Secrets of the Brain: The Mystery of Memory
by Tonia E. Chrapko, B.Ed., creator of the
BRAINBOOSTER™ DVD series.
Even though science continues to give us ever increasing insights
into what memory is, much of it remains a mystery. Researchers
consider memory a process, and when you remember you are actually
reconstructing the event from bits of information stored in various
parts of the brain. But the mystery is, what initiates the
reconstruction? Is it, as some suggest, directed from outside the
physical body, from the energy body? That remains to be seen. In the
meantime, let’s look at what science can tell us about some of the
chemical activity in the brain.
The Location of Memory
In the past, it was thought that all memory was in the brain.
However, Gazzaniga (1988) reports that memory occurs throughout the
nervous system. So every thought you have is “felt” throughout your
entire body because the receptors for the chemicals in your brain
are found on the surfaces of cells throughout your body. Thus when
the chemicals are activated across synapses in the brain, the
message is communicated to every part of your body by chemotaxis, a
process that allows cells to communicate by “radar” or remote travel
using blood and cerebrospinal fluid. In more extreme cases, the body
sometimes buries intensely painful memories in muscle tissue so that
the conscious mind is spared the depth of trauma. Then when that
person receives deep tissue massage or bodywork such as Rolfing, and
the muscles are stimulated, the memories can be reactivated, causing
the person to experience the repressed emotions. Another example of
muscle memory is evident with organ transplants. People who have
received donor organs have reported experiencing cravings or
emotional reactions to certain incidents that they never had before.
The Biology of Memory
What it comes down to is brain cells, or neurons, communicating
with each other through electo-chemical pathways. An electrical
impulse travels down the axon or “outgoing branch”. Then the
“fingers” at the end are stimulated to release chemicals called
neurotransmitters (tiny molecules that send specific messages). The
dendrites or “incoming branches” of other neurons pick these up. The
space between the axon and dendrites is called a synapse.
Solidifying the Synapse
For learning to “stick”, the synapses need time to “gel”. If the
synapse doesn’t “gel” then recreating the event, i.e. recalling the
memory is difficult, if not impossible. A research team comprised of
scientists from the University of Texas Medical School at Houston
and the University of Houston reported the discovery of a new
protein – transforming growth factor-B (TGF-B) that acts to solidify
the new synapses (Science, March 1997). However, if there is too
much protein it can build up and “clog” the synapse, thus reducing
memory recall. Usually the neurotransmitter calpain, found in
calcium, keeps the buildup of protein down. So, inadequate dietary
calcium means that too much protein can build up because there is
not enough calpain to keep the synapses clean. Unfortunately, an
excess of calcium in the diet also creates a problem because the
calpain starts to interfere with proper neural transmissions. A
drastic way to remove excess protein from the synapse is by electric
shock. Acetylcholine, one type of neurotransmitter, is important for
three reasons: it is necessary for activating REM (rapid eye
movement) sleep, it keeps neural membranes in tact so that they
don’t become brittle and fall away, and it breaks down the excess
build up of amyloid protein at the synapses found in Alzheimer’s
patients (Robert Wurtham, director of the Clinical Research Center
at Massachusetts Institute of Technology).
Stress Erodes Memory
Excessive stress and obesity produce an over-production of a
complex set of stress hormones called glucocorticoids (cortisol
being one example). Over exposure to glucocorticoids damages and
destroys neurons in the brain’s hippocampus – a region critical to
learning and memory. One really good way to burn off excess cortisol
is through exercise. So for those experiencing particularly high
stress levels exercise is not only beneficial, it is necessary.
What are the Characteristics of Memory?
- Sensory – we remember things that involve our five senses. So,
the more senses that get activate, the easier it will be to
- Intensity – when something is more intensely funny, sexual,
absurd, etc. it tends to stand out in our memories.
- Outstanding – things that are dull and unoriginal are more
difficult to remember because there is nothing to distinguish them
from all the other memories.
- Emotional – the amygdala – a round, pea-sized part in the
middle of the brain - acts as a gate keeper, so when something
happens that has high emotional content – positive or negative –
the amygdale says, “This is important!” and we tend to remember it
- Survival – the brain is wired for survival. This means that
anything we perceive as important to survival we will remember
more easily. It’s not just physical survival. Survival can
include, emotional survival, psychological survival and financial
- Personal importance – we naturally remember things that
interest us and that have some personal importance.
- Repetition – the more often we recall information, the better
we get at recalling on demand.
- First and last – the brain most easily recalls things from the
beginning and the ending of any session or lecture.
What are the Keys to Memory?
- Pay attention – often times the biggest problem is that people’s
minds are not focused in the moment. Instead, they are thinking
about something in the past of future.
- Visualization – create a visual in your mind because the brain
thinks in pictures and concepts, not paragraphs.
- Association – find something to connect the information
to…similar to word association. Ask, “What does this remind me of?”
- Imagination – get creative when visualizing or making
Why do we forget?
It could be that we never stored the information properly in the
first place. It could be because there was not enough emotion or
personal importance connected to the information to make it stick.
It could be that it was so emotionally traumatic that the mind
suppressed it in order to maintain normalcy.
Why do we remember negative events?
Whenever emotions are activated, especially strong emotions, the
information or experience is entrenched into memory. Often times we
tend to dwell on it, thereby rehearsing it and entrenching it even
further. It is also easier to recall negative memories when we are
in a bad mood. Why? Because we remember things in the state that we
learned them so whenever you are feeling angry you will more easily
recall other situations in which you were angry.
The subconscious remembers everything
If we were to compare the conscious mind with the subconscious,
the conscious would measure about one foot long and the subconscious
would be the length of a football field. The potential is enormous.
So everything we experience can be stored. However, the conscious
mind would get overloaded trying to process all the incoming bits of
data on a daily basis. Instead, all the information goes into the
subconscious for storage and we may never deal with it, except if
the mind chooses to process it at night through dreams. Or, if we go
for clinical hypnosis, through which a therapist assists in
accessing information or memories the conscious mind has “forgotten”
Copyright 2004 by Tonia E. Chrapko,
creator of the BRAINBOOSTER™ DVD series.
All Rights Reserved.
the popular BRAINBOOSTER™ DVD program.
Copyright 2004 by Tonia E. Chrapko, B.Ed.,
creator of the BRAINBOOSTER™ DVD series.
All Rights Reserved.
1. Your brain loves color. Use colored pens – good quality, not gel pens –
or use colored paper. Color helps memory.
2. Your brain can effectively focus and concentrate for up to 25 minutes
(adults). Take a 10-minute break after every 20-30 minutes of studying. Go do
some chores: rake the lawn, iron a shirt, vacuum. Come back after 10 minutes
and do another focused, intense session.
3. Your brain needs to be rested to learn fast and remember best. If you
are tired take a 20-minute nap first otherwise you are wasting your study
4. Your brain is like a motor: it needs fuel. You wouldn’t put dirty fuel
in your Lamborghini (if you had one) or you wouldn’t put low quality fuel in a
rocket, would you? Well, your brain is a much more valuable, intricate machine
than either of those so feed it properly. Junk food and imitation food and all
the chemicals and preservatives weaken both your body and your mind. In fact,
a recent study in England showed that your IQ is affected by your diet.
5. Your brain is like a sea of an electro-chemical activity. And both
electricity and chemicals flow better in water. If you are dehydrated you just
don’t focus as well. Drink enough water (colored liquids – pop, juice, coffee,
etc. – are not the same). Often times headaches are connected to dehydration,
6. Your brain loves questions. When you come up with questions in class or
when reading a book, your brain automatically searches for answers, making the
learning faster. A good question has more than one answer.
7. Your brain and body have their own rhythm cycles: there are times during
the day when you are more alert than others. You will save time learning if
you study during your peak periods. If you have a part-time job that happens
during your peak period you may wan to reconsider if it is wise to be giving
your employer your best learning time.
8. Your brain and body communicate constantly. If your body is slouched
down, the message the brain gets is that “this is not important” and so it
doesn’t pay as close attention. In any learning situation, sit up and lean
forward to help keep your mind alert. Buy a good quality, adjustable office chair.
9. Your brain is affected by smells. Use aromatherapy to keep your brain
alert. Peppermint, lemon and cinnamon are good ones to experiment with.
10. Your brain needs oxygen. Get out there and exercise.
11. Your brain needs space. Be sure that you are not trying to study in a
small cramped area.
12. Your brain needs your space to be organized. One recent study showed
that kids who grow up in tidy, organized homes do better academically. Why?
Because by being trained to organize the outside environment, the brain learns
to organize the internal knowledge…which makes recall faster. Buy a 4-drawer
legal-sized filing cabinet.
13. Your brain cells in the hippocampus, a part of the brain that deals
with putting information from short-term to long-term memory, are destroyed by
cortisol, which is created when you are stressed. So, yes, stress affects
memory. How do you get rid of cortisol? Exercise.
14. Your brain doesn’t know what you can’t do until you tell it.
you telling it? Listen to your self-talk. Stop the negativity. Replace it with
more positive, encouraging talk.
15. Your brain is like a muscle: it can be trained and strengthened, at any
age. No excuses. Stop being a mental couch potato. Professional athletes
practice every day; you can practice homework everyday. If “you don’t have
any”, make some up for yourself. Read ahead, review…do SOMETHING.
16. Your brain needs repetition. It is better to do short frequent reviews
than one long review because what counts is how many times your brain sees
something, not how long is sees it in one sitting.
17. Your brain can understand faster than you can read. Use a pencil or
finger to “lead” your eyes. By doing so you help your eyes move more quickly.
18. Your brain needs movement, especially if you are mostly a kinesthetic
(body movement) learner instead of a visual or auditory learner. You might
find your productivity go up if you have a standing desk. Buy one or make one
by raising your desk/table on blocks. This allows you to move more easily and
stay more alert.
19. Your brain seeks patterns and connections. When you are learning
something, ask yourself, “What does this remind me of?” This will also help
your memory because it connects the new knowledge to something you already
20. Your brain loves fun. We learn in direct proportion to how much fun we
are having. Learning is life. Live it up!
Copyright 2004 by Tonia E. Chrapko, B.Ed.,
creator of the BRAINBOOSTER™ DVD series.
All Rights Reserved.
BRAINBOOSTER™ (11 Topics to Boost Your Grades! )
This course will reveal
powerful study skills and learning strategies. You can also apply
many of the skills and strategies to other areas of your life:
financial, career, relationships, etc. The entire program is
organized around time-tested, result-producing fundamentals. As you
begin to use them, you’ll get excited over the possibilities. Be
ready for countless focused applications of highly effective
learning "secrets". I personally guarantee you’ll learn at least 101
specific, useful, practical, result-boosting study skills and
learning strategies. Here is what you will learn...
DVD # ONE
1. Learner Identity Break Through Limiting Beliefs that Sabotage Your Learning Efforts
How do you see yourself as a learner? How you see yourself as a
learner will dramatically affect how easily you learn. Improve your
learning habits, raise your exam scores and reduce your study stress
by identifying limiting beliefs and eliminating them. Learn "mind
training" techniques used in sports psychology and by high
2. Brain Scan: Learning Styles, Multiple Intelligences, Brain
Wavelengths and Left-Right Hemispheres
What do learning styles, multiple intelligences, brain
wavelengths, the left-right hemispheres have to do with how you
study? EVERYTHING! Knowing HOW the brain works allows you to
maximize your abilities and learning possibilities. Did you know
that the order you study subjects makes a difference in how quickly
you learn? French, Math and English in this order is more powerful
for memory retention than French, English, Math.
3. Preparation: Get Your Mind and Environment Ready to Learn Fast
How can you get psyched? Preparing your external and internal
environments is the single most important thing to do to experience
results: create the ideal external environment to enhance focus and
concentration; create the optimal internal environment to acquire,
retain and recall knowledge. Did you know that when your brain is in
alpha state, the relaxed alertness, you can cut study time by 1/3 to
DVD # TWO
4. Memory Improvement and Mnemonics
How do you get the internal returns? Understand the 3 keys and 8
characteristics to a strong memory and make storing and recalling
more successful. Learn how memory is connected to location, movement
and emotions and then apply it to your learning. Find out how easy
memory improvement is with mnemonics. The Link System, Peg System
and Loci Method are fun to learn and simple to use.
DVD # THREE
5. Lecture Room: Listening Skills Get the Most in Class to Save Study Time after Class
Where should you sit and why? Maximize your learning and retention
during lectures: what you can do before, during and after class to
make the most use of your time so you can spend fewer hours on
studying afterwards. Good listening skills are important because if
your brain doesn't hear and understand, it won't remember. Find out
how posture and eye contact affect your listening skills and
learning. Did you know that the best place to sit is in the first
three rows and to the side? Find out 5 reasons why.
6. Note Making
Change Notes into Powerful Memory, Study and Learning Tools
How can you put ink on paper? Discover 7 easy, effective methods for
note making that become useful study tools. Choose the best one for
each particular course and for your learning style. One of the
methods taught, the mind map or learning map, can also be applied to
public speaking, presentations, book reports, essay writing, project
planning and time management. Did you know it is better to use blank
paper instead of lined paper and that colored pens and colored paper
actually help your memory?
DVD # FOUR
7. Active Reading: Accelerated Reading and Speed Reading Skills Get Through Mountains of Reading
What happens when eye meets book? Tips and keys to keep
concentration high while reading faster. Learn what to do if you
don’t have time to read everything. Find out the power of "layered"
reading. Did you know that there are two creative new ways to use
the index of a book as an effective study tool so that you can save
8. Goal Setting Skills to Motivate Your Brain Do it Faster
How do goals cut study time? When your brain knows exactly what you
want it to do, it learns much faster. So each time you sit down you
need specific, measurable goals. Example: I will read 7.5 pages, or
I will answer 5 math problems or I will write the essay conclusion.
Not: I will do some studying.
DVD # FIVE
9. Improve Concentration and Focus
How can you use mind over clatter? When you are not fully focused,
it takes longer to get anything done. By increasing focus and
concentration with "pacing" you save time in two major ways: first,
by reducing how long it takes you to finish a task and second, by
reducing the amount of re-learning you have to do later on. Learn
the 8-step Concentration Improvement Plan.
Did you know that if you are dehydrated, your brain just won’t
focus properly? Caffeine dehydrates your whole system. Tip: For each
coffee, tea or pop you drink, drink a glass of plain water. Power
Tip: Buy an electronic kitchen timer and use it every time you
study...find out how this cuts study time, increases memory and
reduces exam anxiety.
10. Stop Procrastination plus Time Management Skills Your Most Valuable Non-renewable Resource is Time
Where did your time go? Discover why day timers do not work for
everyone. Learn the 6 psychological reasons people procrastinate
(you will be surprised). Understand the fears related to
procrastination. Learn the techniques to move you forward.
Did you know that rewarding yourself for accomplishments is more
powerful to stop procrastinating than punishing yourself putting
11. Writing Exams – How to Produce Under Pressure
How can you thrive in the final analysis? Learn the nitty-gritty
of effective exam preparation and test writing. Discover how to
figure out what to do when you actually sit down to study. The
essence of essay writing. Special techniques and tips for dealing
with multiple-choice tests, true-false questions and essay exams.
Dealing with exam anxiety before and during an exam.
You will never be taught ALL of these learning strategies in school.
I am a teacher, trained at one of the best universities in North
America, and I can tell you that I did not get any instruction in
study skills as part of my degree. In fact, it was 7 years after I
had been teaching that I started to learn about accelerated learning
and brain-based learning. And that is because I went back to
university to take a biochemistry course and two courses in advanced
French translation and composition.
In high school I was an Honor student every year; in university I
was an average student; and now as a professional adult, not to
mention teacher, I was finding the biochemistry really tough. You
can imagine how frustrated I was when I realized I was struggling.
You see, in grade school I had what is called "high natural
talent" and did well with minimal effort. It also got me through my
Education degree, but with nothing to brag about as far as marks
were concerned. And I never gave it another thought until I was back
taking those courses.
Then the lack of study skills was painfully obvious. So, I
started researching study skills, developed a 3-hour workshop that
grew into a 3-day workshop because people wanted more and more of
Many instructors who have taken my program have commented that
80% of the information is new to them: so if your instructors don’t
know these smart learning strategies and study skills, there is no
way that they can teach them to you!
Why you will use these DVDs instead of a book
There are hundreds of books on study skills and learning
strategies – you might even own a couple. However, if you are like
most people I know,
- You are busy.
- You probably have tons of reading to do.
- It’s easier to find time to watch a DVD than to read a book.
Reality: There are not many study skills programs on DVD, and
certainly not 10 hours worth for such a reasonable price.
Benefits of this DVD series…
- You can watch as much or as little as you want in one sitting.
- You get a workshop experience in the comfort of your own home.
- You have the convenience of watching whenever you want.
- You can re-watch it at any time.
- Your whole family benefits (less costly than everyone signing up
for a workshop).
- Your education is likely to be the second most expensive purchase
you will ever make (a house being the first). For this reason we
want you to get the most value and pleasure from the experience,
instead of having to struggle through it or take a lot of time. This
is why we created this DVD series...for your convenience. With these
skills, learning doesn't have to be a chore.
Why is this program so important?
Learning How to Learn is more important now than ever before. You
(or your kids) will probably change your career 5 to 7 times. It’s
important to have the ability to adapt and learn. Unless you know
how to adapt, you’ll flounder, suffering unnecessary stress and
According to Kevin Paul, M.A. author of Study Smarter, Not
- The world is changing in favor of those who command knowledge.
- Employability increasingly depends on the ability to learn fast
- Almost all new industries – and their jobs – are based on
- Competition for knowledge-based jobs will necessitate excellence
in learning capability, not just adequacy.
- Every career change will also require upgrading of knowledge
credentials and skills. Your learning ability must be in peak
condition so you can minimize the impact of down sizing, outsourcing
- Because you can. Such learning and intellectual level is within
your reach. Practice to achieve your maximum potential.
Here’s How to Order!
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