Stress damages memory

Stress damages memory according to research by the University of California. Cortisol has been shown to damage and kill cells in the hippocampus (the area of the brain that is responsible for memory) and there is evidence that chronic stress causes premature brain aging. It has shown that even short-term stress can affect memory by activating ‘corticotropin-releasing hormones’, which disrupt the process by which the brain collects and stores memories. On the other hand, recent research by scientists in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science shows that acute stress can benefit the brain: it causes it to produce hormones that boosts its ability to learn and remember.

When we’re anxious our adrenal glands release the stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol. This response helps our bodies to deal with the immediate crisis we’re facing by increasing heart rate and blood glucose levels to give us energy and also dampening our digestive and and immune system and ability to rest.  Prof Robert Sapolsky, a pioneer in the field of stress, established  that problems can occur if our exposure to the hormones is prolonged. Other research suggests that 80% problems with learning are to do with stress. So learn how to manage stress (some tips from prof Sapolsky). Breathing, meditation, smiling (helps to release endorphines – happy hormones), NLP and EFT (emotional freedom technique)/tapping help to combat stress.

Smell and sound to help with concentration and memory

An English primary school is releasing peppermint aroma into its classrooms in an attempt to boost pupils’ concentration. All Saints Roman Catholic primary school in Anfield, Liverpool, is also playing sounds of running water and rustling leaves in lessons as part of a study into ways to improve the teaching environment. Full story

Memory control discovered in forgetful flies

You may not like forgetting things but a new research suggests that any healthy brain need to be able to loose old memories. A  protein has been discovered in flies that is the key to forgetting. At this time the scientists don’t know if this protein has the same role in people. If people forget in similar fashion as flies do, this could pave the way to new ways to enhance memories or erase unwanted ones. Read the whole story in the NewScientist