How to have the second brain to remember more

How to Have the Second Brain to Remember More

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How to Have the Second Brain to Remember More

Your whole life depends on you being able to retrieve things from your memory.

I’m sure you know what I mean… “Where are my keys?” “What major tasks do I need to complete today?” “What time is that meeting I need to attend?”

Questions such as these bombard our minds daily. If you’re able to recall the relevant information, you’ll keep your life on track. However, if you fail to recall the information – your life will start to move in a confused and unproductive direction.

We’d all love to boost our memories, but often we go about it in the wrong way. It’s not about how much information we can absorb into our minds, but how easily we can retrieve this information (which most people aren’t good at).

Information Overload = Memory Failure

We live in an information age, where our minds are besieged 24/7 by facts, figures, news, drama and trends.

To maintain our standing among our peers, most of us strive in vain to keep up-to-date with everything from music to movies to politics.

It’s a never-ending whirlpool of information. And if you try to remember all of this information – you’re likely to find that your mind becomes so full that you begin to lose the ability to think clearly.

Information overload is a modern-day plague. And your memory is likely to be one of the plague’s victims.

For example, when you were younger, you may have loved to sing along with your favorite songs. Sadly, as you’ve grown older, you’ve started to forget the words to the songs. The more you try to recall the words – the further from your mind they seem to be. It’s frustrating, and has probably blighted a pastime that you used to love.

Could it be that over the years, you’ve tried to remember just too many songs? Perhaps.

As you’ll see below, continually overloading your memory, can lead to recall issues and embarrassing social interactions.

It’s on the Tip of My Tongue, But…

It can be distressing when the flow of our conversation is blocked by our inability to recall information. And this can be especially traumatic if it takes place during a formal work environment.

For instance, imagine that you’re doing a presentation at work to some potential clients. You’ve created PowerPoint slides to guide you through your presentation, but the bulk of the message you’re hoping to convey is held in the memory banks of your mind. You start your presentation positively, but after a few awkward questions from one of the clients, you notice your confidence slipping – and your recall ability falling too! Suddenly, facts and figures seem out of your grasp. You’re stuttering, and rapidly losing the attention of the audience. To put it another way: you’re presentation has gone down the pan!

Storing tons of information in your memory is worthless if you’re unable to recall the parts you need – at the time you need them. Luckily, there’s a way to give your physical memory some much-needed breathing space.

How to Let a ‘Digital Brain’ Take the Strain

Our physical brains can only offer us a limited amount of memory storage and recall abilities. These limits used to be sufficient, but as mentioned earlier, we now live in an information age, where our ability to absorb and recall information has been stretched beyond our normal capabilities.

What’s the answer to this problem? Well, you could start by giving some of this storing and recalling work to a digital brain.

By this, I don’t mean you should turn yourself into a cyborg. In fact, the only thing you’ll be turning yourself into is a super-efficient and productive version of yourself!

I’ve called it a digital brain, but you’ll know it simply as digital or online storage. And you’re sure to recognize some of the tools:

  • Airtable
  • Dropbox
  • Evernote
  • Google Drive
  • Pocket

The above software (and other similar ones) allows you to store, organize, and easily retrieve information. For example, Pocket lets you capture blogs, news and videos into a digital pocketbook. This is achieved through a one-click process. Once the content is within your pocketbook, you can retrieve and view it at any time. Clearly, this is far more efficient than trying to remember which stories you’ve seen earlier in the day – but hadn’t had chance to read/watch.

Instead of trying to remember everything with your physical brain, begin moving over some of the information to your digital brain. Whichever tool (or tools) you decide to use, you’ll immediately be able to take advantage of the following benefits:

  • You can store as much information as you wish. (Free plans may offer only limited storage.)
  • You can easily organize and prioritize the stored information.
  • The stored information is available in an instant, 24/7, 365 days a year.

Compared to relying 100 percent on your physical brain, the addition of a digital brain will help you immensely. You’ll be able to determine what to store, what not to store, and when to retrieve information. You’ll also be able to use a digital brain to help you with your to-do lists and goal planning.

I personally use Google Drive for storing all my documents and images, and I use Todoist to help me manage my day-to-day tasks and workload. I’ve found using a digital brain to be liberating. Before, I used to stress over trying to remember everything – now my mind feels relaxed and free. I also have more mental energy for creative pursuits.

You may think that highly-productive people must be blessed with super-powered memories. For sure, some are, but most of these people are ordinary folks, with one difference… They have learned how to use a digital brain to help them store and retrieve information – and to organize their lives.

News , Events , Food and Everything under the sun

Posted By: jerminix June 29, 2017

Your whole life depends on you being able to retrieve things from your memory.

I’m sure you know what I mean… “Where are my keys?” “What major tasks do I need to complete today?” “What time is that meeting I need to attend?”

Questions such as these bombard our minds daily. If you’re able to recall the relevant information, you’ll keep your life on track. However, if you fail to recall the information – your life will start to move in a confused and unproductive direction.

We’d all love to boost our memories, but often we go about it in the wrong way. It’s not about how much information we can absorb into our minds, but how easily we can retrieve this information (which most people aren’t good at).

Information Overload = Memory Failure

We live in an information age, where our minds are besieged 24/7 by facts, figures, news, drama and trends.

To maintain our standing among our peers, most of us strive in vain to keep up-to-date with everything from music to movies to politics.

It’s a never-ending whirlpool of information. And if you try to remember all of this information – you’re likely to find that your mind becomes so full that you begin to lose the ability to think clearly.

Information overload is a modern-day plague. And your memory is likely to be one of the plague’s victims.

For example, when you were younger, you may have loved to sing along with your favorite songs. Sadly, as you’ve grown older, you’ve started to forget the words to the songs. The more you try to recall the words – the further from your mind they seem to be. It’s frustrating, and has probably blighted a pastime that you used to love.

Could it be that over the years, you’ve tried to remember just too many songs? Perhaps.

As you’ll see below, continually overloading your memory, can lead to recall issues and embarrassing social interactions.

It’s on the Tip of My Tongue, But…

It can be distressing when the flow of our conversation is blocked by our inability to recall information. And this can be especially traumatic if it takes place during a formal work environment.

For instance, imagine that you’re doing a presentation at work to some potential clients. You’ve created PowerPoint slides to guide you through your presentation, but the bulk of the message you’re hoping to convey is held in the memory banks of your mind. You start your presentation positively, but after a few awkward questions from one of the clients, you notice your confidence slipping – and your recall ability falling too! Suddenly, facts and figures seem out of your grasp. You’re stuttering, and rapidly losing the attention of the audience. To put it another way: you’re presentation has gone down the pan!

Storing tons of information in your memory is worthless if you’re unable to recall the parts you need – at the time you need them. Luckily, there’s a way to give your physical memory some much-needed breathing space.

How to Let a ‘Digital Brain’ Take the Strain

Our physical brains can only offer us a limited amount of memory storage and recall abilities. These limits used to be sufficient, but as mentioned earlier, we now live in an information age, where our ability to absorb and recall information has been stretched beyond our normal capabilities.

What’s the answer to this problem? Well, you could start by giving some of this storing and recalling work to a digital brain.

By this, I don’t mean you should turn yourself into a cyborg. In fact, the only thing you’ll be turning yourself into is a super-efficient and productive version of yourself!

I’ve called it a digital brain, but you’ll know it simply as digital or online storage. And you’re sure to recognize some of the tools:

  • Airtable
  • Dropbox
  • Evernote
  • Google Drive
  • Pocket

The above software (and other similar ones) allows you to store, organize, and easily retrieve information. For example, Pocket lets you capture blogs, news and videos into a digital pocketbook. This is achieved through a one-click process. Once the content is within your pocketbook, you can retrieve and view it at any time. Clearly, this is far more efficient than trying to remember which stories you’ve seen earlier in the day – but hadn’t had chance to read/watch.

Instead of trying to remember everything with your physical brain, begin moving over some of the information to your digital brain. Whichever tool (or tools) you decide to use, you’ll immediately be able to take advantage of the following benefits:

  • You can store as much information as you wish. (Free plans may offer only limited storage.)
  • You can easily organize and prioritize the stored information.
  • The stored information is available in an instant, 24/7, 365 days a year.

Compared to relying 100 percent on your physical brain, the addition of a digital brain will help you immensely. You’ll be able to determine what to store, what not to store, and when to retrieve information. You’ll also be able to use a digital brain to help you with your to-do lists and goal planning.

I personally use Google Drive for storing all my documents and images, and I use Todoist to help me manage my day-to-day tasks and workload. I’ve found using a digital brain to be liberating. Before, I used to stress over trying to remember everything – now my mind feels relaxed and free. I also have more mental energy for creative pursuits.

You may think that highly-productive people must be blessed with super-powered memories. For sure, some are, but most of these people are ordinary folks, with one difference… They have learned how to use a digital brain to help them store and retrieve information – and to organize their lives.

How to have the second brain to remember more

During our Tiago Forte Week in October, we chatted with him about his digital organization concept called the Second Brain.

The Second Brain has helped millions to get organized using a framework that scales to each platform allowing you to map your brain digitally.

Tiago himself has taught 20,000+ people how to organize their lives using tools like Evernote and concepts like PARA and CODE. In this post, we’ll share some of the best resources out there for the Second Brain, introduce these concepts and share more about his prolific course, how to build a second brain.

We all consume lots of interesting information in our day-to-day life but, most of the time, we don’t do anything with it. Tiago Forte’s Second Brain method helps people to save their best ideas, organize their learning, and expand their creative output.

This concept is focused on behavior and habits first, rather than tools, and consists of 4 universal steps called CODE.

C (Collect)

Your second brain needs a place to collect all the things that resonates with you, from an online article to your grocery list, through reliable tools like to-do list apps, web clipper, note-taking apps, and more.

O (Organize)

Collecting things is easy but then you need to organize and structure them. Tiago uses a system called PARA to organize his content in 4 different categories:

Projects: series of tasks linked to a goal, with a deadline.

Areas: spheres of activity with a standard to be maintained over time.

Resources: topics or themes of ongoing interest.

Archives: inactive items from the other three categories.

D (Distill)

Capturing and saving notes usually leads to large collections of information, but the more notes you keep, the more crucial it is to keep an effective summary of them in order to be able to immediately grasp the meaning of them. Through progressive summarization, you’ll be able to get the core of your notes.

E (Express)

Once you’ve collected and organized all your notes and information, you should consider sharing what you’ve learned with the world. Otherwise, hoarding information without putting them out there in the world would be pointless.

Note from Tiago: these are the “5 stages” a recent student went through as part of my online course Building a Second Brain, in which I teach people how to create a system of personal knowledge management (known as a “Second Brain”) for themselves.

1. Holy crap, this could change everything. I’m going to become an organization GOD

You read up on the course and dig into what Tiago talks about. You read his blogs. You follow him on Twitter. You get super excited. This is gonna be it. This will change my life forever.

Eventually you realize: This course is different from other online courses you’ve taken. This is the real deal. You buy the course and expectantly wait for it to start.

2. Tiago is the lord of productivity

Wow, so this is Tiago. He’s cool. He actually replies to questions I ask? Damn, he’s really cool. And clearly a smart dude. I’m a huge fan already.

I know the best way to kill it in this class: I’m going to pause any video where he shows his second brain and screenshot it. Because I’m going to copy his second brain to the frickin’ T.

How to have the second brain to remember more

Eventually you realize: Tiago is smart, but so are you. Tiago’s system isn’t going to be 100% perfect for you. You’re trying to build your second brain. Not Tiago’s.

3. What’s the perfect tool and second brain system for me?

Roam, Notion, Evernote, Workflowy, Dynalist, OneNote, DevonThink. I’m gonna research them all. It doesn’t matter that I also have a full-time job, kids, and residual crisis stress. Once I have the perfect app, I will reach note-taking nirvana.

How to have the second brain to remember more

Eventually you realize: There is no such thing as the perfect app. All you need is a good enough app. Perfection isn’t the goal. Being done is. You have a feeling you’re going to be continually re-learning this lesson in many other aspects of your life.

4. I’ve given up on my perfect app search, but this is still soooo hard and overwhelming.

There are so many videos to watch and so many things to learn. I have a weird feeling where I logically agree with what Tiago is teaching, but there is still emotional resistance. What is that?

Eventually you realize: The things you are proudest of in life weren’t always easy. Struggling was essential for your first brain to learn. The emotional resistance is a sign you are onto something big. You realize the secret goal of the course is not only to change your second brain, but create radical paradigm shifts in your first brain as well.

5. I get it now and realize it’s an ongoing process.

Weirdly enough after all that struggle and overwhelm, you finally understand the high-level overview.

You’ve learned to incorporate what you need in your system. You have a second brain that you slowly iterate on. It frees up time and makes everything in your life a little easier. You have more time to do the human stuff. Like meditating, spending time with loved ones, and achieving a full-blown galaxy brain.

How to have the second brain to remember more

Eventually you realize: Building a brain isn’t the end goal. After you build one, you don’t get to rest and watch the sunset like Thanos. It’s a tool to help you do everything else. It’s a tool that you refine on a needs basis.

You realize this course is a Trojan Horse. In learning how to Build a Second Brain, you ended up learning so much more. You learned about yourself. And even though it sounds a bit grandiose, about life. Your life has changed, and the journey was so worth it.

You can’t wait to take another cohort and do it all over again.

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Your whole life depends on you being able to retrieve things from your memory.

I’m sure you know what I mean… “Where are my keys?” “What major tasks do I need to complete today?” “What time is that meeting I need to attend?”

Questions such as these bombard our minds daily. If you’re able to recall the relevant information, you’ll keep your life on track. However, if you fail to recall the information – your life will start to move in a confused and unproductive direction.

We’d all love to boost our memories, but often we go about it in the wrong way. It’s not about how much information we can absorb into our minds, but how easily we can retrieve this information (which most people aren’t good at).

Information Overload = Memory Failure

We live in an information age, where our minds are besieged 24/7 by facts, figures, news, drama and trends.

To maintain our standing among our peers, most of us strive in vain to keep up-to-date with everything from music to movies to politics.

It’s a never-ending whirlpool of information. And if you try to remember all of this information – you’re likely to find that your mind becomes so full that you begin to lose the ability to think clearly.

Information overload is a modern-day plague. And your memory is likely to be one of the plague’s victims.

For example, when you were younger, you may have loved to sing along with your favorite songs. Sadly, as you’ve grown older, you’ve started to forget the words to the songs. The more you try to recall the words – the further from your mind they seem to be. It’s frustrating, and has probably blighted a pastime that you used to love.

Could it be that over the years, you’ve tried to remember just too many songs? Perhaps.

As you’ll see below, continually overloading your memory, can lead to recall issues and embarrassing social interactions.

It’s on the Tip of My Tongue, But…

It can be distressing when the flow of our conversation is blocked by our inability to recall information. And this can be especially traumatic if it takes place during a formal work environment.

For instance, imagine that you’re doing a presentation at work to some potential clients. You’ve created PowerPoint slides to guide you through your presentation, but the bulk of the message you’re hoping to convey is held in the memory banks of your mind. You start your presentation positively, but after a few awkward questions from one of the clients, you notice your confidence slipping – and your recall ability falling too! Suddenly, facts and figures seem out of your grasp. You’re stuttering, and rapidly losing the attention of the audience. To put it another way: you’re presentation has gone down the pan!

Storing tons of information in your memory is worthless if you’re unable to recall the parts you need – at the time you need them. Luckily, there’s a way to give your physical memory some much-needed breathing space.

How to Let a ‘Digital Brain’ Take the Strain

Our physical brains can only offer us a limited amount of memory storage and recall abilities. These limits used to be sufficient, but as mentioned earlier, we now live in an information age, where our ability to absorb and recall information has been stretched beyond our normal capabilities.

What’s the answer to this problem? Well, you could start by giving some of this storing and recalling work to a digital brain.

By this, I don’t mean you should turn yourself into a cyborg. In fact, the only thing you’ll be turning yourself into is a super-efficient and productive version of yourself!

I’ve called it a digital brain, but you’ll know it simply as digital or online storage. And you’re sure to recognize some of the tools:

  • Airtable
  • Dropbox
  • Evernote
  • Google Drive
  • Pocket

The above software (and other similar ones) allows you to store, organize, and easily retrieve information. For example, Pocket lets you capture blogs, news and videos into a digital pocketbook. This is achieved through a one-click process. Once the content is within your pocketbook, you can retrieve and view it at any time. Clearly, this is far more efficient than trying to remember which stories you’ve seen earlier in the day – but hadn’t had chance to read/watch.

Instead of trying to remember everything with your physical brain, begin moving over some of the information to your digital brain. Whichever tool (or tools) you decide to use, you’ll immediately be able to take advantage of the following benefits:

  • You can store as much information as you wish. (Free plans may offer only limited storage.)
  • You can easily organize and prioritize the stored information.
  • The stored information is available in an instant, 24/7, 365 days a year.

Compared to relying 100 percent on your physical brain, the addition of a digital brain will help you immensely. You’ll be able to determine what to store, what not to store, and when to retrieve information. You’ll also be able to use a digital brain to help you with your to-do lists and goal planning.

I personally use Google Drive for storing all my documents and images, and I use Todoist to help me manage my day-to-day tasks and workload. I’ve found using a digital brain to be liberating. Before, I used to stress over trying to remember everything – now my mind feels relaxed and free. I also have more mental energy for creative pursuits.

You may think that highly-productive people must be blessed with super-powered memories. For sure, some are, but most of these people are ordinary folks, with one difference… They have learned how to use a digital brain to help them store and retrieve information – and to organize their lives.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. By checking out this featured content, you help us bring you more ways to save!

How to have the second brain to remember more

Our physical brains can only offer us a limited amount of memory storage and recall abilities.

YOUR whole life depends on you being able to retrieve things from your memory.

I’m sure you know what I mean… “Where are my keys?” “What major tasks do I need to complete today?” “What time is that meeting I need to attend?”

Questions such as these bombard our minds daily. If you’re able to recall the relevant information, you’ll keep your life on track. However, if you fail to recall the information – your life will start to move in a confused and unproductive direction.

We’d all love to boost our memories, but often we go about it in the wrong way. It’s not about how much information we can absorb into our minds, but how easily we can retrieve this information (which most people aren’t good at).

Information Overload = Memory Failure

We live in an information age, where our minds are besieged 24/7 by facts, figures, news, drama and trends.

To maintain our standing among our peers, most of us strive in vain to keep up-to-date with everything from music to movies to politics.

It’s a never-ending whirlpool of information. And if you try to remember all of this information – you’re likely to find that your mind becomes so full that you begin to lose the ability to think clearly.

Information overload is a modern-day plague. And your memory is likely to be one of the plague’s victims.

For example, when you were younger, you may have loved to sing along with your favorite songs. Sadly, as you’ve grown older, you’ve started to forget the words to the songs. The more you try to recall the words – the further from your mind they seem to be. It’s frustrating, and has probably blighted a pastime that you used to love.

Could it be that over the years, you’ve tried to remember just too many songs? Perhaps.

As you’ll see below, continually overloading your memory, can lead to recall issues and embarrassing social interactions.

It’s on the Tip of My Tongue, But…

It can be distressing when the flow of our conversation is blocked by our inability to recall information. And this can be especially traumatic if it takes place during a formal work environment.

For instance, imagine that you’re doing a presentation at work to some potential clients. You’ve created PowerPoint slides to guide you through your presentation, but the bulk of the message you’re hoping to convey is held in the memory banks of your mind. You start your presentation positively, but after a few awkward questions from one of the clients, you notice your confidence slipping – and your recall ability falling too! Suddenly, facts and figures seem out of your grasp. You’re stuttering, and rapidly losing the attention of the audience. To put it another way: you’re presentation has gone down the pan!

Storing tons of information in your memory is worthless if you’re unable to recall the parts you need – at the time you need them. Luckily, there’s a way to give your physical memory some much-needed breathing space.

How to Let a ‘Digital Brain’ Take the Strain

Our physical brains can only offer us a limited amount of memory storage and recall abilities. These limits used to be sufficient, but as mentioned earlier, we now live in an information age, where our ability to absorb and recall information has been stretched beyond our normal capabilities.

What’s the answer to this problem? Well, you could start by giving some of this storing and recalling work to a digital brain.

By this, I don’t mean you should turn yourself into a cyborg. In fact, the only thing you’ll be turning yourself into is a super-efficient and productive version of yourself!

I’ve called it a digital brain, but you’ll know it simply as digital or online storage. And you’re sure to recognize some of the tools:

  • Airtable
  • Dropbox
  • Evernote
  • Google Drive
  • Pocket

The above software (and other similar ones) allows you to store, organize, and easily retrieve information. For example, Pocket lets you capture blogs, news and videos into a digital pocketbook. This is achieved through a one-click process. Once the content is within your pocketbook, you can retrieve and view it at any time. Clearly, this is far more efficient than trying to remember which stories you’ve seen earlier in the day – but hadn’t had chance to read/watch.

Instead of trying to remember everything with your physical brain, begin moving over some of the information to your digital brain. Whichever tool (or tools) you decide to use, you’ll immediately be able to take advantage of the following benefits:

  • You can store as much information as you wish. (Free plans may offer only limited storage.)
  • You can easily organize and prioritize the stored information.
  • The stored information is available in an instant, 24/7, 365 days a year.

Compared to relying 100 percent on your physical brain, the addition of a digital brain will help you immensely. You’ll be able to determine what to store, what not to store, and when to retrieve information. You’ll also be able to use a digital brain to help you with your to-do lists and goal planning.

I personally use Google Drive for storing all my documents and images, and I use Todoist to help me manage my day-to-day tasks and workload. I’ve found using a digital brain to be liberating. Before, I used to stress over trying to remember everything – now my mind feels relaxed and free. I also have more mental energy for creative pursuits.

Human memory happens in many parts of the brain at once, and some types of memories stick around longer than others.

From the moment we are born, our brains are bombarded by an immense amount of information about ourselves and the world around us. So, how do we hold on to everything we’ve learned and experienced? Memories.

Humans retain different types of memories for different lengths of time. Short-term memories last seconds to hours, while long-term memories last for years. We also have a working memory, which lets us keep something in our minds for a limited time by repeating it. Whenever you say a phone number to yourself over and over to remember it, you’re using your working memory.

Another way to categorize memories is by the subject of the memory itself, and whether you are consciously aware of it. Declarative memory, also called explicit memory, consists of the sorts of memories you experience consciously. Some of these memories are facts or “common knowledge”: things like the capital of Portugal (Lisbon), or the number of cards in a standard deck of playing cards (52). Others consist of past events you’ve experienced, such as a childhood birthday.

Nondeclarative memory, also called implicit memory, unconsciously builds up. These include procedural memories, which your body uses to remember the skills you’ve learned. Do you play an instrument or ride a bicycle? Those are your procedural memories at work. Nondeclarative memories also can shape your body’s unthinking responses, like salivating at the sight of your favorite food or tensing up when you see something you fear.

Your Memory Under Stress

In general, declarative memories are easier to form than nondeclarative memories. It takes less time to memorize a country’s capital than it does to learn how to play the violin. But nondeclarative memories stick around more easily. Once you’ve learned to ride a bicycle, you’re not likely to forget.

The types of amnesia

To understand how we remember things, it’s incredibly helpful to study how we forget—which is why neuroscientists study amnesia, the loss of memories or the ability to learn. Amnesia is usually the result of some kind of trauma to the brain, such as a head injury, a stroke, a brain tumor, or chronic alcoholism.

There are two main types of amnesia. The first, retrograde amnesia, occurs where you forget things you knew before the brain trauma. Anterograde amnesia is when brain trauma curtails or stops someone’s ability to form new memories.

The most famous case study of anterograde amnesia is Henry Molaison, who in 1953 had parts of his brain removed as a last-ditch treatment for severe seizures. While Molaison—known when he was alive as H.M.—remembered much of his childhood, he was unable to form new declarative memories. People who worked with him for decades had to re-introduce themselves with every visit.

By studying people such as H.M., as well as animals with different types of brain damage, scientists can trace where and how different kinds of memories form in the brain. It seems that short-term and long-term memories don’t form in exactly the same way, nor do declarative and procedural memories.

There’s no one place within the brain that holds all of your memories; different areas of the brain form and store different kinds of memories, and different processes may be at play for each. For instance, emotional responses such as fear reside in a brain region called the amygdala. Memories of the skills you’ve learned are associated with a different region called the striatum. A region called the hippocampus is crucial for forming, retaining, and recalling declarative memories. The temporal lobes, the brain regions that H.M. was partially missing, play a crucial role in forming and recalling memories.

How memories are formed, stored, and recalled

Since the 1940s scientists have surmised that memories are held within groups of neurons, or nerve cells, called cell assemblies. Those interconnected cells fire as a group in response to a specific stimulus, whether it’s your friend’s face or the smell of freshly baked bread. The more the neurons fire together, the more the cells’ interconnections strengthen. That way, when a future stimulus triggers the cells, it’s more likely that the whole assembly fires. The nerves’ collective activity transcribes what we experience as a memory. Scientists are still working through the details of how it works.

For a short-term memory to become a long-term memory, it must be strengthened for long-term storage, a process called memory consolidation. Consolidation is thought to take place by several processes. One, called long-term potentiation, consists of individual nerves modifying themselves to grow and talk to their neighboring nerves differently. That remodeling alters the nerves’ connections in the long term, which stabilizes the memory. All animals that have long-term memories use this same basic cellular machinery; scientists worked out the details of long-term potentiation by studying California sea slugs. However, not all long-term memories necessarily have to start as short-term memories.

How to have the second brain to remember more

How to have the second brain to remember moreThe unconscious processing abilities of the human brain are estimated at roughly 11 million pieces of information per second. Compare that to the estimate for conscious processing: about 40 pieces per second.*

Our conscious processing capacity isn’t insignificant, but clearly it’s just a retention pond compared to the ocean of the unconscious. And more and more research is uncovering abilities of the unconscious that defy reason. Two recently published studies on how the brain “sees” illustrate the point–the first one is cool, the second borders on incredible.

The first, published in the journal Psychological Science, wanted to find out if the brain can track visual targets even when the eyes are duped into believing the targets aren’t there. Researchers at the Brain and Mind Institute at the University of Western Ontario exposed participants to an optical trick known as the “connectedness illusion” that causes viewers to underestimate the number of circles (targets) on a screen.

Two groups of circles are presented, one group on the left side of a screen and one on the right. The circles in one group are connected to tiny lines, but the circles aren’t connected to each other. In the other group, the circles are connected to each other via the lines. What consistently happens is that our eyes perceive fewer circles in the connected group than in the disconnected group, even though the number of circles in both groups is exactly the same.

The connectedness illusion is a proven way to trick the eyes, and it worked like a charm in this study: participants didn’t see all of the connected circles. But when they were given a task to “act” on the targets, researchers found that participants shifted from visual “seeing” to what you might call brain-sight. They were able to strategically plan actions that included all of the targets even though they didn’t visually perceive them.

The reason seems to be that visual processing operates along two paths. The first is the one we’re most familiar with—how we visually perceive the world. The second is what our brains are unconsciously up to while we’re focused on merely “seeing.”

Said lead researcher Jennifer Milne, a PhD student at the University of Western Ontario: “It’s as though we have a semi-autonomous robot in our brain that plans and executes actions on our behalf with only the broadest of instructions from us.”

That was cool, but the next study–published in The Journal of Neuroscience–flirts with the incredible. Researchers wanted to know if the brain can “see” someone else’s actions even when the ability to visually see has been destroyed.

Cortical blindness refers to the loss of vision that occurs when the primary visual cortex no longer functions, generally as the result of injury. There’s no longer an ability to visually perceive the world in the sense with which we’re most familiar (even though the eyes still technically work), but that doesn’t necessarily mean the brain no longer sees.

In this study a patient with full cortical blindness could still react to another person’s gaze. While in an fMRI machine, the patient was exposed to gazes directed at him and gazes directed away from him. On the face of it, neither should matter. His visual cortex couldn’t perceive any sort of gaze. But the brain scan indicated that another part of his brain definitely could.

The patient’s amygdala, the brain area associated with figuring out whether external stimuli is a threat, showed a distinctly different activation pattern when the gaze was directed at the patient than when directed away from him.

In other words, it didn’t matter that his visual cortex couldn’t catch the gaze—another part of his brain did regardless.

Exactly what’s going on here isn’t known, but there’s a certain intuitive sense about the reaction even as it defies conscious reason. Our brains are adaptive marvels, and adapting around impediments to survival is essentially what our magical cranial clay does. If one system goes down, in this case external visual processing, it makes adaptive sense that another system would fill the gap (how that happens–well, that’s the question).

We are only touching the jagged frozen tip of the iceberg with studies like these, and the second one in particular shows just how much we don’t know about the brain’s unconscious mojo. But we’re learning more all the time, and piece by quixotic piece, the puzzle is only getting more intriguing.

*For more on conscious versus unconscious brain processing power, check out Timothy Wilson’s excellent book, Strangers to Ourselves.

Human memory happens in many parts of the brain at once, and some types of memories stick around longer than others.

From the moment we are born, our brains are bombarded by an immense amount of information about ourselves and the world around us. So, how do we hold on to everything we’ve learned and experienced? Memories.

Humans retain different types of memories for different lengths of time. Short-term memories last seconds to hours, while long-term memories last for years. We also have a working memory, which lets us keep something in our minds for a limited time by repeating it. Whenever you say a phone number to yourself over and over to remember it, you’re using your working memory.

Another way to categorize memories is by the subject of the memory itself, and whether you are consciously aware of it. Declarative memory, also called explicit memory, consists of the sorts of memories you experience consciously. Some of these memories are facts or “common knowledge”: things like the capital of Portugal (Lisbon), or the number of cards in a standard deck of playing cards (52). Others consist of past events you’ve experienced, such as a childhood birthday.

Nondeclarative memory, also called implicit memory, unconsciously builds up. These include procedural memories, which your body uses to remember the skills you’ve learned. Do you play an instrument or ride a bicycle? Those are your procedural memories at work. Nondeclarative memories also can shape your body’s unthinking responses, like salivating at the sight of your favorite food or tensing up when you see something you fear.

Your Memory Under Stress

In general, declarative memories are easier to form than nondeclarative memories. It takes less time to memorize a country’s capital than it does to learn how to play the violin. But nondeclarative memories stick around more easily. Once you’ve learned to ride a bicycle, you’re not likely to forget.

The types of amnesia

To understand how we remember things, it’s incredibly helpful to study how we forget—which is why neuroscientists study amnesia, the loss of memories or the ability to learn. Amnesia is usually the result of some kind of trauma to the brain, such as a head injury, a stroke, a brain tumor, or chronic alcoholism.

There are two main types of amnesia. The first, retrograde amnesia, occurs where you forget things you knew before the brain trauma. Anterograde amnesia is when brain trauma curtails or stops someone’s ability to form new memories.

The most famous case study of anterograde amnesia is Henry Molaison, who in 1953 had parts of his brain removed as a last-ditch treatment for severe seizures. While Molaison—known when he was alive as H.M.—remembered much of his childhood, he was unable to form new declarative memories. People who worked with him for decades had to re-introduce themselves with every visit.

By studying people such as H.M., as well as animals with different types of brain damage, scientists can trace where and how different kinds of memories form in the brain. It seems that short-term and long-term memories don’t form in exactly the same way, nor do declarative and procedural memories.

There’s no one place within the brain that holds all of your memories; different areas of the brain form and store different kinds of memories, and different processes may be at play for each. For instance, emotional responses such as fear reside in a brain region called the amygdala. Memories of the skills you’ve learned are associated with a different region called the striatum. A region called the hippocampus is crucial for forming, retaining, and recalling declarative memories. The temporal lobes, the brain regions that H.M. was partially missing, play a crucial role in forming and recalling memories.

How memories are formed, stored, and recalled

Since the 1940s scientists have surmised that memories are held within groups of neurons, or nerve cells, called cell assemblies. Those interconnected cells fire as a group in response to a specific stimulus, whether it’s your friend’s face or the smell of freshly baked bread. The more the neurons fire together, the more the cells’ interconnections strengthen. That way, when a future stimulus triggers the cells, it’s more likely that the whole assembly fires. The nerves’ collective activity transcribes what we experience as a memory. Scientists are still working through the details of how it works.

For a short-term memory to become a long-term memory, it must be strengthened for long-term storage, a process called memory consolidation. Consolidation is thought to take place by several processes. One, called long-term potentiation, consists of individual nerves modifying themselves to grow and talk to their neighboring nerves differently. That remodeling alters the nerves’ connections in the long term, which stabilizes the memory. All animals that have long-term memories use this same basic cellular machinery; scientists worked out the details of long-term potentiation by studying California sea slugs. However, not all long-term memories necessarily have to start as short-term memories.