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March 11

Gail Brown

Our brains, memory and learning – introducing links to instruction…

  • Mon 7th Jan 2013
  • Gail

This post is the first of several I’ll be posting as I read this new book, Diving for Seahorses. Sounds like a strange book, if it’s to be about memory, how our brains store memories and brain-based learning? I’m recommending this book if you want to read more about memory and learning, AND because it’s published right here by the University of New South Wales.

Well, you might know one part of all our brains is the Hippocampus, which plays a part in storing memories. Hippocampus is also the biological name for seahorse. You might not know that the male seahorse is the ONLY male animal that gets pregnant, and carries its babies in a pouch!

I learned in this book that the Hippocampus is actually shaped like a seahorse, and it was discovered and named (because of this resemblance) 450 years ago, by Dr Julius Caesar Arantius (page 2).

What I am also learning is that scientists are still researching about how memory works, and that the Hippocampus is the tip of the iceberg, or tip of our brains, when it comes to memory. While this is one of the storage and processing places for parts of memory, it is so much more!

First, something for you to think about: “Computers retain, brains remember!” A simple statement (or exclamation, in this post!) with a wealth of meanings.

Everything we enter on a computer, online and offline, is “retained”. That means it will be EXACTLY as we entered it, it never changes and it’ll be there forever – “retained for eternity” – or as long as we have the internet?

In our brains, we “remember” and we call this memory, but that is VERY different to retaining. We make memories, and these can change over time, as our memory is NOT like a computer. We might remember different things, because we focus on different parts of a memory, our emotions affect memories, and we see memories in different contexts or for different purposes?

Think what this difference means for learning and remembering what we learn, for us as teachers, as well as for our students? I’ll continue with this theme in my next post, and hopefully this is some food for your thoughts in the meantime…

Ostby, H. & Ostby, Y. (2019). Diving for Seahorses: The Science and Secrets of Memory, New South Publishing, University of New South Wales.

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