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Reproduced with permission of IN Compliance Magazine
Original publication Jan 2013

The brain stem contains the hard wiring that commands the heart to beat and the lungs to expand and contract. Laying about in a mess of ganglia at the base of the skull, just above the spine, it works—literally—without a second thought.

The brain stem also plays a role in the sleep cycle and consciousness in general: critical when understanding the engineering brain. A few billion brain cells away lie a left and a right seahorse-shaped hippocampus, that associate and sort short-term memories and prepare them for encoding into the frontal lobe where they are stored. Alzheimer’s disease is thought to first affect the hippocampus, which explains the slow erosion of memories in afflicted persons.
Examining the primordial primitive functioning of the human brain is useful to understand how learning occurs—especially when teaching the Engineering Brain.

Learning, which is really memory- making, depends on a well-functioning brain stem—one needs to be breathing and conscious—and tuned up hippocampi. The processes of delivery of information and its solid imprinting into long-term memory require a constant re-think, especially in today’s world of many diversions and distractions. Tickling the hippocampus takes more than delivering the information and expecting it to stick, it requires stimulation.
An effectively trained brain is one that can readily access information; how to achieve this is a question that philosophers, psychologists and neuroscientists have been puzzling over for years.
The question of making and storing memories begs the question: where are memories stored? Studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) techniques1 show a strong correlation between the age of a memory and the location of the memory in the brain. In these studies, an fMRI is used to detect brain activity when subjects are served a series of questions, framed to judge whether the information is stored in long- or short- term memory. How a question is asked biases the response and the questions must be carefully crafted. This is because the question is first interpreted and encoded before the information can be retrieved. Context is everything. One asks: “What is pi(e)?” Hearing this simple question, an individual may respond with a well-known irrational number or a description of a tasty fruit-filled dessert—depending on whose kitchen you might be standing in.  continue


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