Friday, February 04, 2022

Long term memory: more robust in old age than short term, yet evolution has had more time to perfect short term.

I've noticed lots of deer like to hang out in a vacant lot below my window. Simple pleasures; like apples on the ground from an abandoned apple tree.

It's a private lot, still vacant in Bellingham's hot market. Must be a story there, but I don't know that story.

My mind (thinking of big, distance issues like that instead of just apples) wonders how boring it might be to be a deer. Boring, compared to being a human.

Just finding enough to eat might be enough, but not for us. One wonders, what do deer think about all day?

Then I remember that most animals don't really have long term memory; so at least I hear. Maybe some, like elephants, do, but that's another story.

Long term memory gives us more ability to contemplate complex and distant subjects; like economics. Other animals seem more in the moment; like "Mindfulness," I guess.

I've never been that much a fan of mindfulness. To me, it seems like day to day things are not that interesting, compared to the larger issues.

Then I got to thinking about this. As humans age, it is said that short term memory is usually the first to go. Long term memory lasts longer.

Nature has a lot more practice with short term memory in so many species and not as much practice with long term memory, but seems like the long term memory is more lasting in us.

Interesting difference.

For some reason, it seems like nature has figured out how to make long term memory more robust, in us, than short term memory. In just about all other animals, it seems the opposite.

Hurray for our long term memory and big thoughts. In us, at least, it is the most robust part of our memory. No wonder a lot of older people like to tell lots of stories.

Then we also have the ability to write things down, but even without that, our long term memory seems to work better than our short term memory as time goes on.

One possible sidebar to mindfulness could also be accepting one's life as it is. I don't even know if that is a tenant of mindfulness, or not, but it works for me.

Accepting life as it comes is something I strive for. I don't always feel it, but I do strive for that. Accepting life as it is makes us less demanding for something more, I guess.

We often compare ourselves to others, or to perceived messages in society about better careers, relationships, financial status and so forth.

Accepting life may make us less ambitious and less troublesome, but it's easier, at least.

For the most part, it seems to make us happier. I think it's all part of the balance.

Again, aside from accepting life for what it is, I am intrigued by the bias our human memory system seems to give to big ideas, or at least to long term memories.

It's interesting that nature has figured out how to make that work in us, while long term memory seems to be rare among species. Nature hasn't had that much evolutionary practice in making long term memory work, but in us, it's the most robust part of memory; from what I understand.

With short term memory, a memory doesn't have to last as long as with long term memory. It just has to last long enough to get the job done; like after opening the cupboard door, remembering which item to grab.

As we age, even that gets less functional, so I hear, but the long term memories, like from our childhoods, remain accessible. That seems like a unique thing, given the amount of time nature has had, in other species, to practice getting short term memory to work.

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