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memory

Do you know what your first memory is?

I know mine was on my parents wedding day – I'm being lifted off a white bench outside by someone  and I can see my little white sandals on my feet as I look down at them. That's it. A three-second lightning-quick snapshot. I was a few weeks away from my second birthday.

I can still see my shoes as I get picked up off the bench – but did it ever actually happen?

A study in the journal Psychological Science says that more than likely it's a fabrication. Spooky, right? 

Researchers from the UK asked more than 6,600 people about their first childhood memory.

According to Science Alert, they found that 2,500 of participants – almost 40 percent – said that they had formed memories before the age of two-years-old. More than 890 of those people said that their their first memory takes place before they turned one.

The scientists now say though that those memories are completely imagined…they're not real memories.

So why are we convinced that they are? 

The study explained that our brains seem to be simply incapable of retaining information from before the age of three.

However, the thing is, the scientists found that people's memories were age-appropriate. 

This means that they're not memories that got muddled in time because they mention prams, cribs or wanting to communicate before knowing how to talk.

Now this is the interesting bit.

The research suggests that these recollections are actually being pieced together from photographs people have seen and stories they may have been told etc. 

"We suggest that what a rememberer has in mind when recalling fictional improbably early memories is an episodic-memory-like mental representation consisting of remembered fragments of early experience and some facts or knowledge about their own infancy/childhood," explained psychologist Shazia Akhtar. 

So do you think that you've created events in your mind that never took place?

We all know that memory isn't the most reliable of things and this study certainly gives weight to that.

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If you've ever blamed your failing memory on your G&T habit, you may be talking absolute nonsense if recent research is anything to go by.

According to a study conducted in the University of Exeter, alcohol consumption can actually help to improve your short-term memory.

Don't worry; we'll wait while you pick yourself off the floor.

OK, ready?

So, researchers used 88 participants, 57 of whom were female, to investigate the hypothesis, and ultimately discovered that individuals who consumed alcohol prior to memory tasks performed better than those who didn't.

The group, who were aged between 18 and 53, were required to learn information from the comfort of their own homes before one half of the group went for a night of drinking.

The following day both groups convened, and researchers quickly established that those who had consumed an average of four alcohol units the night before were more capable of regurgitating the information they had learned the day before than their teetotal counterparts.

"Our research not only showed that those who drank alcohol did better when repeating the word-learning task, but that this effect was stronger among those who drank more," said Professor Celia Morgan of the University of Exeter.

“The causes of this effect are not fully understood, but the leading explanation is that alcohol blocks the learning of new information and therefore the brain has more resources available to lay down other recently learned information into long-term memory."

“The theory is that the hippocampus – the brain area really important in memory – switches to ‘consolidating’ memories, transferring from short into longer-term memory."

Researchers who conducted the study, which has been published in Scientific Reports, are "keen to stress that this limited positive effect should be considered alongside the well-established negative effects of excessive alcohol on memory and mental and physical health."

Fair enough.

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While our parents and grandparents are flat out lighting candles and praying to St Jude in the run up to exam season, apparently the people actually sitting the exams are being a little more practical.

Acknowledging that memory probably plays a bigger role in exam success than anything else, students across the UK and Ireland are turning to rosemary essential oil in order to boost their memories, and it all comes down to findings highlighted in a recent study.

With the help of 40 participants, researchers at the Northumbria University established that the herb's scent plays a part in memory control.

Dividing the group in two, researchers placed one group in a room diffused with rosemary oil while the other group was placed in an aroma-free room, and both groups were assigned memory-related tasks.

According to an ITV report, the study ultimately established that those in the rosemary-scented room performed better in the memory stakes than their counterparts.

Commenting on the findings, researcher Mark Moss provided possible reasons for the rosemary effect, saying: "It could be that aromas affect electrical activity in the brain or that pharmacologically active compounds can be absorbed when adults are exposed."

Since the study came to public attention, students have been flocking to stores in order to stock up, with Holland & Barrett confirming that sales have almost doubled compared since last year.

"Following the Northumbria University research pointing to a positive link between rosemary and memory in students, we saw a sharp rise in customer demand for our 100% pure Miaroma Rosemary Essential Oil, with sales increasing by almost 300 per cent on the previous week," a spokesperson for Holland & Barrett said.

"As exam season continues, we have increased provision in store to meet demand and our trained associates are on-hand as always to answer any questions customers may have about the benefits of aromatherapy and essential oils."

Something to think about…

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It’s no secret that Harry Potter has some pretty hard core fans.

The books and films have combined to become the most successful franchise of all time and even though the last film came out six years ago, the hype has never really died down.

You may identify as a Harry Potter super-fan, but in reality, you’ve got nothing on this girl.

Rebecca Sharrock, from Queensland, Australia, has memorised every word to every book.

Yep.

The 27-year-old is just one of 79 people worldwide to have a Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM), giving her the ability to remember just about anything.

Back in 2015, Rebecca appeared on the Austalian TV show, 60 minutes, to have knowledge about the series tested.

She proceeded to shock viewers when the presenters asked her if she knew the opening line of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, chapter 17.

She then shocked viewers by proceeding to effortlessly recite the story word for word.

"Chapter 17 is the man with two faces, and it starts on "It was Quirrel. You? gasped Harry,"

…. And so on.

Rebecca has recently been back making headlines after she uploaded a blog post where she claims to remember being a newborn child.

She wrote: ‘’My earliest memory of which I can date is from when I was twelve days old. My parents carried me to the driver’s seat of the car (my father’s idea) and placed me down upon it for a photo.’’

"As a newborn child I was curious as to what the seat cover and steering wheel above me were. Though at that age I hadn't yet developed the ability to want to get up and explore what such curious objects could be."

According to Cosmopolitan, Rebecca is now working with a team of researchers the University of California, the University of Queensland, and the Queensland Brain Institute, in order to try to find out more about how her truly amazing memory works.

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While feeling forgetful is often associated with old age, a new study has revealed that stress is causing young Irish women to forget some very important tasks.

60 percent of female Irish millennials were found to be so consumed by stress that they were failing to take care of everyday jobs like taking their contraceptive pill, while 30 percent admitted that forgetfulness has become a regular feature of their everyday lives.

According to the survey – which was conducted by Bayer to mark World Contraception Day – a huge number of 21 to 29-year-olds are at risk of having an unplanned pregnancy, with 70 percent admitting they were more likely to miss their pill when stressed.

As reported by The Irish Mirror, one in seven women admitted to forgetting to take their pill once or twice a month.

Other basic tasks like removing makeup at night and putting a phone on charge were also affected during times of worry.

Professor Sabina Brennan from Trinity College told The Irish Mirror that the results of the survey add to existing research which suggests that stress and memory are connected.

She said: “Stress isn’t always a bad thing; a properly controlled stress response can give us extra energy and focus needed to cope with challenge.”

“But in today’s complex world psychological and social stressors can be unrelenting for millennial women, and can affect health, well-being and even memory.”

Spa day anyone?

GIFs: giphy.com

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Memory is a powerful thing – anyone who has been brought back in time by a certain smell or piece of music can attest to that.

But imagine if your memories took over your whole life?

Brisbane woman Rebecca Sharrock has a rare condition which means her capacity to remember things is greatly increased.

As well as trivial things like dates and long numbers, Rebecca can recall events from long ago in huge detail – and can recite entire books word-for-word without prompting.

While most of us can't remember anything before the agree of three, Rebecca says she recalls her first memory from when she was just 12 days old.

"I remember my mum placing me in the drivers seat of the car and taking a picture of me," Rebecca tells The Daily Mirror of her earliest moment.

“I remember every day since then. Some of them I can’t date exactly because I was too young to understand calendars, but I remember what I did that day, what the weather was like and so on."

Rebecca's condition is known as Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory, and it even enables her to recall things like pain and taste.

"For example, I remember falling over when I was three at my grandparents’ house and grazing my left knee. Talking about it now, I’m getting an echo of the sting in my left knee cap."

And if she's eating something she's not a fan of, she can overpower the taste by thinking about her favourite kind of cake – Black Forest gateau.

"It won’t take away hunger but I can re-taste the cherries, chocolate and cream and that takes away the other taste," she explains.

To calm herself from an onslaught of thoughts and memories as a youngster, Rebecca used to recite the Harry Potter series chapter by chapter.

"When she had nightmares as a child, to take her mind off it we'd get her to just start reciting Harry Potter from chapter one," her mum Janet recalls.

Having been diagnosed with autism and OCD as a teen, Rebecca didn't know she had a specific memory condition under Janet saw a TV show about it in 2011.

"I just knew for sure that that was what Becky had too," her mum says.

Now Rebecca uses social media to help reach out to others with HSAM, as well as participating in a long-term study about the condition at at the University of California.

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Who knew that even more benefits could be added to the list for green tea?

In a study completed at the University of Basel in Switzerland, it was found that extract of green tea can improve the working memory.

The finding shows that drinking green tea can improve cognitive functions and it could be used as a treatment for cognitive impairments such as dementia.

One of the professors leading the study, Prof. Stefan Borgwardt, said that “our findings suggest that green tea might increase the short-term synaptic plasticity of the brain.”

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Researchers in Trinity College, Dublin have created a series of videos to help allay fears of memory loss and to tackle the stigma associated with dementia.

This video How Does Your Memory Work?  explains exactly why you keep forgetting things – you most likely weren’t paying attention…

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When it comes to scientific discoveries, it can be hard to rally interest.

However, one recent discovery isn’t actually a bore – if anything, it involves a lot of excitement.

Researchers in the U.S have discovered that sex can help improve long-term memory. Among many other things, bedroom antics can help increase brain power, if it happens frequently.

While testing this theory on middle-aged rats, they found that the little rodents made more brain cells after mating.

Mating also meant that they had more neurons in the part of the brain where memories are made.

Whoever would have linked long-term memory with sex? Not us anyway!

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