Monday, July 31, 2006

Memory decline in old age due mostly to distractibility

I just posted a summary of a research paper indicating that a major cause of memory decline in old age is distractibility. This is also another way of saying that the older you get the harder it is to pay attention. Read all about it at my memory research lilnk from my Web site (  And don't forget to buy the book, in case you haven't already.
Bill Klemm
Memory Medic

Everybody wants it

Students want to get it. Workers want to keep it. Seniors want to get it back.

What is it? ... a better memory.

I give an all-day workshop that helps people get, keep, and recover a good memory. The workshop includes a copy of the book I wrote on what science reveals about how to improve everyday memory.

I have given this workshop on a cruise ship (Royal Caribbean), as a continuing education program, and at numerous professional development events for teachers.

See my web site for details.

Dr. Bill, "Memory Medic"

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Memory lies at the heart of the Middle East problems

Individual memory of people who have been taught an Islamofascist view of the Koran has created an international band of brothers in a movement whose end justifies any means. This is why schools, churches/mosques, and the media are so crucial in shaping a culture and the only hope for changing a culture.

Part of this Islamic culture is also steeped in the notion of revenge: an eye for an eye, etc. Those who have been taught this view will never stop being violent. Whatever harm is done to them, even if they instigated the violence, will always require revenge.

I see no solution to the problems in the Middle East. Most of the policies of the "outside world" are well-intended, but naive. Memory is a powerful thing, especially when it is coupled with emotion. Emotions in the Middle East are always raw because of what people there have learned from the past.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Young People Don't Learn As Well as We Think

Some people think that only older people have memory problems. Don't you believe it! Even young people, who are supposed to have super ability to learn, have many more memory deficiencies than they or we are willing to admit.

Let me give you an example. Money Magazine ran a study where high school seniors were given lessons in money management. When these students were tested for their understanding of money management, they scored the same as students who had not had the lessons in money management. Let me give you another example. I am a co-developer of middle school curriculum, and one of the modules that we developed was taught and tested by a master Teacher in a two-week period. We knew exactly what she was teaching and we developed our pre - and post-tests based on that content. So, we expected the post test results to show
that students had learned something. To our utter dismay, the post-test
scores were the same as the great test scores. We couldn't believe it!
So we asked the teacher for her explanation. She wasn't surprised at
all. Her explanation was simply this: well, we only went over it ONCE!
My response was that this doesn't make any sense: if any kid hears a
dirty word, he learns it immediately. Well, the explanation of course
is that people remember what they are motivated to remember.

Here is another example of a young child's problems with memory. I have
a nine-year-old grandson who is learning to read. And when I have him
read something to me and ask what it said, he doesn't have the foggiest
notion of what it said. Here, the explanation is that the the youngster
is so involved in the mechanics of reading that he doesn't get the idea
being expressed by the words. By the way, this problem is not limited
to nine-year-olds. In my more than 40 years of teaching college
students I have run into the hundreds of college students who can read
an assigned reading over and over again and still not know what it said.

What should we make of all of this? First, let us not make assumptions
about how easily children learn things. Secondly, how well people
remember things depends on how motivated they are to remember. Third,
a lot of people don't know how to memorize. They think it just happens auto-
matically. I go into all of these issues in much greater depth in my book, Thank You Brain for All You Remember. What You Forgot Was My Fault.

W. R. (Bill) Klemm, D.V.M., Ph.D.
Professor of Neuroscience

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Workshop for teachers

I give workshops for teachers to help them show students how to remember school lessons. I have one coming up in Corpus Christi, TX on September 26. If you are in the vicinity or know teachers in the vicinity, please have them contact Robin Ford at the Texas Educational Service Center, Region 2.

General information on my workshops can be found at my Web site.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Great book on learning and memory

I am almost through reading a great book on learning and memory, especially as it relates to things teachers could do to make students better performers. The book, written by Dr. Jane Healy, is titled "Endangered Minds. Why Children Don't Think - and What We can Do About It."

While she decries rote memory and standardized testing based on such memory, she is a champion of requiring students to memorize information but to apply it in higher-level thinking processes. See the memory research item I have on my Web site about how brains think.

How I Got Interested in Improving Memory Capability

Well, everybody has at least a casual interest in memory. My interest was a little more than casual, and it all began in high school. Like most kids, I had a lot of interests besides school (girls, sports, clubs, activities, etc.). Yet, I wanted to make good grades, mainly because by then my parents had instilled in me a desire to do well in whatever I was obliged to do. So, to do well in school while still having time and energy to do all the other things I wanted to do – I had to learn to study EFFICIENTLY. That meant learning how to memorize things efficiently, preferably during class so I would not have to study outside of class. After I learned a few memory tricks, I was able to remember most things from class each day and what I did not get, I memorized on the school bus on the way home. My days were filled with sports (I was never any good. In football, for example, I was the lead blocking dummy), with raising my farm animals, with numerous clubs (I was President of about 4 of them and school President for two years). My evenings were filled with dating, "dragging Main Street," and listening to St. Louis Cardinal baseball games. Yet I graduated with the highest four-year average in all of the schools in Memphis, Tennessee and surrounding Shelby County. A biology teacher (that never had me in class) who knew my IQ was an unimpressive 113, spread the word that I would have trouble in college, because my success was just due to being an "overachiever" – as if that were a dirty word! My point? If you have a good memory, you can look smarter than you really are.

The next motivation came from learning about memory tricks from the Dale Carnegie leadership course. My dad was a recruiter for the course managers. He got me into the course, and I learned the memory tricks that were a part of the course. I was pretty good at it, and they decided to make me a showpiece for their memory training at the meetings where they were recruiting enrollees. At the start of the meeting, they would tell the audience: "Here is the latest issue of Life magazine. Billy Klemm is a 16-year-old who has taken the course and he will demonstrate to you the powerful memory techniques that are a part of this course. Thirty minutes from now, Billy will memorize this magazine. He has never seen it. Yet he will be able to tell you what every page is about, in any order. Or, you can tell him what is on a given page, and he will tell you the page number." Sure enough, after 30 minutes, I had memorized the magazine (and I had NOT seem it before). The audience was astonished that I could tell them what was on each page or could tell them the page number of any page that they described to me. That's heady stuff for a 16-year-old. It certainly motivated me to care about memory.

Abut this same time, I developed an interest in becoming a veterinarian. Back then, getting into veterinary school was very competitive. There were only 19 schools in the whole country and they all had smaller classes than they do now. The only veterinary college I could go to without paying out-of-state tuition was Auburn, which had a contract to take only 10 students from each of the states surrounding Alabama. So to get into veterinary school, I had to be in the top 10 from my home state of Tennessee. I relied on my memory skills to be the top one applicant. As an example of how memory skills helped me, I was stumbling in calculus, going into the final exam with an F. My problem was that I was trying to understand calculus. Finally, I gave up on understanding and just decided to memorize all the formulas and the situations to which they applied. Come final exam time, I made 100. The prof said, "Billy, I know you did not cheat. I watched you like a hawk, because I knew you were desperate to salvage that F grade. How in the world did you do it?"

Later, as a veterinary student, I discovered just how difficult that curriculum is. There is SO much to memorize. Veterinary students take all the standard medical courses (anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, microbiology, pathology, public health, etc.) and in addition take surgery and medicine courses in both large and small animal species. They have to learn about multiple species, each of which has unique biology, diseases and treatments. Well, my memory skills paid off, allowing me to graduate 5th in my class while at the same time being a weekly columnist for our national award-winning university newspaper and being active in campus politics – and enjoying courting my wife-to-be, Doris.

A few years later, I found myself working as a professor, first at Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, and then at Texas A&M University, first as a professor in the College of Science and then in the College of Veterinary Medicine. I had ample opportunity to observe student performance, good and bad. Not many years had to pass before I realized that the biggest problem that most students had was with poor memory skills. Time and again, students would complain about how hard they worked, without seeing corresponding good results on tests. They taught me many lessons about what NOT to do in studying. At least half of my time as a professor was spent in research, and my area was brain research. Inevitably, some of my research involved memory functions of the brain, ranging from consolidation of short-term memories to what happens to brain electrical activity during memory recall.

The upshot of these experiences motivated me to write a book on what scientific research reveals about how to improve everyday memory. There are over 150 ideas explained in that book that I know can help anyone. See