Future of Memory Event Features Bar-Ilan Neuroscientist Prof. Moshe Bar
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Bar-Ilan University's internationally renowned neuroscientist Prof. Moshe Bar and best-selling author Joshua Foer discussed why the brain is the last frontier, as well as how it retrieves memories through associations and uses them to create the future, at an event sponsored by the American Friends of Bar-Ilan University together with The Jewish Week.
Over 150 people attended the "Future of Memory" conversation on May 6th at The Jewish Center in Manhattan. It had a major focus on how novelty helps the brain remember things. Prof. Bar, director of Bar-Ilan's Leslie and Susan Gonda (Goldschmied) Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center, said, "This is why advertising always has something new in it. Ads capitalize on the novelty the brain seeks."
Agreeing with Prof. Bar, Foer said it's much easier to remember where things are or a person's name by tying it into a picture in your head that is either novel or weird. This is how he came up with the title for his best-seller "Moonwalking With Einstein," which was one of the images he used to remember things. The book dealt with his coverage of a national memory contest. He later won the contest after going through mental training that taught him how to retain memories through the use of visual images.
Jewish Week book critic Sandee Brawarsky moderated the lively discussion that also explored how mood swings can affect memory, and how memories can be distorted by the use of different wording in questions when people are asked to report on a particular incident.
Bar and Foer agreed that paying close attention to a subject better engages the brain and enhances memory. They also agreed that photographic memory is a myth, which has been proven because no person can immediately remember a series of letters going backwards as easily as they can going forwards.
Foer did not recommend watching a lot of television, which he said "numbs us in some way" because it reduces novelty, and "routine is the enemy of memory." Prof. Bar said a small amount of TV watching can be fine since the mind does like to unwind and wander a bit at the end of the day, which is why people enjoyed staring at their fireplaces in pre-high tech days.
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