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Memory-loss breakthrough! What was it again?

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For years, I have worried brain cells are leaking slowly out of my ears.

Lately, the leak has become a full-fledged flood.

I'm not entirely sure what the problem is, although I suspect a steady diet of fast food and reality TV is hastening the rate at which my brain turns to sludge.

A certain amount of brain leakage is to be expected as our once-ripped bodies begin to crumble.

For instance, some days I will find myself standing in the middle of our newsroom, staring blankly into the middle distance, when one of my remaining brain cells will pipe up with a challenging question: "Why are we standing here?"

I will ponder the possible answers -- Am I going for a cup of coffee? Am I walking to someone else's desk for a visit? Have aliens taken control of my body?-- but eventually I will take my brain back to my desk, count the ceiling tiles overhead, then randomly pound the letters and numbers on my keyboard in a journalistic fashion.

The sad thing is, I have absolutely no problem remembering useless information that has no bearing on my life, such as who scored the fastest goal to start a period in NHL history. (For the record, James van Riemsdyk of the Toronto Maple Leafs scored four seconds into the second period against the Philadelphia Flyers last March, tying a record set by Claude Provost of the Montreal Canadiens in 1957 and Denis Savard of the Chicago Blackhawks in 1986.)

The more important something is, however, the less likely my brain is to remember it. For instance, I have a hard time remembering which of my kids requires insulin. OK, that was a trick question. The truth is, none of my kids need insulin. I am the one who needs insulin. But my brain manages to forget that medical fact whenever I sit down to eat.

Me (chowing down on a greasy burger): "YUM!"

My wife (nibbling a salad): "Aren't you forgetting something, dear?"

Me: "Yes! Where's the bacon?"

My wife: "No, I'm referring to your insulin."

Me (looking ashamed): "Oh!"

But that is not today's point. What, we must ask ourselves, is today's point? Hold on while I look back at the beginning of this column. OK, apparently the point is my aging brain has started forgetting important things more frequently.

Which reminds me, over the holiday weekend, I somehow managed to misplace my wallet AND my cellphone, both of which are things I normally cling to like, um, like... hold on while I look a simile here... OK, like Lindsay Lohan with a death grip on a happy hour martini.

I spent an unhappy day without my beloved wallet after somehow leaving it on the floor of a buddy's van. The next day, my wife and I went for lunch on a local patio, where I remembered to pay the bill but forgot my (bad word) phone on the table when we walked away.

"Didn't you forget something, dear?" my wife asked as we strolled away.

"Um, my insulin?" I chirped, spinning around.

"No, your cellphone!" my wife snorted.

The good news for bozos with decaying brains like mine is science has come up with a way to jump-start our faltering memories. According to a report I have just read and can almost remember, researchers at Northwestern University's medical school found sending electromagnetic impulses through the scalp to the brain can improve our ability to recall stuff.

What these scientists did is give a group of subjects a memory test, then they stimulated their brain cells with an electromagnetic coil, then gave them another memory test. The volunteers whose brains were given transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) made 30 per cent fewer mistakes on the tests.

Just as stimulating is another recent brain breakthrough wherein scientists discovered you can improve your memory by taking a so-called coffee nap, which is when you take a quick hit of coffee, then rest for about 20 minutes before the caffeine jolt kicks in.

As I understand it, the way it works is the coffee races to your brain and makes it alert, while the quick power nap clears out the brain chemicals that normally make you tired, all of which combine to improve your memory.

I personally am going to give both these scientific discoveries a trial run, so chances are I will remember your name the next time I run into you on the street.

Also, I will look like a complete (bad word) idiot because there will be decorative fridge magnets stuck on my forehead. You can blame science for that indignity.

doug.speirs@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 3, 2014 A2

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