Test your memory

Jason Bourne never let a spot of amnesia stand in his way.

Can you touch-type, snowboard, or play an instrument without really thinking about it? Most people who repeat the same movements regularly in their work will know about slightly spooky ‘muscle memory’.

As a magician, I spend a lot of time practicing tricks until certain muscle movements feel natural.

Even when people forget everything else, they can often remember things they’ve ‘burned into’ their bodies through repetition.

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Total recall – the people who never forget

How can we be certain our memories are real? Arnie starred in the ultimate paranoia movie, Total Recall (1990)

Do you have a good memory? OK, what were you doing on the 26th of September, 2005? Actually, what were you doing this time last week? As you maybe saw on last night’s C4 documentary about Aurelien Hayman (or yesterday’s BBC Breakfast interview with him) there are people with a medical condition called hyperthymesia who can recall every day of their life in amazing detail.

As they can’t suppress or forget anything, people with this condition seem to feel intensely that they’re living ‘in the moment’, with some saying it has made them more compassionate. I was just reading about the actress Marilu Henner, who compares it to time travel. She has a teenage son, and if she wants to imagine what he’s going through she just transports herself back to when she was exactly his age. I suppose being reminded of our teenaged selves does have its uses…

We can all improve our memories by coming up with funny and exaggerated images to represent what we’re trying to remember. Everyone from Ancient Romans to stage memory masters use this technique – it really works! More about this method here.

Unforgettable is a documentary about Brad Williams, a hyperthymesia sufferer dubbed ‘The Human Google’. Check out the amazing trailer over the turn…

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The Body-Brain Connection

It is normal to think that our brains do all the thinking for us; however, the last couple posts have shown that our eyes have influence over how our brain works.

Adding to this knowledge I found that our bodies can also do some of the thinking for our brains. What we see and do with our limbs have control over our choice in situations. This is because in childhood we are hard-wired to know that up is more and down is less, and that right is more and left is less. It is a key trigger button for achieving the illusion of mind reading for mentalists, and politicians even use it as a light form of mind control / persuasion!

This is because how we think is essentially linked in with our ability to remember. If a politician taps into our memory cues using physical actions and motions, they can make us think more positively or negatively in light of a situation. It is a little trickier for mentalists because they need to reverse engineer the process by looking at motion and connecting it to thought and memory.

Synapse and Proteins

An interesting thing to note is that memories are made by forming new proteins around the synapses, essentially this is the glue that seals the connection between a memory and our brain.

Ali x

New Scientist: Mind Over Matter? How Your Body Does the Thinking

Decisions Made Through the Eye

In the movie Blade Runner, The Voight-Kampf test was used to distinguish humans from replicants by testing the fluctuation of the pupils and the involuntary dilation of the iris.

Our pupils are known to dilate when we are under heavy stress as a part of the fight-or-flight response. Noradrenalin is a hormone found during times when our pupils dilate; it suggested that noradrenalin can also influence our memory and decision-making ability.

Pupils dilate when viewing optical illusions; in the spinning woman image (above), it is suggested that noradrenalin essentially makes us decide upon the direction the woman is spinning before it appears to actually happen.

Ali x

New Scientist: Decision-makers betrayed by their wide eyes