Tag: Memory

AgingCognitive TrainingCurious David

Thanks for the Memories

 

I’m looking forward to returning to the classroom this week.  I’m particularly excited about what we may be able to accomplish in my research seminar with the ten students enrolled. The first two weeks will be baseline assessments of my students’ research skills. Reading (the novel, Still Alice—-and watching the movie; published journal articles–exemplary and poor research; popularized science articles), writing (blog pieces with me; self-published books; grant proposals); review (statistics and experimental design–designing DOABLE studies for every design that I teach in my book), and much development of thinking skills

Here are some earlier blogs I wrote as my thoughts began to focus on the topic I want to pursue “Brain Fitness Training Programs. I hope to tap into the knowledge of several Carroll graduates who share these interests.

Can one teach this old dog new tricks?

Is my old brain fit to be tied?

We’ll even tackle Tom Brady’s just gone public cerebral work out!

Time to discuss my plans for the course with Leo as we go for our pre-bedtime walk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AgingalumniCarroll ReflectionsCarroll University USACurious David

Can my old brain be (re)trained?

There are buildings on campus whose cornerstone bears a date before my birth. My father-in-law walked in some of these very buildings in 1936. Voorhees Hall was a women’s dorm when Walt walked this campus.

So many memories. Some converge; some change. Some researchers argue that memories change every time that they are retrieved.

With age comes my increased interest in the inevitable aging process. At one time or another I have written over 80 blog pieces (or drafts) about relationships between aging and memory.

Here are a few: (Clicking on all the links in each and viewing their contents might be a valuable brain fitness exercise!):)

  1. Thanks for the memories!
  2. I’m not sure that you will remember me but…
  3. Brain fitness training (Part 1)
  4. Brain fitness training (Part 2)

After consulting with my four student research assistants, I’ve decided to focus my Fall semester research seminar on the topic of “brain fitness”—fact and fad.  I am particularly intrigued by the promises of the program “BrainHQ.” Time to don my skeptical thinking cap:

 

brain fitnessCurious DavidForgettingMemory

Brain Fitness Training (Revisited): Part 2

dscn4331First cup of coffee at 5:00 this morning. My mind drifts to yesterday when standing in line to pick up a Walgreen’s prescription I observed the woman ahead of me challenged at the task of recalling the last four digits of her phone number and by the request that she use a key pad to enter the four digits.  Will that be me in a few years? Is that me now? What was that password again?

I no sooner write a blog piece about memory failure and about brain fitness training and I am inundated with emails about the topic. Am I paranoid? Or is Big Brother, Google,Siri or some Cookie Monster watching me?:)  I’ve explored that topic before in another blog piece. This deluge of emails reminds me of the time I was investigating subliminal perception claims and my beloved canine companion dog, Robin the Newf, started receiving snail mail about cassette tapes that promised subliminal messages which could improve her self-esteem, memory and libido.

Robin the Newf

A glance at my email suggests a number of “brain fitness training” opportunities. A Brain U Online gives me a friendly reminder of the availability of a brain training session invitation.  I receive an invitation from Blinkist suggesting that I read a synopsis (hmm–Wordpress originally wrote the word “synapse” for me—-spooky) of the book Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect your Brain for Life.  I am alerted in another email that Episode #4 (of 10) “Six ‘Brain Hacks’ to Enrich Your Brain” from a gohibrow.com course awaits.  An interesting NPR story invites me to explore the brain enhancing benefits of bilingual education. I receive an invitation to take an AARP approved “Life Reimagined”  (and United Health Care supported) free online course on “Brain Power: How to Improve Your Brain Health” taught by Wendy Suzuki, Ph.D. There is ad from Posit Science to  become a “Smart Cookie” ( there is that Cookie Monster again!) by joining their “…unique braining program … which unlike others… is backed by more than 100 published scientific papers”… I think that I’ll send them as a holiday gift a copy of the most recent review in Psychological Science in the Public Interest whose link I included in my earlier post.

How does one separate the wheat from the chaff of these claims? Which avenues are promising and which are merely advertising promises. Will I really get smarter with five-minute lessons delivered to my inbox every morning? Do i want to? Would I be well-served by following my heart and attempting to (re) learn long forgotten Spanish? Should I become involved in creating Elder hostel educational experiences? Maybe I should learn to play the piano like my great grand nephew Cole! So many questions. What fun to try answering them with students, seniors, data, and critical thinking over the next few years. Stay tuned.

dscn4779

App GenerationappluenzaAppsBloggingCurious David

Banishing Computer Clutter (Part 1)

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 3.41.27 PM

I am about to go through all the different applications that I have on this Mac and attempt to winnow them. Then, I need to do the same for all my other machines. Yes, I have done this before and yes I have written about it before (e.g. here). Appluenza is difficult to extinguish!

I call up 1-Password. Increasingly I am relying on such software to avoid the    F-word–the forgetting that seems to be an increasing concomitant of aging.  I am much more interested  nowadays in software or research claiming to enhance, protect, and expand memory. Fortunately this old man can find inspiring older role models in individuals like Roger Angell and his marvelous new book.

I load an application from hell. I bought this particular MAC software several years ago to convert videos to the many different formats existing.  Alas it won’t accept the registration code which somehow is encrypted in a fashion that doesn’t allow cut and paste and which consists of a long string of numbers, letters and hieroglyphics. Customer support is a series of FAQs that don’t address my needs. Humbug. Trash it along with another app that I never have used.

I discover several Apps built into the Mac whose existence I did not know or whose function I never realized. Embarrassing. Annoying. Wasteful. More to learn.

I load my Day One “journaling” software to record my progress. The newly downloaded voice dictation software works pretty well with it. I have all my student assistants using a shared Day One app to help us co-ordinate our work efforts.

And suddenly I am distracted by my Comic Life 3 software!

Time for a Thanksgiving holiday break and playing with the grand-nieces and grand-nephews!

Comic 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carroll ReflectionsCurious DavidGraduation

“I’m not sure if you will remember me, but …”

The letter was posted out of state on April 29, 2014. It appeared in my campus mail box a few days later. I glanced at the hand-written envelope (too) quickly, guessed that it might be a (sigh, yet another) solicitation for a letter of recommendation, and didn’t have a chance to open it until the following Saturday while I was proctoring my first final exam.

Dr. Simpson,

     I hope that this letter finds you in good health and spirit. I’m not sure if you’ll remember me, but you did something for me that I’ve never forgotten.

The letter-writer (a former academic advisee and not the academically strongest of students) had graduated three years after I had been diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer. Therefore, he might have been aware of some of my health issues while he was a student here.  Alas, he’s right that I am not as good at remembering students as I once was. I suspect that some of that memory failure is age-related; some is caused, I think, by how Carroll has changed. Some by the sheer number of students I have taught in the past 36 years. And though I had no immediate recollection of the particular event he shared, nonetheless I recalled him in some detail even without going to my filing cabinet and pulling out his advisee folder.

In 2004 ,,, I called the College to inquire about online classes. The adviser I spoke with told me that you changed one of my grades allowing me to graduate. You gave me my life and I can never begin to thank you enough. … I never contacted you because I was embarrassed, but always so thankful for it….[B]ecause of what you did I have been able to get my Masters… and have the current job I hold.  I am about to leave for Afghanistan … And just want you to know that I have never forgotten what you did for me and have always tried to earn it and will continue to. Thank you so much. Respectfully,

I have only a vague recollection of the particular circumstance alluded to (but I verified its occurrence).

A student, about to graduate fails a final exam in one of my courses. Were there personal circumstances affecting their performance? Is this part of a pattern? Is there justified reason to give them an additional chance—say, an oral exam?

A student is just a few points away from the next higher grade needed to graduate. This is easier for me to resolve, because of my extensive training in statistics and measurement error I am aware of and sensitive to the imprecision of measurement. I am quite comfortable in this situation under certain circumstances allowing some subjective (human, humane?) factors to enter into my final judgment of the student’s demonstrated abilities and likelihood of future success.

I most assuredly would change a grade if I myself had made a clerical error in assigning a grade. My vague recollection is that the latter was the case in this instance.

Simple acts of kindness, even when unintentional, can have long-lasting effects. This I believe. I was overjoyed to hear from him and communicated my thankfulness for his letter and best wishes for safety while serving our country.

Carroll ReflectionsCurious DavidLiteratureMemoryscience fiction

I’ve been Doing a Lot of Time Traveling Lately

Family 19554Blog

I’ve been doing a lot of time traveling lately partly due to my bed time reading of the marvelous 900+ page paperback The Time Traveler’s Almanac.  I’m tempted to try out Mr. Peabody’s Wayback machine.

This is also the time of year where I am flooded with memories of my time at Carroll (and my (in)formative years at Oberlin College and Ohio State). And I whistle a lot while walking across campus as I process this flood of memories. Once I get the semester successfully put to bed (with fond farewells to graduates at Commencement on Sunday),  I need to turn my attention to sorting through photos, thoughts and memories in preparation for Mom’s memorial service on May 17.

Little Brother Bruce and Big Sister Connie Sue kindly sent me all the photos from Mom’s Sun City Residence. Can you pick out Connie, David, and Bruce as they looked in 1955? I wonder what we were thinking then? I think that I had gotten over my desire to run away from home because of the birth of Bruce and was trying to teach him how to read. I hadn’t yet started teasing Sis, though I may already have inadvertently locked her in the bathroom.  Here are some of the events shaping our thinking then.

I can vaguely remember some of the radio show and TV shows.  What do you remember from 1955? What would you like to remember when you are 65? 90?


Psychology

Two Simple Studies with Potentially Impactful Results—if Replicated

When I was a graduate student, I would religiously read every article in every journal to which I subscribed. Alas, I have fallen out of that habit. One of my resolutions for the new semester is to invest more time in reading the scholarly journals to which I subscribe—and weaving the knowledge either into my teaching or my life.

As I prepare for a research oriented semester (two sections of Statistics and Experimental Design) and a Research Seminar, two articles in the December 2013 issue of Psychological Science intrigued me because of the simplicity of the experimental design and data analyses and the import of the results (if replicable).

In a short report entitled “Tryptophan Promotes Interpersonal Trust” Colzato et al. exposed 40 healthy adults to either an oral dosage of TRP a food supplement which is an essential amino acid contained in spinach, eggs, soybeans, and fish) or a neutral placebo. After an hour participants interacted in a game designed to measure trust. The participants who had ingested the TRP exhibited behavior indicative of trust to a significantly greater degree than participants who had received the placebo.

In an  equally intriguing group of studies reported in the same journal issue entitled “Aging 5 Years in 5 Minutes: The Effect of Taking a Memory Test on Older Adults’ Subjective Age” Hughes et al. experimentally demonstrated that older (but not younger) adults felt subjectively older after taking (or even after expecting to take) a standard neurological screening test which dealt with memory! Tremendous implications here for future research on the effects of context on self-perceptions of aging.