Can you believe there are some people who don’t think they are a rock star when they take a shower? Or that Julia Child wouldn’t sell all she owned to get their baked chicken recipe? It is so hard for me to fathom someone not walking out of a dressing room like Kate Moss should be taking notes. And if you pull into your driveway, open your vehicle door and forget to wave like you are stepping off Air Force One…well, you probably don’t want to travel with me.
But, can you believe that memory loss has been linked to loss of imagination?
One of the reasons that it’s so important to encourage an active imagination is because that’s not simply a tea part your child is attending. It’s the beginning basis of what will allow her to see Juliet leaning against her balcony rail as she talks with the Moon about her love for Romeo. That castle made out of blankets and dining room chairs that your son is building is how he’ll be able to picture the Colosseum being built when learning about the Roman Empire. The game of Cowboys & Indians that the entire neighborhood is watching, it’s what make us able to later imagine how hard the Civil War must have been.
Eleanor Maguire of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London said of amnesiacs, “They can’t recall the past, and now it seems that they can’t even imagine the future or indeed richly imagine even fictitious experiences.” in a National Geographic article from 2007.
Is it because they can’t remember what it was like to serve the best fake tea and cookies made of air?
The way we imagine a future event like a wedding, buying your first house, holding your baby for the first time, is to take episodic memories and combine them with what we believe the rest of it to be. Episodic memories are the collection of past personal experiences that can be explicitly stated. So they are your memories of your 16th birthday party, the dress shopping for Senior Prom, your first date. Remember that tea party I mentioned earlier? Combine the ability to believe you were actually serving tea and cookies, mix in the excitement that you felt when you went on your first date & dress shopping for the prom…and bingo! You’ve got an idea of what your wedding will be like.
The hippocampus is the part of the brain that is involved in memory forming, organizing, and storing & does not develop into a mature structure until age 3 or 4…which may be why we don’t remember much before that time in our lives. Picture your brain like your computer. You’ve got layers and layers of memories of more than one birthday scattered all across your brain. The hippocampus goes in & defragments them so that they can be combined again for you to be able to remember your 10th birthday as accurately as possible.
Memory recall and imagination are thought to mechanically work the same. And since the hippocampus has been known to decrease in function the older we get, it may mean that the harder it is to remember details about something the harder it is to imagine those lost details. So if we honestly forget what the birthday cake from our 10th birthday tasted like, we could lose the ability to imagine what it might have tasted like based on other birthday cakes. As soon as I hit “publish” on this post, I am finding the best memory exercises I can find because I never want to stop accepting my 6th consecutive Oscar for Best Actress.
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