QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?

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Offline thedoc

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« on: 29/07/2008 18:18:21 »
I'd like to know how much information can my brain take before I start overwriting stuff thatís already there. Is all this learning good for me or should I concentrate on learning less? I have asked this question and nobody can give me an answer.

Asked by Sean, Edinburgh

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« Last Edit: 29/07/2008 18:19:50 by BenV »

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Offline thedoc

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Re: QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #1 on: 29/07/2008 18:18:21 »
Answered by Professor Ian McLaren, University of Exeter

You asked if the brain overwrites old information each time I learn something new. The answer is when you learn new things you do forget the older stuff to some extent but itís not as bad as it sounds. Say you learn a list of metals and flower names. Then afterwards you learn a list of trees and plants. Learning that second list will make your memory for the first worse. We donít think it overwrites it. If I now tell you that that first list was metals and flower names and you use those cues, things youíd apparently forgotten resurface. It seems like they were harder to retrieve and we think that inaccessibility protects them, actually from being overwritten. If you didnít protect it in that way it would get overwritten and you really would lose stuff. The other question was, ĎIs all this learning good for me or should I concentrate on learning less?í The problem as we age with our memories seems to be not a lack of capacity but we get worse at using it. Weíre not as good at controlling it. If you keep on learning things and using your memory a great deal, that can only help. Itís a use-it-or-lose-it kind of idea. Hope that helps!
« Last Edit: 27/10/2008 13:55:49 by BenV »

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Offline Make it Lady

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #2 on: 29/07/2008 20:59:02 »
I have no hard facts on this one but did have an unusual experience to do with this topic. Before I went to teach English as a foriegn language in Japan I had been doing lots of work involving quadratic equations. At the time I was very good at maths. In Japan I learnt Japanese quite intensively. When I returned to my studies I was totally unable to do the reasonable complex maths I had been doing before I went away. It was like it had been wiped from my memory. Even relearning it did not jog my memory.
I know that languages and maths don't seem similar but perhaps parts of the brain are used for what the brain feels is a similar subject. In this case it made a big mistake. 
Give a man a fire and he is warm for a day, set a man on fire and he is warm for the rest of his life.

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Offline rhade

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #3 on: 01/08/2008 15:30:37 »
Memory is a really tricky subject. I don't think it is accurate to say the brain "overwrites itself." I think what does happen is that the brain decides it has no further use for memories which are not accessed over a period of time, a bit like going through your closet and thinking "I've not worn that for yonks. I think I'll chuck it out!"
Where it gets really complicated is that we can create memories. You may not remember, for example, something you did when you were six, but if your family keep telling you about something you did at that age, you construct a memory based on it. In this way, totally false memories can be implanted in someone, and if a faked photograph is used, the effect is even stronger. There were a lot of cases in the 1980's with various quacks, often using hypnosis, concocting false memories of child abuse in people. The reality is that, while sometimes traumatic events are suppressed in memory, and can be recovered in therapy, usually the problem traumatised people experience is that they can't forget- those who were in the Nazi death camps in the war, for example.
This must be my longest posting on this forum to date. Sorry if it went on a bit!
« Last Edit: 12/09/2008 17:05:52 by rhade »
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lyner

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #4 on: 04/08/2008 23:08:10 »
It puts me in mind of that famous Gary Larsen cartoon.

"Can I go now, my brain's full?"

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Offline Alan McDougall

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #5 on: 09/08/2008 16:42:27 »
Well it is said that the human brain can retain three times the information of the American  library of Congress, but who really knows for sure.

Autistic savants can recall enormous amounts of information. Gogol Daniel Tammit.
The Truth remains the Truth regardless of our beliefs or opinions the Truth is always the Truth even if we know it or do not know it (The Truth remains the Truth)

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lyner

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #6 on: 11/08/2008 16:51:06 »
There may be a very good reason why we don't use all of our potential 'brain power'. I don't think I would rather be an Autistic Savant than bumbling, forgetful old me.
Just being 'normal' must be an incredibly difficult task which actually takes up most of our 'thinking' ability. I don't think this has ever been quantified. As a society, we are very 'fussy' about who we will accept and who we won't. Even being a bit 'preoccupied' with an academic or logistical problem can make us behave in a way which is marginally unacceptable to other humans. How many genii have been looked upon as odd?

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Offline rhade

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #7 on: 13/08/2008 15:06:31 »
I think I remember seeing something somewhere, possibly on Dr. Karl's website, which said that the notion that most of our brain capacity is unused is not the case, but unfortunately I forget the full story.
I think there is a basic flaw in the way this question treats the human brain as if it were a computer, and you could just say "The capacity of this brain is 140 sqaudrillion megabytes. This memory is 40,000 KB, so it will take this much of it!" I don't think it quite works like that.
« Last Edit: 12/09/2008 17:05:12 by rhade »
As the great man said, "love your neighbour as you would love yourself- But first be able to love yourself."

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Offline rhade

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #8 on: 22/08/2008 15:42:17 »
I just looked at the question again, and realised there is another thread to it, which was "is it good to start learning less?" I don't think it's ever a good idea to start learning less (or not learn more. I think it makes more sense to phrase it that way.) Anyway, what is Sean doing listening to the Naked Scientists if he wants to learn less? A somewhat illogical approach, methinks.
« Last Edit: 12/09/2008 17:04:44 by rhade »
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Offline Ward

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #9 on: 22/08/2008 20:13:02 »
There may be a very good reason why we don't use all of our potential 'brain power'. I don't think I would rather be an Autistic Savant than bumbling, forgetful old me.
Just being 'normal' must be an incredibly difficult task which actually takes up most of our 'thinking' ability. I don't think this has ever been quantified. As a society, we are very 'fussy' about who we will accept and who we won't. Even being a bit 'preoccupied' with an academic or logistical problem can make us behave in a way which is marginally unacceptable to other humans. How many genii have been looked upon as odd?
I think you're right. I live in the Netherlands (I know my English sucks, please forgive me) and I just visited a museum a few days ago. There was an exposition about the human brain, were I was told that about 80-90 % of the human brain capacity is used for behaving right. In the world we live in that's obviously a very important thing. And because it's not even possible to measure how much 'MB' a human can remember, it's totally impossible to find out how much MB is stored to behave correctly. But it's quite a lot, I suppose.

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Offline H2O2

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #10 on: 25/08/2008 13:35:19 »
Hi, I agree with the general idea that there is a maximum amount of information storage available but, being a dyslexic, I learn through many different formats before information gets stored in my long term memory. I can remember information through all senses, ie. smell like for most people (cut grass) but when another piece of information is added it becomes a link memory. By using memory tricks I seem to store information and recall it in different ways and put it together differently. ie. if showed pictures of a) a table leg b) a table top c) a table cloth. for new information unless you know what they look like together the brain has to work out how the items fit together.  using multi sensory memory allows a better ability to puzzle match any information together. or so Ive found anyhow. So it seems to me that its not about overwriting and amount of information stored but the ability to process and apply.
« Last Edit: 25/08/2008 13:37:10 by H2O2 »
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Offline erickejah

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #11 on: 21/10/2008 00:00:54 »
When I returned to my studies I was totally unable to do the reasonable complex maths I had been doing before I went away. It was like it had been wiped from my memory. Even relearning it did not jog my memory.
I had the same problem when I learned English, my math takes longer now :(

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Offline Sanghamitra Dey

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #12 on: 22/10/2008 10:50:06 »
there are loads of facts and figures that insist that we use a very small fraction of our brains and we have the potential of learning and storing more and more, i have also heard that we only use 2% of aur brain...!!! [:0]
it also depends upon our own desire of learning more and more, if we have the sincere kind of dedication and passion about learning and knowing more and more then who the hell is anybody or anything on earth to stop us...!! [::)]

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Offline blaze

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #13 on: 25/10/2008 18:11:46 »
Although the brain possesses an enormous large capacity and we only use a small portion of it, if you happen to be exposed to wifi or wimax or things of this nature, it can definitely become overloaded.

When I became electrosensitive from area cell phone towers, I lost all memory of advanced mathematics, and even some some lesser forms, everything from algebra to calculus, and I'd been a top student in mathematics.

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Offline Bored chemist

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #14 on: 26/10/2008 11:08:23 »
Oddly there doesn't seem to be any objective evidence for the assertion that "if you happen to be exposed to wifi or wimax or things of this nature, it can definitely become overloaded."

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Offline BenV

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #15 on: 28/10/2008 11:03:58 »
It's strange how many people really believe that we only use a small portion of our brain - it doesn't make logical sense that we would.  If we didn't use it, why grow it?  If we could get away with having a smaller brain, we could have a smaller head and be born later on in a pregnancy, thus giving us a better likelihood of survival in early childhood.

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Offline Bored chemist

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Offline wannabe

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #17 on: 30/10/2008 11:39:00 »
My take on this is as follows:
Everything is remembered, the variable here is the strength of the memory.
The capacity of the brain is limitless. The brain apparatus is unlike the one used in the machine analogies>>computer<< in that memory is created, synthesized that is (reference Hebbian learning), at the time of the input and as the result of the digestion of the input.
Accuracy of memory varies according to strengthening and restrengthening, i.e. revisiting remembered experience. As the brain is exquisitely capable of fabulizing (reference dreaming), veracity of what is remembered is unverifiable to anyone other then the owner of the brain.
Hope this helps.

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lyner

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #18 on: 07/11/2008 19:19:02 »
From blaze:
Quote
When I became electrosensitive from area cell phone towers, I lost all memory of advanced mathematics, and even some some lesser forms, everything from algebra to calculus, and I'd been a top student in mathematics.
It is also said to affect rationality.

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Offline BabyDoll

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #19 on: 09/11/2008 11:38:17 »
Although the brain possesses an enormous large capacity and we only use a small portion of it, if you happen to be exposed to wifi or wimax or things of this nature, it can definitely become overloaded.

When I became electrosensitive from area cell phone towers, I lost all memory of advanced mathematics, and even some some lesser forms, everything from algebra to calculus, and I'd been a top student in mathematics.

I concur. Although it hasn't (or has) been scientifically proven, everytime I spoke for over half on hour on the mobile phone, I have an headache. And I cant remember anything. When I was younger I used to speak off my mobile for extended hours up to 2 hours everyday. I was young then. Now, my memory is crap and even with new phones, I still get headache over extended usage. :(

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Offline Madidus_Scientia

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #20 on: 09/11/2008 11:56:51 »
Ok, so talking on the phone for extended periods of time gave you a headache. But should we jump to the conclusion it was the radio waves that caused the headaches? Headaches can be caused by muscle stiffness in the neck, which might happen whilst holding a phone to your ear for such a period of time, due to you possibly tilting your neck, or from holding the weight of your arm up in an awkward way, etc. And it might be possible you have a crap memory due to a hundred other factors rather than your mobile phone usage.

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Offline DanilovesHim

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #21 on: 11/11/2008 20:49:55 »
Your brain cannot get to full it only erases either the new or the old information and replaces it withh even new information. If your brain could overflow your brain would explode

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Offline Chemistry4me

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #22 on: 19/11/2008 22:53:47 »
Theres something else that I find interesting about the brain. For example you might be reading a book and you learn a new word, then you go do something else and learn something new. Then perhaps after 2-3 weeks you can't remember the word you learnt any more. Then one day you see the word somewhere else and your brain thinks "Oh I remember about reading that word [:o]" but you can't remember what the actual meaning is [???]. So why is it that your brain remembers about learning that word but can't remember the actual meaning of the word? thats what I find so strange.

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Offline rhade

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #23 on: 28/11/2008 18:18:33 »
it also depends upon our own desire of learning more and more, if we have the sincere kind of dedication and passion about learning and knowing more and more then who the hell is anybody or anything on earth to stop us...!! [::)]
I like that attitude! Who the hell, indeed! Absolutely! Go for it, I say!
As the great man said, "love your neighbour as you would love yourself- But first be able to love yourself."

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Offline yor_on

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #24 on: 30/11/2008 15:48:20 »
Read this before you decide :)
http://www.unitedearth.com.au/cellphoneradiation.html
One should take this with ' a pinch of salt' of course.

But it is the biggest 'experiment' we humans ever made.
Bigger than CO2 and coal.
And here is a less 'biased' report
http://www.content4reprint.com/health/diseases-and-conditions/swedish-study-links-brain-damage-to-cell-phone-radiation.htm

And with the 'be winged' words of am_Unition.

"If anyone truly believes that mankind is completely unaffected by electromagnetic waves and radiation, I'm afraid you may be mistaken. We all know our brains operate on electrical synapses. To pretend no interaction takes place is simply illogical. Your calcium skull does not create a Faraday cage."

Double checking here..
Nope it seems to be the right thread.
As we don't know 'how' or 'where' we store information, we don't know how much place it takes either.
And as there exist cases of people that both seemed to function perfectly with us, while at the same time, having this flawless memory recollection (perfect memory) nobody knows the 'storage capacity' as I see it or at what 'horsepowers' our brains are working:)
« Last Edit: 30/11/2008 16:26:17 by yor_on »
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Offline Chemistry4me

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #25 on: 01/12/2008 22:12:20 »
Humans trying to find out how their brains work is just like a mouse saying "hey, how does my brain work? I think I'll try and find out".
Is that a fair comment to make??

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Offline Chemistry4me

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #26 on: 01/12/2008 22:15:45 »
Hey, where has my previous post gone?

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Offline Chemistry4me

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #27 on: 01/12/2008 22:19:11 »
I'll try again
Humans trying to find out how their brain works is like a mouse thinking to itself "hey, I wonder how my brain works, I think I'll try and find out"
Is that a fair comment for me to make?

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Offline rhade

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #28 on: 03/12/2008 12:42:18 »
Sounds fair enough to me, dude.
As the great man said, "love your neighbour as you would love yourself- But first be able to love yourself."

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Offline Bored chemist

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #29 on: 04/12/2008 12:45:58 »
I think thats only true in that same sense that it would be if you replaced the word "brain" by, for example, "car".
I.e. I don't see it as true at all. Comparing people to mice in that way is just plain silly.
People already have some understanding of how the brain works and I don't know of any reason to think they will not make more progress on this matter.
Please disregard all previous signatures.

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Offline rhade

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #30 on: 08/01/2009 12:38:50 »
I don't know if we will ever fully understand how the brain works. There are many areas of science we have "some understanding" of, have done for some time... And haven't got a whole lot further.
Also, are we talking about how the brain works chemically and neurologically, or psychologically? Both are relevant.
As the great man said, "love your neighbour as you would love yourself- But first be able to love yourself."

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Offline A Davis

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #31 on: 11/01/2009 22:00:04 »
It,s amazing to watch a child grow and develop, it's brain can assimilate any language on this planet with ease. This is not true as one gets older, even something as basic as facial recognition becomes a ploblem if one hasn't seen an old friend for a couple of years. The answer is stay young and beautiful then you will never forget. Need a youth pill!

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Offline rhade

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #32 on: 15/01/2009 13:28:49 »
While I agree that children's brains are geared to learn in a way that adults just aren't, I believe my own memory has gotten better as I got older; maybe not the same as it was when I was very small, but better than it was for most of my school days.
As the great man said, "love your neighbour as you would love yourself- But first be able to love yourself."

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Offline Chemistry4me

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #33 on: 16/01/2009 01:52:27 »
Declarative knowledge: which requires processing in the medial temporal region and parts of the thalamus and can be grouped into working memory, episodic memory, and semantic memory.
Working memory allows us to keep and use information in our minds and is mediated by a network of areas in the cerebral cortex.
Episodic memory lets us store and replay events in our minds and depends on the hippocampus.
Semantic memory includes raw facts and data and is stored throughout the cerebral cortex. The hippocampus may play a role in integrating new episodic memories into the semantic memory storehouse.
In contrast, nondeclarative knowledge, the knowledge of how to do something, is expressed in skilled behavior and learned habits and requires processing by the basal ganglia.

So what kind of memory do you mean by when you said that it has gotten better? [:-\]

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Offline rhade

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #34 on: 04/02/2009 13:02:24 »
Semantic memory. That is definitely better than when I was younger. As for episodic memory, the further I am in time from an event, the more it fades, with perhaps a few exceptions, events which are too major to easily forget.
I guess the working memory depends on how much "work" I give to a particular memory. If I've not used a particular piece of info for a while, it can fade.
As the great man said, "love your neighbour as you would love yourself- But first be able to love yourself."

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Offline demografx

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #35 on: 01/09/2009 00:54:59 »

According to Einstein's diaries, he didn't feel compelled to memorize his phone number. It gave him more brain space for important scientific thoughts. Was this reasonable, considering what we know today?

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Offline Chemistry4me

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #36 on: 01/09/2009 06:09:39 »
Maybe he was talking a leaf from Mr. Holmes's book

"You see," he explained, "I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones."

-Sherlock Holmes, in "A Study in Scarlet"

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Offline demografx

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #37 on: 01/09/2009 23:23:20 »

Many thanks, C4M. For some reason this idea has stayed in my mind for decades after first reading about it. Maybe I took it to heart and have tried to do some selective retention since then. But I do know my phone number. And many other phone numbers that are absolutely useless in my life now, but I can tell you an elementary school friend's phone number from many decades ago.

Another thing I noticed when reading about it yesterday was that Einstein had a small brain. Not sure how significant that was, but maybe it was to him. (Cranium envy?) [:)]

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Offline rogelio

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #38 on: 03/10/2009 08:19:25 »
our brain keeps storing infos,according to the researches done the stored iformation is just blocked by the present informations you just need to recall it,in short our brain is limitless

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Offline Shibs

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QotW - 08.09.07 - Can my brain become too full?
« Reply #39 on: 04/10/2009 07:47:47 »
Two parts. Should you aim to learn less? No!



There has been an idea for some time in the dementia research that people who are well educated have some sort of 'reserve' mentally. In other words, they have some proven degree of protection against a fall in thinking ability IF they get dementia.

You will see this idea yo-yo-ing out of the popular press on a very frequent basis.

Second part. Is learning good for me?  Most probably.

I think that another point to consider is how memories are actually built in the human brain.

There are two separate bits: forming the memory and retrieving the memory.

How do we know that this second bit is separate and different?  Many reasons - but ask anybody with Alzheimer's disease or their nearest and dearest one. They will tell you that memories for today are much harder to recall than memories for decades ago.

So, as soon as you use up your temporary forming ability, the memory gets transferred to the retrieval bit - so learning is probably good for you in answer to your question!  It would be virtually impossible to run out of space for the retrieval bit - nobody ever has, to my knowledge, not even Einstein!

kindest regards
 [;D]
« Last Edit: 04/10/2009 10:17:27 by Shibs »