Cybernaut 

Lifelong learning

Sometimes it feels like someone peeled my skull back while I was sleeping and replaced my brain with a big cotton swab.

I was once part of a Reach for the Top team that won the Metro Toronto Championships for seven years in a row, my mind so full of arcane and useless knowledge that it was annoying at times. But it was a selective memory at best.

For instance, I couldn’t remember how to find the circumference of a circle, but I could remember that Jon Baker, Frank Poncherello’s partner on the television series ChiPs was played by Larry Wilcox.

I remember that the Battle of Hastings took place in 1066; the Spanish Armada was defeated in 1588 by Francis Drake and Lord Howard; and the D-Day invasion took place on June 6, 1944. Important dates made more memorable by the double-digits.

I have more difficulty remembering that the Magna Carta, which reaffirmed the power of law and laid the foundations for democracy in the wake of the Battle of Hastings, was written in 1215. I forget that Francis Drake was also the first explorer to circumnavigate the globe starting in 1577, raiding Spanish settlements along the way. I forget that General Eisenhower was the Supreme Commander of the allied forces at D-Day.

There’s nothing more frustrating than something you used to know, a name or a date on the tip of your tongue, the right way to do something. Every time I jump start a dead car battery I forget what order I’m supposed to attach the cables. (Both cars off. 1) Connect positive of dead battery with the red cable. 2) Connect the positive terminal of the live battery. 3) Connect the negative of the live battery. 4) connect the remaining clamp to a metal "ground" in the car, preferably part of the frame. Start car with live battery, run for a minute or two, then start the car with the dead battery. Remove the clamps in the reverse order you put them on.)

Naturally I attribute my memory loss and seeming inability to learn to the aging process, my lifestyle, television, and the past seven concussions. According to a new study, however, that’s just a cop-out. My brain is just as capable of learning and retaining information as it ever was. It’s just gotten lazy.

Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, which is based in California, have discovered that all mammals are capable of creating new, fully-functional brain cells.

Scientists discovered this trait in mice, as new cells were generated in the hippocampus area of the brain that is important for learning and memory.

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