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Monday, September 18, 2006

Menopause impairs memory

A new study just reported from McGill University in Montreal confirms that female sex hormone is necessary for optimal memory function in women. In this study, the researchers measured memory before and after menopause in25 women. The women, average age of 36 yrs, had tumors of the uterus and their ovary function was deliberately suppressed to the point of menopause by drugs to control the cancer. Significant decreases in memory scores were produced. The women were still mentally functioning at an acceptable level, but the memory decline "was noticeable and documentable."

By the way, this study confirms (without acknowledging) one of the first experiments I ever did on memory, published in 1968. In that study I removed the ovaries from rats and found that they performed poorly in one-trial learning tests, compared to intact rats. Reference: Communications in Behavior Biology, Vol. 1 (1968), p. 109-114.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Humor Makes It Memorable

Ever wonder why so many radio and TV commercials are humorous? It is because psychologists have found that humor makes things more memorable. Steven Schmidt at MIddle Tenessee State U. conducted a study with 38 undergraduates. He had them read sentences such as "There are three ways a man can wear his hair: parted, unparted, and departed." He also had them read two versions of the same point that were not humorus. Students remembered the funny sentences better than the straight ones.

Ron Berk, a psychologist at Johns Hopkins, has even written a book for teachers, entitled "Humor as an Instructional Defibrillator." He cites many examples of how teachers can be more effective if what they teach is presented with humor.

Don't Forget vs. Do Remember

Emotions and attitude make a huge difference in how well you learn and remember things. I present the evidence for and explain this in my book.

Here is a simple example you can apply again and again. How often do you say to yourself or others, "Don't forget to ___________ (you fill in the blank)?" But ths way of saying things creates a negative emotion. The simple preventive is to state the instructions in a positive way: "Remember to ___________."