A family meal was in progress and there was lively discussion about the latest neighbourhood scandal. Forty-something, Ben J. had taken off with the 18 year-old babysitter. Hilarity prevailed as one after the other of us imagined what might become of the odd couple. Let’s face it, Ben wasn’t exactly slim! Then, because actually nor were most of us, a quotation from the Scottish poet, Robert Burns, started tugging at my brain. Something to do with being able to see ourselves as others see us. I knew it really well … how did it begin?
It was on the tip of my tongue. Do you know, try as I might, I couldn’t remember how that quotation began.
Why was this simple memory task so hard? Does it mean my brain is shot?
Well, there is good news and not so good news. What’s not so good is that the brain gradually gets older and having something you want to remember on the tip of the tongue (TOT’s for short) happens more to older people. But the good news is that they don’t mean that Alzheimer’s is the next step – and TOT’s can be almost eliminated if the brain, on a regular basis, is tuned up by exercise and being challenged to do difficult things.
Dr Allison Lamont PhD, specialist in age-related memory loss, explains what is happening when something is on the tip of the tongue, and you can’t recall it.
“People often think that words are stored in a unit in our head, and that we have a little place in our minds where we file everything we know about (for example) Robert Burns.”
“But information isn’t stored in our minds that way”, she explains, “there is a network operating across different parts of the brain that connects information, and you can sometimes lose access to one part and not the others. So you can remember that Robert Burns was Scottish, and see a picture of him in your mind’s eye, but on this occasion you were not able to recall the phrase you wanted because it’s not conveniently stored with the other facts you know.”
From the age of about 50 onwards, the connections in our information network weaken, causing occasional let downs in memory. This is especially true if we a particular connection hasn’t been activated for some time. The connection is still there, but it is weak and needs attention.
Lamont says that there are ways to keep your brain connections firing:
- becoming fully engaged in life,
- using language and logic skills as much as possible,
- learning new things,
- socializing and being involved in lively conversations
- using brain-sharpening techniques to activate the brain.
She is committed to helping baby boomers push back the effects of ageing on the brain
With educator, Gillian Eadie, she has written a book called Seven Second Memory. Plus six other powerful memory techniques to rewire the brain for a youthful mind. It’s worth a read and it is a great way to starting fighting back against tip of the tongue problems.
Another great start is to try Dr Lamont’s free mini-course, Brain Tune™
By the way, that quotation from Robert Burns? Well, my 92 year-old mother, who has challenged herself with mental arithmetic and memorizing poetry for the past forty years, rescued me at the dinner table. With only a moment’s hesitation she came up with this:
‘O,wad some Power the giftie gie us to see oursels as others see us.’
(O would some power give us the gift to see ourselves as others see us.)
Robert Burns, Poem “To a Louse” – verse 8
Scottish national poet (1759 – 1796)