search of the human mind. Philadelphia: Harcourt
Brace College Publishers.
Taylor, M.E. & Asilevi, F. K. (2005. A Handbooks on Study skills. Kumasi, UG.C
Publishing House.