How many things do you believe and act on, that aint so? I always knew that Seattle was the most rained on city in the U. S. Kids were born there with umbrellas in their hand. Now I saw the stats and Atlanta, Boston and New York are worse. Another urban myth dies.
Do you think the word stupid, when you read or hear pitches for herbs and supplement concoctions? Me too, but recent research by independent sources indicates many work as well as prescription drugs, and without harmful side effects. Turns out that scientists find serious merit in Ginko and Ginseng, while folic acid may prevent strokes and heart attacks better than anything else.
What about memory strategies?
92% of us believe in either repetition or a paper and pen to sink facts into our long- term memory. SpeedLearning graduates have two other strategies: the Peg system and the Link system to double their long-term memory. The secret of these two strategies is using your Minds Eye to create mental images, and to create a permanent Link (association) between old memories and new information we want to retain.
The only thing we associate with adrenaline is stress, and the Fight-or-Flight syndrome. A synonym used by scientists is epinephrine, and it kicks in when we get scared, excited; hear a loud, high decibel sound or see a blinding light flash. A little research adds it is a hormone, derived from amino acids, and pours from our adrenal gland. The word is from Greek meaning on the kidneys, was first artificially synthesized in 1904 by Frederick Stolz.
One more thing, our Sympathetic Nervous System releases epinephrine (adrenaline) when we are stressed, while our Parasympathetic Nervous System produces Acetylcholine to counteract the adrenaline effect. It is stress verses relaxation.
When Fight-or-Flight is activated our immune system stops working, we feel heavy bodily heat, our heart beats with a wild rhythm, and we are preparing for war.
Professor of neurobiology James McGaugh, University of California at Irvine, is credited with the research that Adrenaline is the glue for long-term memory, it makes our brain remember better. If you recall being rejected, insulted, threatened or failing, you can still retrieve those memories because of Adrenaline.
All the common day and irrelevant events of your life are not filed away into permanent memory because there was no release of Adrenaline.
Profound Point for Memory: if you consciously emotionalize a fact, idea or principle by creating a weird mental-image on the movie-screen of your mind, and a powerful behavior that awakens your Amygdala, you get a dose of adrenaline to retain long term memory of that idea. Your amygdala is located in your brain, in the Limbic (emotional) system.
It is a Skill
Have you ever attempted to remember a particular set of details, repeated them out-loud, wrote them on paper, views the facts six-times, yet five-minutes later they were missing-in-action?
Your brain either was not in the mood to learn or you had ten other more important things on your mind. What is the strategy to remember even when your cognitive mind refuses to cooperate?
Smart folks ask themselves – what does this new word, fact or idea remind me of that I already know? Now assume you did that and created a freaky mental-picture, together with an Association the new fact has in common with an old permanent memory. You try to retrieve the new stuff and you get zilch.
The missing element is emotionalizing the new details by producing adrenaline. You do not need real stress, just a semblance of noise, pain, or threat. Some scientists call it an Anchor to solidify the new memory in long-term residence.
After you created a mental-image and an association, slap your hand down on the table with a loud bang. Another approach is to shout (scream) out the new fact, work or concept. Don’t laugh, a sure memory link is to smash your hand against the side of your thigh – hard. Some students will slap their forehead and feel the slight pain while hearing the loud thud against their coconut. Try it because it works like a charm and you are not the guinea pig.
What seems silly to an extreme in the telling, works to excite an adrenaline dose. Your non-conscious mind, the one that handles 11 million bits of information per second, has no sense of humor when it comes to threats of potential danger to your personal survival.
When your non-conscious mind feels a slap or hears a loud noise close by, it is off and running to set up your defense system. Of course when nothing happens after the initial action, it sends out a cancellation of the alert order. What it cannot cancel is the original spurt of adrenaline, and its affect on improving your memory.
Dr. Roger Pittman, Harvard Medical School is a leading psychiatrist specializing in PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He heard about Dr. McGaugh and his experiments with adrenaline and memory.
First, PTSD is as real as a heart attack and particularly favors returning military veterans from the Middle East causing disabling symptoms, inability to function at home and at work, and persistent nightmares. PTSD produces a replay and continuous involuntary feedback of the original traumatic event experienced. Each mental visualization disturbs the emotions, thoughts and behaviors of the patient.
Comes Dr. Pittman with Propranolol, a adrenaline-blocker, and no more traumatic visualization and feelings. Some call it Nobel Prize worthy because of its miracle cure of traumatic stress for rape victims, soldiers, and those suffering Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. All it takes is 4x a day for ten days of propranolol, and something that has interfered with living for years or even decades disappears permanently.
What happens is that propranolol sits on the appropriate nerves and simply blocks the entrance of adrenaline which would replay the traumatic scenes.
So that is it for now – adrenaline is excellent for creating long-term memories, and even better for disabling PTSD. We suggest every time you learn something new your brain creates a firewall to protect your coconut from ninety forms of brain fever, maybe Alzheimers and Parkinsons. This has become the prevailing view in the scientific community, so believe it.
Will you benefit from a 3x of your reading speed, and a 2x of your memory? Do you gain a competitive edge by reading three books, articles and reports in the time your peers can hardly finish even one? You decide.
copyright © 2006 H. Bernard Wechsler www.speedlearning.org firstname.lastname@example.org
Author of Speed Reading For Professionals published by Barron's; partner with Evelyn Wood creator of speed reading, graduating 2 million, including the White House staffs of four U. S. Presidents.
Interviewed by the Wall Street Journal and Fortune Magazine in 2006.