• =?UTF-8?Q?Why_We=E2=80=99re_All_Forgetting_Things_Right_Now_?=

    From (David P.)@21:1/5 to All on Mon Apr 11 10:27:10 2022
    Why We’re All Forgetting Things Right Now
    By Elizabeth Bernstein, April 5, 2022, WSJ

    Short, temporary instances of forgetfulness—those ‘senior moments’—
    are happening to more of us more often these days, memory experts say.
    We’re finding it difficult to recall simple things: names of friends
    and co-workers we haven’t seen in a while, words that should come easily, even how to perform routine acts that once seemed like second nature.

    We’re living in yet another moment of big change as we return to
    offices, create new routines and find our footing in yet another new
    normal. (And don’t forget a scary war in Europe on top of that.) All
    this change consumes cognitive energy, often much more than we think, neuroscientists say. It’s no wonder we can’t remember what we had for breakfast. Our minds are struggling with transition moments.

    “Our brains are like computers with so many tabs open right now,”
    says Sara C. Mednick, a neuroscientist and professor of cognitive
    science at UC Irvine. “This slows down our processing power, and
    memory is one of the areas that falters.”

    The chronic and cumulative stress of the past two years has taken
    its toll, too. Research led by Dr. Shields shows that people who
    have experienced recent life stressors have impaired memory. Stress
    negatively affects our attention span and sleep, which also impact
    memory. And chronic stress can damage the brain, causing further
    memory problems, says Dr. Shields, an assistant prof in the dept of psychological science at the U. of Arkansas.

    The deluge of info coming at us on multiple channels is cluttering
    our brains, too. We’re terrible at paying attention, constantly
    scrolling our phones while we’re doing other things, which neuro-
    scientists say makes it hard to encode memories in the first place.
    And it can be hard to remember something out of context, such as the
    name of the co-worker suddenly talking to us in person, rather than
    on Zoom.

    Then there’s the sameness of our lives during the pandemic. How
    are we supposed to remember a specific event when each day was
    exactly the same as every other?

    “Memory benefits from novelty,” says Zachariah Reagh, a cognitive neuroscientist and assistant prof of psychological and brain sciences
    at Washington U. in St. Louis. “When all of our experiences blend
    together, it’s hard to remember any of them as distinct.”

    Michelle Triant, 39, blames two Covid-tinged years for why she
    recently forgot the name of her own body part. When her 4-year-old
    daughter asked her: “Mommy, did I grow in your tummy?” Triant sensed
    an opportunity for an anatomy lesson and started to explain. “No,
    sweetheart, actually, you grew in my… ” but drew a blank. She stuttered
    for a moment, hoping to retrieve the right word.

    Her 7-year-old daughter piped up: “She means uterus,” she told her
    younger sister. “Babies grow in the mom’s uterus but her belly gets
    bigger which is why that’s confusing.”

    “Oh, to have the memory of a first-grader,” says Triant, who lives
    in Spokane Valley, Wash.

    Memory declines with age, but medical science isn’t clear exactly
    when. People age cognitively at different rates.


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