4.17.15–>”Long-Term & Short-Term Memory”


Colossians 1:6

The same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace.

There’s quite a process that happens in our brains in transferring a short-term memory into a long-term memory. Short-term memories are rather fragile, and take about an hour to become fixed or “consolidated” in the brain. Studies of boxers who had received concussive punches showed that they lost memory of the couple hours surrounding the fight. Those memories did not have a chance to log into long-term memory status.

Here’s another interesting study: A group was given a list of nonsense words to memorize and then tested on their memory of them the next day. No problem. But another test was conducted having a group memorize a list of words, and then study a second list immediately after learning the first list. The next day they could not recall the first list. A third test was done then having a group study the second list two hours after the first. This group did fine, like the first.

So the conclusion is that consolidation takes an hour or so, is delicate, and can be interrupted by a hit to the head or a simple distraction. Without getting into all the science of it, long-term memories require the synthesis of new proteins. Short-term memories do not.

The more times an experience is repeated, the longer the memory of the experience lasts. Repetition encourages consolidation. OK, here’s a little science: when the physiological effects of repetition on individual neurons and synapses were examined by super smart people, they found something amazing. Not only did the concentration of neurotransmitters in synapses change, altering the strength of the existing connections between neurons, but the neurons grew entirely new synaptic terminals. The formation of long-term memories, in other words, involves not only biochemical changes, but anatomical ones. It’s only been about ten years that we have been able to see that the number of synapses in the brain is not fixed–it changes with learning! Long-term memory persists for as long as the anatomical changes are maintained. Our memories, unlike computers, don’t just store information, they “grow” it.

Here’s what biologist Eric Kandel, who has done extensive memory study, says: “The growth and maintenance of new synaptic terminals makes memory persist.” Our experiences continually shape our behavior and identity. ” The fact that a gene must be switched on to form long-term memory shows clearly that genes are not simply determinants of behavior but are also responsive to environmental stimulation, such as learning.”

Do you see this??? We’re talking epigenetics here, people, another fascinating topic. But what we’re seeing now is physiological evidence that you are not a slave to your genes. You don’t have to become your dad or your mom or anyone else in your family that you do not wish to become! God made us so wonderfully, that we can grow into whoever we wish to become. Even if for the worse, of course. We have that choice.

The nature vs. nurture debate has gotten a lot more interesting. We are leaning that nurture does indeed trump nature. At some point in life we are able to take control of our environment in many ways. I guess it is true on some level that we become the the average of the three to five people we spend the most time with, but most of the time in adulthood we choose those people.

Your brain really will change if you write down three things you’re thankful for everyday and review them often.

Whatever we fill ourselves with over and over, we do become.

Here’s where the lost art of memorizing Scripture comes in. Filling with God’s truth so that we are able to synthesize it as Erasmus talked about. As opposed to reading and forgetting, not filling up with so much information that nothing sticks. (This is what Nicholas Carr argues that the internet is promoting–take in tons of information at an impossible rate to assimilate..that rhymes!)

We become what we fill ourselves with and think about most, what we allow to be our environment.

This is why it can be so difficult to follow Christ while embedded in a Christ-less culture. If we’re always around people trying hard to make tons of  money, or look perfect, well, you get the idea. I see why the monks went to the desert way back in the day.

The only person who says you cannot change is you.

I think Rocky Balboa said it best at the end of the epic Rocky IV:

“I seen a lotta changin’ goin’ on here tonite…And if I can change, then you can change. EVERYBODY CAN CHANGE!!!”

How ahead of his time he was…

In the Name of Jesus,
Soli Deo Gloria

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