Memory and the Human Lifespan

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Unforgettable! The wealth of information presented by Dr. Steve Joordens in these twenty-four lectures is not only fascinating, it has practical importance. I am grateful that I now have a much better understanding than before about how memory works, how scientists study memory and the brain, why many kinds of memory slips are entirely normal, how memory can nonetheless be improved and proactively guarded as a person ages, and what the implications of both strengths and weaknesses of human memory are for the legal system and other public concerns. Things I especially value about the course include: *the professor’s effective use of analogies, illustrative memory experiments, and demonstrations with props; *his sharing of techniques to help one exert greater control over what memories one most wants to store and retrieve easily; *an extensive glossary provided in the course guidebook; *an uncluttered studio setting; *appropriate, non-distracting hand gestures during the lectures; *the professor’s congenial, encouraging, and compassionate manner; and *credible, well-organized lesson content. Some of my favourite lectures were: #10 on “When Memory Systems Battle—Habits vs. Goals,” #13 on “Animal Cognition and Memory,” #14 on “Mapping Memory in the Brain,” and #17 on “The Many Challenges of Alzheimer’s Disease.” Dr. Joordens has provided me with a rich experience and plenty of ideas that I can advantageously apply. I wholeheartedly recommend his course.
Date published: 2020-07-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent and easy to understand I learned a lot. Easy to follow. The topic is dauntingly large, but the professor made it manageable and fun
Date published: 2020-03-08
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Preview doesn't play Preview would be helpful in making a decision about buying this course but sadly it doesn't work
Date published: 2020-01-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Did not hold my interest at all: Presentation I found bland and boring. Some very broad, wrong, assumptions about how people go about remembering things. Lots of terminology, not much substance. This course is a wasted opportunity.
Date published: 2019-11-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from THE MAGIC OF COMPLEXITY Gradually a vague idea of the system of memory has emerged, described by Joordens as multiple systems interacting. In L1 he makes the best statement in the course: "memory is a group of cognitive processes that interrelate in complex ways". But though he lists processes, he avoids explaining the way the complex interactions work, thereby disappointing some reviewers. In other words, he ends up very short of showing WHY the parts interact. In fairness, Joordens does an excellent job of labeling processes and many will benefit from his insights into how such processes interact. He tries to break down memory into processes like "episodic memory, semantic memory, working memory, procedural memory, mnemonics, rote memory, echoic memory, haptic memory, implicit memory, declarative & non-declarative memory, etc. He adds abilities/disabilities such as "deliberately organized information", "good/bad" categorization, mood, "episodes where we are not the star", script theory, constructivist learning, capture error, etc. Joordens thus presents the brain as a desciptive with a lot of parts interacting. Such jargon is what some reviewers have complained about. Joordens presents "complexity" like a Detroit automobile plant where a bunch of complicated parts interact to produce an expected result. But the brain's organic nonlinear complexity produces UNEXPECTED results: from the inexplicable genius of Leonardo di Vinci, to recoveries of body systems from undifferentiated reserves, to the many other wonders Jeannette Norden describes in TGC "The Brain". Joordens admits that attempts to model via neural networks (though partially imitating complexity) are continuously adjusted to get wanted results. Yet he fails to observe that it takes a human brain based on true non-linear complexity to adjust a neural network "brain" based on parallel distributed processing. He correctly stated should the brain be considered 'complex', but what does this mean in terms of complexity theory? To illustrate the disparity between ‘complex’ (meaning complicated) and ‘complex’ meaning “non-linear”, we can look to Detroit. "Complex cars", like the technical jargon Joordens uses for the brain, are really complicated binary entities (they work within the parameters we expect or they don't). Going beyond those parameters produces breakdown, not “novel ingenuity”. The complexity in organic systems like the brain is not binary but dependent on chemical gradient, feedback receptor regulation, massive nonlinear three-dimensional cellular chemistry and physical integration arrays acting nonlinearly to produce the magic of organic CNS output. To illustrate true complexity, I will refer to a few simpler organic illustrations than the human brain. Some of the terms may be unfamiliar to those without basic biochemical or complexity theory backgrounds, SO PLEASE FORGIVE IN ORDER THAT I MAY SHOW WHY AN APPROPRIATE DISCUSSION OF BRAIN COMPLEXITY MAY BE BEYOND A FIRST YEAR COURSE. Healthy complex systems differ from linear systems: A.) They are inherently "robust" (self-correcting) when subject to perturbation (ie: why you don't pass out between meals); B.) When complex systems are subjected to a constant pressure in one direction, they lose their ability to recover (ie: why diabetes occurs more often in the obese over time); C.) Disorganized complex systems when subjected to appropriate massive perturbation may reorganize themselves (ie: restarting the heart by electroshock). Complex systems have 3 markers: #1) Turing Instability: This is the point at which "nonlinear chatter" suddenly organizes chaos. It is demonstrated both in the brain when thought emerges and in the lab by observation of Pseudomonas organisms "spontaneously" self-organizing into Pseudomonas colonies with differentiated functional components. #2) Constrained nonlinear positive feedback loops (Ex: cellular autocatalysis) #3) Entrainment or "mode locking": when a system is driven far enough from equilibrium stationary oscillatory patterns may emerge. A very good example of this is pancreatic pulsatile insulin in sync with liver glucose production in the non-diabetic. This complex mode-locked insulin/insulin receptor interdependency can fail when the complexity of the system is overwhelmed (see B. above) by excessive sugar loading and/or even inappropriately timed insulin. Yes, a basic understanding of complexity can help Physicians select drug regimens. SUMMARY: For most, this course contains useful observations about the simple components of memory systems and the various labels some have attached to these observations. But for those reviewers who have complained about jargon over substance, simplistic binary interactions won't substitute for understanding the magic of brain nonlinear complexity. In the end, the course fails to scientifically address the author's primary thesis: "memory is a group of cognitive processes that interrelate in complex ways".
Date published: 2019-04-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Truly Memorable (No Pun Intended) I am enjoying this course so much that I carry it with me all the time, hoping I'll have to run an errand in my car and will be able to listen to the course on the way. The lecturer is knowledgeable, well organized, an an excellent conveyor of complex information in an accessible and comfortable manner.
Date published: 2019-02-23
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Monotonous despite credentials... First off, Professor Joordens has a slew of credentials and awards for his speaking (as mentioned in the intro) and so I was expecting to settle into quite the usual learning experience, one so thrilling and captivating in the lecture series I finished on archeology and another on the customs of the world. But alas, after the 8th lecture I was struggling to continue forward...and admittedly, I gave up (onward to the visually captivating lectures on the science of flight). Dr. Joodens tips and pointers are few and far between, all while buffeted with important milestones and peoples of memory and its associated pathways of the brain (Dr. Thad Polk who has several lecture series on the brain is far-more concise and interesting in explaining this aspect of the body); and unfortunately, even with his repetition of the "echoic" portion of your memory which "keeps" a subject for a limited time period, such peoples and their names and achievements are long gone before the lecture ends. So Dr. Joordens suggest mnemonics such as associating a random set of words or numbers to a routine of your day, an impressive feat for those Vegas shows but of little actual use, especially if you are meeting a group of important business associates in a short time, all while struggling to form elaborate images in your head such as placing a person as a swan while relating them to the number 2, just because their name might be Jake Swansea or whatever. To be honest, the eight lectures emerged as a gap of time where I began looking forward to going back to Terri Gross and Fresh Air, if only to hear some inflection in voice patterns. All in all, this proved one of the more disappointing courses --at least, what I can remember of it-- and shattered my streak of many easy-listening and informative lectures from The Great Courses.
Date published: 2019-01-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Solid, wide-ranging, informative This was a solid supplement to my growing collection of brain-based courses. Anyone with an interest health and welfare would enjoy this course. Professor Joordens goes over the basics slowly so you don’t get overwhelmed with complicated concepts or terminology. There is plenty of review and anecdotes to make the concepts more relevant to your daily life. Overall, I came away with a better grasp of how memory works, how it changes over time, and what challenges to expect as times goes by. It’s one of those course you’ll go through again.
Date published: 2018-09-30
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Memory and the Human Lifespan
Course Trailer
Memory Is a Party
1: Memory Is a Party

Using the metaphor of a party whose "guests" include the different components of the complex interactions that make up memory, Professor Joordens introduces you to several kinds of memory-including episodic, semantic, and procedural-to arrive at an initial understanding of the variety of processes at work in human "memory."...

31 min
The Ancient "Art of Memory"
2: The Ancient "Art of Memory"

Techniques to embed and retrieve memories more easily-so-called mnemonic strategies-date back at least to classical Greece. See how one such technique-the Method of Loci-can help improve the episodic memory you depend on to recall a group of items such as grocery or to-do lists....

31 min
Rote Memorization and a Science of Forgetting
3: Rote Memorization and a Science of Forgetting

Is a mnemonic strategy always the most useful? Examine rote memorization and how it differs from mnemonics. Also, get an introduction to the work of Hermann Ebbinghaus, whose 19th-century experiments in remembering and forgetting marked the first scientific examination of memory....

32 min
Sensory Memory-Brief Traces of the Past
4: Sensory Memory-Brief Traces of the Past

Begin a deeper discussion of the different kinds of memory, beginning with sensory memory and how its brief retentive power lets you switch from one stimulus to another-and even gives you your sense of "the present moment." Here, the focus is on iconic (or visual) memory and its auditory counterpart, echoic memory....

28 min
The Conveyor Belt of Working Memory
5: The Conveyor Belt of Working Memory

Plunge into the mental processes that allow you to work with information, often with the goal of solving a problem. You learn that these processes can also be used to keep information briefly "in mind," though they require effort and are prone to interference....

31 min
Encoding-Our Gateway into Long-Term Memory
6: Encoding-Our Gateway into Long-Term Memory

How does information make its way from your temporary working memory into long-term memory so you can access it again when you need it? This introduction to encoding explains the process and offers useful tips for improving your own recall....

30 min
Episodic and Semantic Long-Term Memory
7: Episodic and Semantic Long-Term Memory

Strengthen your grasp of how these two key memory systems function. You explore the relationship between them with analogies that range from the job requirements of London taxi drivers to the famed "holo-deck" of the Star Trek television series....

31 min
The Secret Passage-Implicit Memory
8: The Secret Passage-Implicit Memory

Encounter still another category of memory-a way in which your experiences can enter long-term memory without the kind of "effortful encoding" discussed earlier. You learn why this sort of memory creation is vitally important, yet also unreliable as a substitute for conscious effort....

31 min
From Procedural Memory to Habit
9: From Procedural Memory to Habit

In this lecture, you see that your memory for procedures is useful not only in the "muscle memory" of physical skills, but also in cognitive processes. Also, learn about constructivist learning, in which the explicit structure of a procedure-which is usually taught verbally-instead is learned implicitly during exploratory practice....

28 min
When Memory Systems Battle-Habits vs. Goals
10: When Memory Systems Battle-Habits vs. Goals

What happens when implicit or procedural memories become so powerful they seize control? In this examination of the tenacity of habits, learn how and why habits are formed and what steps might be useful in changing them, or at least regaining control....

28 min
Sleep and the Consolidation of Memories
11: Sleep and the Consolidation of Memories

Does sleep play a role in strengthening memories of your experiences during the day? Gain a sense of the latest research about a subject that is difficult to study as you explore the relationship between sleep and memory, including the possible link between specific sleep stages and specific kinds of memory....

30 min
Infant and Early Childhood Memory
12: Infant and Early Childhood Memory

How does the maturation of memory fit into a child's overall brain development? Gain invaluable and surprising insights into the month-by-month and year-by-year development of a child's capacity for memory, beginning in the womb and continuing on with its dramatic development after entry into the world....

29 min
Animal Cognition and Memory
13: Animal Cognition and Memory

Does an elephant really never forget? Expand your study of memory to investigate the extent to which the mysterious abilities of humans may also exist in animals and, if so, how they might differ from our own....

32 min
Mapping Memory in the Brain
14: Mapping Memory in the Brain

Almost two decades since its revolutionary appearance, fMRI-functional magnetic resonance imaging-is allowing researchers to watch the living human brain at work, with no harm or discomfort to the subject. Explore what happens in several areas of the brain as memories are created or retrieved....

30 min
Neural Network Models
15: Neural Network Models

Can computer models mimic the operations of the human brain? Examine the use of neural network modeling, in which biologically inspired models posited by researchers in cognitive neuroscience are advancing our understanding of just how those operations take place....

30 min
Learning from Brain Damage and Amnesias
16: Learning from Brain Damage and Amnesias

Leave the world of computers for that of neuropsychology as you focus on the life situations of several patients who have suffered some form of brain injury. You learn how damage to different areas of the brain can have dramatically different impacts on memory and how these patients experience the world....

32 min
The Many Challenges of Alzheimer's Disease
17: The Many Challenges of Alzheimer's Disease

In a lecture that explores one of our most frightening diseases from both the caregiver's and sufferer's perspectives, learn how Alzheimer's progresses, how that progression may be forestalled, and ways in which technology may be able to help through the emerging field of "cognitive prosthetics."...

31 min
That Powerful Glow of Warm Familiarity
18: That Powerful Glow of Warm Familiarity

Why does something familiar to us actually feel that way? Discover the sources of familiarity as you are introduced to the concepts of perceptual fluency and prototypes, and explore some surprising ways that those feelings of familiarity can trump other considerations....

29 min
Deja Vu and the Illusion of Memory
19: Deja Vu and the Illusion of Memory

Is déjà vu simply an illusion of memory? If so, can we learn more about memory by trying to understand how this common phenomenon comes about? Examine some of the theories that have been put forth to explain this uncanny experience....

30 min
Recovered Memories or False Memories?
20: Recovered Memories or False Memories?

Is episodic memory subject to the same pitfalls as misattributed feelings of familiarity? Can we "remember" things that never took place with the same intensity and certainty as those that did? Gain new insights into what is at stake when long-forgotten "memories" resurface....

31 min
Mind the Gaps! Memory as Reconstruction
21: Mind the Gaps! Memory as Reconstruction

Metaphors for memory usually reference information storehouses of some kind, such as library stacks or computer hard drives, from which episodic memories are "retrieved." Learn about the extent to which we actually construct our memories anew each time we summon them and how this explains common memory errors....

30 min
How We Choose What's Important to Remember
22: How We Choose What's Important to Remember

Does our brain always make decisions for us about which aspects of our experience to encode for later recall, or can we influence that process ourselves? Learn potentially powerful techniques for influencing the shape of future memories....

30 min
Aging, Memory, and Cognitive Transition
23: Aging, Memory, and Cognitive Transition

Apply a reality check to the popularly held belief that memory naturally declines as we age. Learn what happened when a researcher corrected for the age-related variables long-ignored by traditional testers-and what conclusions we can draw about what lies ahead for us as we grow older....

29 min
The Monster at the End of the Book
24: The Monster at the End of the Book

Contemplate the significance of what you've learned, with special attention to the common question of whether you can improve your episodic memory-remembering what you want to recall, forgetting what you'd rather not, and making choices about how to achieve a balance....

32 min
Steve Joordens

Human memory is absolutely amazing. It keeps us connected with our past while preparing us for our future.

ALMA MATER

University of Toronto, Scarborough

INSTITUTION

University of Waterloo

About Steve Joordens

Dr. Steve Joordens is Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto Scarborough, where he has taught since 1995. He earned a doctorate in cognitive psychology from the University of Waterloo. Honored repeatedly as both teacher and researcher, Professor Joordens is on the cutting edge of the emerging field of cognitive prosthetics to assist both learning-disabled patients as well as patients with Alzheimer's disease. He is a frequent speaker at professional conferences, where he consistently earns best in session honors. In addition to publishing many articles on human memory, consciousness, and attention in empirical and theoretical psychology journals, Professor Joordens earned both the Premier's Research Excellence Award and the National Technology Innovation Award-the latter for the creation of an Internet-based educational platform that supports the development of critical thinking and clear communication skills in any size classroom. His teaching skills have also earned him repeated honors, including the President's Teaching Award, his university's highest teaching honor; the Scarborough College Students' Union Best Professor Award; a provincially sponsored Leadership in Faculty Teaching Award; and four nominations for Television Ontario's Best Lecturer Competition, which include two Top 10 finishes.

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