Thursday, 7 April 2016

Brain Overload.

A rather comforting article by Jenni Russell in today's Times, writing about how our brains really can't cope with being overloaded.   I am sure this is true, and I am sure the older we get then the more information we store and the less able we are to recall some things.

When I first moved up here thirty years ago and lived in the village with my husband (who died in1991) some friends from our very young days called in to see us.   We hadn't seen them for thirty years and I am sure it was lovely to see them again.   But about three years ago we spoke to one another on the telephone and I speculated about how long it was since we had been face-to-face.   I estimated maybe getting on for fifty years now.   There was a stunned silence and then she reminded me of the meeting when they called in to see us and our little black pug.   'Of course', I said - but not true.  I couldn't remember it at all, and to this day I still have not remembered that visit.

I am sure you have all experienced trying to remember a name from the past.   The farmer and I do it all the time - then I will remember the Christian name and a few seconds later he will remember the surname.   Or I go into town with a shopping list but forget something on it (fatal to go in without a list because I hardly remember anything.)

Apparently the psychiatrist Edward Hallowell has looked into the
chemical processes which occur in the frontal lobes of our brains when they suffer such overload that they just cannot cope with the pressure any more.

Simply put - overload leads to crisis mode, where the brain is much more likely to make mistakes.   There is only so much that the neurons within our brains can do in any one day.   Small decisions can use just as much energy as large ones.   But there are ways in which we can help things along.

One - and one which I follow along with the farmer - is one which people like President Obama follows:   he wears the same kind of clothes, he always has the same breakfast - all the things which involve making simple decisions.

Every day we have porridge and a banana for breakfast.   We eat our meals at set times - breakfast at 7.30am; lunch at 12.30pm; afternoon tea at 5pm;  bedtime drink at 10pm.   Are we prioritising our brains in what they need to work on?   Well I really don't know that.   But one thing I can tell you is that I always buy a certain plant in early December because it is Christmassy.   Because over the years I have learnt exactly how to nurture it, I manage to keep it until the middle of Summer,by which time I am usually so fed up with it that I throw it onto the compost heap.   I have been trying to think what it is called since this morning and had got as far as remembering that it began with a P.   While I have been typing this post the word has come to me - Poinsettia!   Had I used up all the
energy generated by my neurons or was it just old age?   You tell me.

28 comments:

Rosie said...

This is a really interesting post. I like the website Hello Brain and the app which I have only recently discovered. It is true decision making is really tiring even if they are small everyday decisions. I always aim to have the same things for breakfast!

Heather said...

I tend to have the same thing for breakfast each day. I can go about preparing it in a zombie like fashion without having to wake up properly! I find that if I get very tired my brain seems to shut down and I can't concentrate, remember things or even string a coherent sentence together.

Philip said...

I believe you touched on some of these themes in a poem on 28th December 2008.

Dawn McHugh said...

Its a shame we cant delete unwanted stuff that are taking up space from our brains like we can on computers, I was thinking about how my brain works today while I was walking the dog, I get excited over little things like seeing a bird a flower or a leaf, I have hundreds of questions that I need answering and have to search the web to find the answers just little trivial things, I am very inquisitive but also want to try everything I wake up in the morning all excited over all the new things that the day holds, I suppose I am just an eccentric nutter :-)

angryparsnip said...

IAgree with much you have said.
I also have a health problem that has been attacking the way my brain works and it is not fun at all. I do not like it at all !
Always in a fog.

cheers, parsnip

Frances said...

I recall (I think) reading an article in The New Yorker Magazine last year about how memories are formed, and how each time we retrieve and then "re-file" a memory, the memory is slightly altered. It's possible that the difficulty of retrieving the memory is also remembered. Brains are rather amazing.

I actually try to vary my daily patterns as a sort of exercise, while also recognizing the value of establishing certain routines.

xo

Sol said...

No hope for me then, I am not even 40 yet and sometimes I cant remember what we had for dinner the night before.

Chris Elliot said...

Sudokus are great for encouraging lateral thinking - I try to solve the one in the newspaper every morning just to get my brain working. Now crosswords, that's a whole other problem. I am hopeless at them!

Joanne Noragon said...

Here's my test to the state of my brain: every morning I focus on what I had for supper the previous day, until I remember it. I generally have to say, was it a plate or a bowl. When I get I, I figure I am good to go for the day.

Mac n' Janet said...

I could have written this post! My memory was never great, except for trivia, but it's gotten really bad in the last few years. My husband and I say that between us we have a brain, not two.
.

Gerry Snape said...

I agree Pat. A good article in the Times. So many friends now are worrying about their memories and you are right there is so much inside my head that it's a struggle at times to find it!....when I can't remember that I can't remember....I might worry but then if that happens I won't know to worry!! Stay well.

John Gray said...

Old age is a bitch

The Furry Gnome said...

Quite enjoying your blog which I started following a few eeks ago.. I can relate easily to your post today!

Mary said...

Bob and I are like you guys - trying to remember names of people, and playing guessing games when we get to the grocery store but have left the list at home. It's really annoying this aging process, especially when the body AND the mind start playing tricks. We have no set times for meals etc., but perhaps we'll need to start doing that soon or we may forget to eat. . . . . . . oh goodness what is that stuff we boil in a pot called?????????

Glad the farmer's doing better.
Hugs - Mary

Cro Magnon said...

I once went to a house where the owner insisted on showing me a painting of mine that she'd bought. When I saw it, I couldn't remember it at all. It took quite some time before I began to recognise it as my work. Weird.

Derek Faulkner said...

For many years I've been a person that tends to do the same thing at the same time of day, even if I don't need to. Before I retired I always got up at 5.30, ten years later I still get up at the same time, no matter how tired I might be. Breakfast always just after 6.00, once I've collected the Telegraph, (same paper for 40 years)and so on and so on. Daphne de Maurier was exactly the same and called such routines her "routes", she tired of them but couldn't shake free of them. As for forgetting names, well at 68 it's now driving me mad and living on my own there's no one else to ask, so friends and family get phone calls at odd times of the day.

Rachel said...

I can't relate to this. I feel bad about that.

Librarian said...

Routine gives me comfort, and I really like my daily life a lot. Don't know how much it helps my brain, but I know I enjoy the occasional breaking free from routine, too.
When it comes to memory, it often takes but a tiny trigger to set the mental imagery in motion. The human mind/brain/memory is fascinating, no matter how well (or not) it works, isn't it!

Maria said...

I also buy a Poinsettia every year around about the 4th December. I have done it for the passed 20 years now. I put it outside (no central heating there) on our floor at the front door. But mine only lasts until March, after that the weather gets too warm for it and the leaves start to drop off. I also never remember the name of it so I simply call it the Christmas plant. Greetings Maria x

Derek Faulkner said...

Maria,
I grew one on in my conservatory one year and it trebled in size and flowered again the next Christmas. I've seen them growing as hedges in Jamaica.

Maria said...

I wish I could get them to survive here, Derek. I've seen full grown trees in Northern Transvaal of South Africa and fell in love with them ever since.

Gwil W said...

When I go shopping without a list I use a mnemonic. For example I need the following: Bread, Eggs, Milk, Apples, Bananas, Beer.
So I try and think of a sentence using the first letters. Big Bad Boys Eat More Apples. At least if come home with Bovril, Buns, Beetroot, Eels, Magnesium and Apricots you can't say I haven't tried. ;)

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

If it's any consolation there's also a way in which older brains are more reliable than young ones. Sometimes at work there are things which it's important to remember to do the next morning. If all the staff are told then it's always one of us oldies who remembers while the young ones all chorus, very unconvincingly, "Oh yeah, I was just going to do that!"

potty said...

At lunch today with friends it was my turn to have the 'conversational floor' and I started to do a bit of embellishment before getting to the point which would, I think, have made a good connection to the previous comments. However, it was after on the way home that I remembered what I was going to eventually say and no doubt they all think, rightly, that I am losing it.

Morning's Minion said...

My husband walked past my desk when you blog header was 'up' this morning, paused, and inquired if I realized that the stone walls around your church were built in the style of the restored stone walls at the Shaker Village near Lexington, KY--which we have visited several times.
I hadn't thought of that, but remember reading that stone masons were brought from Britain to rebuild the walls. Here is a link to photos of the walls at the Pleasant Hill Shaker Village--in case you are interested.
http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/photo/shaker-stone-wall-at-shaker-village-of-high-res-stock-photography/128520910

Coppa's girl said...

Must confess to varying my breakfasts - I get fed up eating the same thing every day. So that's why I'm confused ! We don't tend to have a rigid routine for meals, and dinner (our main meal of the day) is definitely a moveable feast - any time between 7:30 - 9:00 p.m.
I frequently forget my shopping list, so do have to rely on memory - and picture the empty shelves in the fridge! Usually manage to come home with the essentials as we have the same things most weeks.


The Weaver of Grass said...

We will all muddle along together then - forgetting some things, remembering others, getting some things right and others wrong - we are all in this together so let's enjoy every single minute of relative sanity left to us!!! Thanks for all your comments.
Glad to welcome you Furry Gnome - tried to leave a comment but couldn't get it to stick on your post.

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

Very interesting - something to think about - when my mind isn't in such a muddle.