Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Data Chunks Easier to Remember

Many people say they aren't good at remembering long number sequences, but the very fact that we remember telephone numbers shows that humans can and do remember long strings of information, but there's a trick to it. We break up such information into smaller chunks.

Telephone numbers, for instance are broken up into sequences of 3 and 4 numbers. Not everyone knows their credit card numbers by heart, but these 16-digit strings are made easier to memorize by being set out in groups of four.

A study conducted with 14-month-old children demonstrated that this technique of remembering information in smaller chunks by showing the children toys, which were later hid in a box. During the study, two of the toys were placed in the box while the other two were hidden elsewhere. Researchers wanted to see how much longer children would search for the two missing toys.

They found that when the toys were in groups of two, such as two toy cats and two toy dogs, and one of each was removed, that children seemed to remember the fact that there were two of each and continued searching the box for the missing items.

Perhaps this type of research could change the way we teach information and affect our approach to information that we want to remember.

You can read more about the story at the Johns Hopkins website.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Deep Brain Stimulation Used to Treat Psychiatric Disorders

A procedure approved for the treatment of Parkinson's Disease may soon be used to treat certain psychiatric disorders.

Deep brain stimulation, or DBS has been used to quell tremors in Parkinson's patients. The procedure involves the neurosurgeon drilling one or two dime-size holes in the skull and inserting one or two electrodes about four inches into the brain. A connecting wire from the electrode runs under the skin to a battery implanted near the collarbone.

Dr. Douglas Anderson of Loyola University Health Systems has also used DBS to treat patients with debilitating headaches, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and body dysmorphic disorder.
DBS is also being currently studied for possible treatment of depression. Dr. Anderson reports successfully treating a patient with OCD and a patient with body dysmorphic disorder. Body dymorphic disorder is an excessive preoccupation with perceived flaws in the patient's body. These flaws may be minor or even imaginary.

For more information on DBS and the case studies mentioned, see the press release at Loyola University Health System.