Where Did I leave My Keys?
Memory. How is yours today? Do you remember?
In the whimsical and delightful adaptation of the classic Peter Pan — Hook — Toodles is heard to say, “I’ve lost my marbles.” At the very end there is resolution. Memory until quite recently was thought to be irretrievable. You lose it forever. A senior moment. “Now, why did I come into this room?” “Where are my eyeglasses?” How many times have you tried to recall a familiar name, an actor or actress, an old friend, only to recall it minutes, hours or even days later? It was not gone — just temporarily beyond reach.
What is memory? An ancient question that still has no definitive answer. We do know these facts. Memory traces start fading at the age of about 38 according the most astute practitioners of psychometric testing. But these are fleeting moments. At age 50 these become a bit more disconcerting. Certainly by 60 these become more frequent lapses and beyond. But this is not inviolate.
One of the most daunting interviews this reporter remembers from the last 10 years was an interview with George Burns at the age of 92. He was witty and “on.” He had total recall of so many of the old jokes. Like a catalogue. Maybe as anyone would ride a bicycle, or golf, or bowl, you don’t forget these things. But it underscores the point that age had not diminished his most cherished bag of tricks.
Short term memory is stored in the more primitive part of the brain also reserved for emotions and sexual arousal — the limbic system. Longer term memory is stored in the left temporal lobe. We also know that as we age the fine neural network connections between neural cells — the dendritic arborizations — thin out. The network is not as rich. As if the internet highway between San Francisco and New York have less possible routings. …