Brain Drain: Things that mess with your memory

From what you eat, to strokes you don't even know are happening. There are things that could be hurting your memory and more, but there's a way to beat the brain drain.

It's a simple, but memorable creature helping Neuroscientist Jack Byrne study how memory works.

The sea slug learns to associate food with touch, so after being hand-fed when anything hits its lips.

"It will start to bite in response," says John "Jack" Byrne, PhD UT Health Science Center at Houston.

The idea is to find out what genes and proteins are involved in the memory and learning processes.

"We can apply that knowledge to help individuals that have learning disabilities," explains Byrne.

As the doctor tries to help our brains, you could be hurting yours.

A UCLA study found sugar could decrease brain activity. Mice given sugar had a harder time getting through a maze than mice given sugar and Omega-3.

Found in things like walnuts, salmon, and soybeans, adding Omega-3 to your diet could protect you from sugar's bad side effects.

Gum could be bad or good for your grey matter.

A recent study out of Cardiff University says chewing it hurt people's short-term memory when they tried to recall lists of words and numbers.

But other studies say it helps your brain, including one that showed people who chewed gum outperformed non-chewers in memory exercises.

Neurologist Paul Schulz says small silent strokes that go un-noticed, can affect memory and attention span.

He treated one woman who had hundreds.

"The majority of people I've seen who have attention changes related to strokes have no idea they've had a stroke," explains Paul Schulz, MD, UT Health Science Center at Houston.

A Harvard report says you could lower your risk of silent strokes by controlling blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol, keeping a healthy weight, not smoking, and managing atrial fibrillation.

Helping your brain from becoming sluggish.

Low-carb diets could also be draining your brain. In 2008, a small study found women who eliminated carbs from their diets had a decline in cognitive skills, especially on memory tests.

Instead of wiping out carbs to lose weight, eat healthy carbs found in foods like fruits, grains, and nuts.

Brain Drain: Things that mess with your memory REPORT #1916

HOW MEMORY WORKS: The basics of memory are explained by the chemicals released across synapses as nerve cells communicate to each other in the brain. The chemical changes at the synapse make it easier for the signals to pass, and as this happens there is an actual transformation among the network of cells. When only a few signals are sent, the change is temporary creating short term memory; but when the signals continue, the changes to the most active synapses are permanent and that creates long term memories. However, this does not fully explain everything there is to know about memory. It was discovered by Brenda Milner of Montreal Neurological Institute in her study of Henry Molaison that the hippocampus is responsible for turning short term memory into long term memory and that there are different kinds of memory, dependent on different parts of the brain. Researchers continue to study memory and a plethora of information and studies can be found in medical journals and articles. (Source:

SILENT STROKES: A typical ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel that feeds part of the brain and the cells without the normal blood flow can begin to malfunction and die. The same happens during a hemorrhagic stroke in which a blood vessel bursts. Silent strokes interrupt the blood flow to a part of the brain that does not control vital functions (such as speech or motor skills) so they often go unnoticed. The only way to see the damage caused by a silent stroke is with an MRI or CT scan. Most people cannot do anything about silent strokes other than try to lower their risk of one. Suggestions to lower the risk of a stroke include: Limit salt intake to less than one teaspoon a day, eat more fruits and vegetables, and exercise at least five days a week. (Source:

TIPS FOR A BETTER MEMORY: There are some things people can do to keep their memory sharp.

* Stay mentally active; crosswords, reading, and learning new skills help to keep the mind healthy.
* Socialize regularly; socializing helps release stress and prevent depression which can hurt memory.
* Get organized; a person is less likely to forget what they write down or set in a specific place.

For More Information, Contact:

Rob Cahill
Senior Media Relations Specialist
(713) 500-3042

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