How Lasting is Human Memory? Four Suggestions to Improve It!

A memory could stay with a person for the lifetime, but its content might change. One should not worry about forgetting the most beautiful moments of his/her life. The most vivid memories stay in memory for decades and there are many strategies to keep them fresh.

“People usually remember the most important events, such as graduation, wedding day or birth of a child, for their whole life. Of course, somewhere around being 60-70 years old, the episodic memory will slowly start deteriorating,” said Dheeraj Roy, a brain scientist at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. His speciality involves studying memory loss. Usually, it’s not the critical connections between various memories that are being forgotten, but their content. On the other hand, one should not be surprised as some less important memories can be forgotten in just a couple of years.

A memory could stay with a person for the lifetime, but its content might change. Author/source: boyarrin/Creative Commons.

Recall Often and in Detail!

So why do some memories stay with us longer? “One of the main factors is repetition — if we want to remember something, it’s a good idea to think about it later,” said Jaan Aru, an Estonian brain scientist, and researcher at the University of Tartu. Memories deemed worthy of remembering should be recalled scrupulously and often.

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Practical Field Research in Conflict Areas: Cyprus

Nicosia, the capital city of Cyprus, is an extremely pleasant and popular tourist destination. Walking along its many clean and vibrant streets, surrounded by passerby going about their daily lives in what must be one of the most sun-kissed cities in the world, imparts a wonderful sense of warmth and tranquillity. It is only when travelling down Ledra street, nearer to the heart of the city, that one would find the crowds of people thinning and the sounds of the daily hustle-and-bustle fading.

Nicosia is known as the “world’s last divided capital,” and near its centre border-crossing checkpoints stand. Once hopeful signifiers, gateways through a previously nigh-impenetrable gap between the two communities, their continued presence has become a monument to the separation between both Cypriot communities, a constant reminder of the uncertainty and tension that lingers in Cyprus today.

The Ledra Palace border-crossing checkpoint leading into Northern Cyprus. The slightly obfuscated sign on the left reads “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus Forever.” Photo Credit: Katie Clark.

On April 8th, 2018, eight students and I flew into Larnaca airport to meet the tenth student, who had flown into Cyprus through Ercan International Airport, and begin a one-week research trip in Cyprus, an integral part of our “Practical Field Research in Conflict Areas” course. Our semester up until that point had focused on the conflict between the two communities on the island, its further complication by external actors attempting to impose or negotiate solutions, and contemporary peace-building on the island. Equipped with that knowledge, guided by Professor Eiki Berg and PhD Fellow Maili Vilson, and hosted by Near East University, we prepared ourselves for an intensely educational week and experience.

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Honest advice from current international students

Last autumn the University of Tartu took part in an international student survey International Student Barometer (ISB). As a part of the survey, our international degree and exchange students could give advice to new students. Here’s what they said.

… don’t be scared to make this decision

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PsychoBus: Untangling the misconceptions about psychology

About five years ago, a few psychology students discussed the fact that there are many misconceptions in the general public about what psychology is. The solution to the problem seemed clear – we need something to untangle these misconceptions by introducing science-based psychology. And so PsychoBus was formed. Since 2014 we have performed hundreds of times in all corners of Estonia, as well as in Germany and the Netherlands.

What exactly is psychology?

Every time we perform with a science show or do a workshop, we always ask people, “What is psychology?” or “What does a psychologist do?” Most often the answer is either “counselling” or “helping”. Indeed, counselling and helping people through psychotherapy is an important part of psychology. But that is not all psychology is. PsychoBus aims to show people the importance of psychology as a science.
In any science, the main questions are “Why?” and “How?” In psychology, scientists look for answers to the questions of why and how our brains work the way they do. Our job is to demonstrate the findings of scientists and do it in a fun and interactive way. Demonstrating how our memory works by planting false memories in our audience’s heads or explaining how our senses cooperate by playing songs with funny misheard lyrics are just a few examples.

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The Perks and Perils of Doctoral Studies – How About You?

Work done for free, at night and weekends, unsatisfactory social guarantees with a salary near the minimum wage – this is your everyday life when you’re pursuing a doctoral degree. Completing the normal duration of the studies seems rather like a miracle. True, if you look out, you can do so among shiny-eyed colleagues while discovering something new for all the world to use. But it doesn’t always turn out that way.

A major portion of all the scientific work in the world is done by doctoral students (students who have decided to follow through toward a doctoral degree after graduating with a master’s degree) and postdoctoral researchers (a researcher who spends some time in some academic institution abroad to become more scientifically well-rounded).  These people are young and vigorous, full of enthusiasm, productive, all the while ready to spend long (night) hours in labs, as well as volunteer as lecturers. Throughout all this, they don’t know for certain if their scientific career will even launch after they have their doctoral degree or the postdoctoral research period has ended.

Going through doctoral studies and getting the degree doesn’t mean that these are the smartest young geniuses we have here in Estonia; a doctoral degree is not some epic final accord of a great amount of research activity and an outstanding career as a scientist. It’s more like the firing of a starting pistol in a situation where the runner finishing last always drops out when each round is over.

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UT master’s student is a big step closer to making hydrogen fuel cell vehicles more affordable

Master’s student in chemistry Sander Ratso has created an innovative technology, which, if taken into use, would undercut the price of overly expensive fuel cells. Tests conducted in Finland and the USA also confirm it to be a promising alternative. The innovative technology would help to lower the production costs of environmentally friendly electric vehicles considerably, and therefore, also their selling price. These types of cell elements can also be used, for example, in smartphones and laptops.

Toyota Mirai, Hyundai Nexo, and Honda Clarity Fuel Cell are examples of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles that are already used in many parts of the world. In the fuel cells of these vehicles, an extremely expensive platinum-based catalyst is used for acceleration of the chemical reaction.

It is possible that these and newer models will be cheaper in the future and drive around using lower-priced carbon nanotube catalysts created in Estonia.

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Way to Cultural Integration: Learning from Shai’s Life

Today I would like to talk about my journey – a journey to find a home, a journey of creating a sense of belonging, a journey of making my own identity. The reason for sharing my true life story to all of you is that my uncle, Toyon, needed my story for his university blog competition. He thinks that my past story of going through hardship and survival in the present, in a lot of ways, is related to the complex and dynamic society that we live in.

Photo Credits: Pixabay

My name is Shai. I am a third culture dog, sometimes sociologists term it a ‘Third Culture Kid’, and was born in a very exotic country – Palestine. So far I as remember, my father was Chinese and mother was from Afganistan. I do not know where they are now. I am the unfortunate daughter who almost forgot her parents’ faces. I barely remember that I witnessed getting separated from my parents together with two brothers and one sister because of a massive bomb attack. You do not hear much about dogs like me, because we do not write, or, our stories remain untold because of the agonizing miseries of those thousands of innocent human war victims. I am one of those uncounted who almost made it by miracle and ended up in Estonia. It was neither a dream of getting separated from my birthplace, my family, nor a predetermined plan to end up in Europe. My present owner, Anastasija, struggled by risking her life to own me, found me and embraced me with her love, as well as gave me a motherly womb, at the same time wholeheartedly adopted me like her own child and reared me to integrate into so-called developed society. Not all are as lucky as me. According to UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), 5.3 million Palestinian refugees have been registered by UNWRA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) in the year 2016, although no specific statistics exists regarding animals like me.

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