Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Recognizing Great Storytellers - Strengths in Autobiographical Memory

"I am a product of long corridors, empty sunlit rooms, upstair indoor silences, attics explored in solitude, distant noises of gurgling cisterns and pipes, and the noise of wind under the tiles." - C.S. Lewis

There are great storytellers all around us, and yet we don't always recognize them. As children, these are children who can tire out their parents with all their talking. They have a knack for vivid sensory detail, and may have almost 'photographic memory' for events and details that they personally experienced. Richness of sensory detail or colorful point of view is not a problem for them, although simplification or summarization may be. They may have problems prioritizing or generalizing what they know, but they can play the film loop back in living, breathing detail.

These children, and adults are temporal lobe story tellers, experiencing and remembering personally and with all their senses. These children are natural writers and poets, but they may present paradoxically as poor students because they may forget impersonal information like math facts or spelling conventions, and be lost with bland memorization of factual lists. Exasperated parents may throw up their hands - why can't they remember when they have such a fantastic memories? The answer is - is that personal and impersonal memory stores use very different parts of the brain. And sometimes it may be easier to use what words exceptionally well, than focus all one's efforts on the weakest memory route.

The figure below shows brain activation patterns of picture recalled one year later. Not surprisingly, emotional pictures were better remembered than 'neutral'.



The other link below relates some autobiographical 'visions' from sufferers of temporal lobe epilepsy. One sample: "a 37-year old man had attacks that began with an olfactory sensation (smell). He said that he began to think of things years gone by - things from boyhood's days..."

Remembering 1 Year Later
Temporal Lobe Epilepsy

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