Sixteenth-century Hungarian countess Elizabeth Bathory is one of history’s most famous female serial killers. She tortured and killed scores of girls, often her own servants, in myriad horrible ways—sticking pins under their fingernails, even biting their flesh. But the less-verifiable rumor that has dogged her legacy is that she bathed in the blood of virgins, believing it would keep her youthful. It didn’t work. She died in 1614.
Fast-forward to the present, when modern medicine has extended our life expectancy considerably, without the use of young blood—until now.
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Psych 101 was about to start, and Pam Mueller had forgotten her laptop at home. This meant more than lost Facebook time. A psychology grad student at Princeton, Mueller was one of the class teaching assistants. It was important she have good notes on the lecture. Normally she used her laptop to take notes, but, without it, she’d have to rely on a more traditional approach.
So she put pen to paper—and found something surprising.
Class just seemed better. “I felt like I had gotten so much more out of the lecture that day,” she said. So she shared the story with Daniel Oppenheimer, the professor teaching the class.
“‘I had a similar experience in a faculty meeting the other day,’” Mueller remembers him saying. “And we both sort of had that intuition that there might be something different about writing stuff down.”
It turns out there is.
With simplicity and depth directors TJ Martin and Dan Lindsay bring us an emotionally charged documentary about family and the pains of old age. The film revolves around an audio conversation between Martin’s grandfather and grandmother, who was dying of cancer at the time. Featured alongside a selection of home videos and photos, the conversation is a portrait of the life the couple lived. But more than a simple celebration of those moments, the film challenges the viewer to grapple with the highs and lows of life, including age, decay, and death.
One day in 2006, New York social worker Dan Cohen realized that with today’s devices, all of his favorite music—he’s a fan of ’60s rock—is at his fingertips, but he might no longer be able to listen to it if he winds up in a nursing home when he’s older. When he called around to local assisted-living facilities, he found that none of them provided personal music players to their residents.
So, he began giving them iPods. Eventually, his project became Music & Memory, a nonprofit that helps seniors living in nursing homes get access to the songs of their youth.
Forget mindfulness meditation, computerized working-memory training, and learning a musical instrument; all methods recently shown by scientists to increase intelligence. There could be an easier answer. It turns out that sex might actually make you smarter.
Researchers in Maryland and South Korea recently found that sexual activity in mice and rats improves mental performance and increases neurogenesis (the production of new neurons) in the hippocampus, where long-term memories are formed.
In April, a team from the University of Maryland reported that middle-aged rats permitted to engage in sex showed signs of improved cognitive function and hippocampal function. In November, a group from Konkuk University in Seoul concluded that sexual activity counteracts the memory-robbing effects of chronic stress in mice. “Sexual interaction could be helpful,” they wrote, “for buffering adult hippocampal neurogenesis and recognition memory function against the suppressive actions of chronic stress.”
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Caffeine can improve attention and focus, we’ve known for a while. It also enhances working memory (short term, in the moment). Caffeine’s effects on long-term memory, though, if any, aren’t well established.
A study published yesterday in the journal Nature Neuroscience gets into that in a unique way, looking at caffeine’s effect on memory consolidation.
Maps, as I’ve written before, are inherently subjective—no matter how detailed or scientific, they reflect our worldview and the age in which we’re living, not to mention the difficulty of projecting a spherical globe onto a plane surface. Now compound these challenges by asking 30 people to sketch a map of the world from memory. What would you get?
In the summer of 2012, Zak Ziebell, now a 17-year-old high school senior in San Antonio, did just that.
When people with Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory—those who can remember what they ate for breakfast on a specific day 10 years ago—are tested for accuracy, researchers found what really goes into many memories.
A bottlenose has exhibited “the most durable social memory ever recorded for a non-human.”
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We tend to preserve a mental image of the person as they were prior to their illness, the way we’ve known them our whole lives. Think about when you reunite with someone you haven’t seen in 20 years. Before you meet with them, you have an image of them from 20 years ago frozen in your memory. You are always at least a little surprised that, in reality, they have aged. You might recoil at the thought that they must be thinking the exact same thing. As our parents age, we continue to see them as the people that we love and in the roles that they played in our lives in the past — strong, supportive, and knowledgeable.
Read more. [Image: uabmagazine]