Memory and the Human Lifespan

Course No. 1911
Professor Steve Joordens, Ph.D.
University of Toronto, Scarborough
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Course No. 1911
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Course Overview

What if your memory suddenly vanished? What if you could no longer summon up any recollections of your mother's embrace, a best friend's confidences, or the moment you first met your spouse? What if you couldn't even remember yourself—not your name, your school, where you worked, or even the face of the total stranger staring back at you from the mirror?

If all of these memories were gone, would "self" even have a meaning?

The truth is that while you may think of human memory as a capacity—a way to call up important facts or episodes from your past—it is much, much more.

Your various memory systems, in fact, provide the continuity of consciousness that allows the concept of "you" to make sense, creating the ongoing narrative that makes your life truly yours. Without those systems and the overall experience of memory they make possible, you would have no context for the most crucial decisions of your life. You would have to make—without the benefit of experience and knowledge—the decisions that determine not only your quality of life, but your very survival. And your ability to learn, or even to form the personality that makes you unique, would similarly be set adrift.

In Memory and the Human Lifespan, Professor Steve Joordens of the University of Toronto Scarborough, who has been repeatedly honored as both teacher and researcher, leads you on a startling voyage into the human mind, explaining not only how the various aspects of your memory operate, but the impact memory has on your daily experience of life.

His 24 riveting lectures carefully explain

  • the different kinds of systems that come together to make memory possible;
  • how those systems work together to build and access memories of specific events, solve problems, learn basic tasks like brushing your teeth, or acquire the skills to play a musical instrument;
  • the kinds of memory deficits that result when various parts of the brain are damaged or deteriorate;
  • how memory shapes not only your experience of the past but also of the present, as well as your expectations of the future;
  • how your memory systems develop throughout your life; and much more.

Moreover, by understanding how the brain organizes and encodes information, you can better harness its extraordinary powers to fine-tune how it works for you and use this information to help reshape your very experience of being alive.

Stand on the Threshold of Great Discoveries

While attempts to grasp and facilitate memory date back at least to classical Greece, only now can we truly begin to understand how memory works, thanks to the advantages of science and technology that have been developing for over a century.

Working with the latest findings from memory research, Professor Joordens takes you inside the human mind, from infancy to advanced age, with a special emphasis on the variety of experiences that are characteristic of the adult mind. You'll learn

  • how your brain encodes, stores, and retrieves memories;
  • the specialized roles played by your different memory systems, including semantic, episodic, procedural, and implicit memory;
  • how research into the workings of the brain—once dependent on studying the deficits visited on brain-damaged patients—has made extraordinary leaps, with new technologies like functional magnetic resonance imaging allowing doctors to observe the brain at work, with no harm or discomfort to the patient.

Such scientific advances have given doctors an unprecedented understanding of those deficits. And Professor Joordens makes certain in describing that underlying science that we never lose sight of the human beings who must live with the consequences of their conditions. In an especially poignant portrait, for example, he relates the story of British musician, conductor, and singer Clive Wearing. You learn how a brain infection damaged Wearing's hippocampus, a region deep within the brain that provides, among other things, a gateway from immediate working memory to long-term memory.

Discover Startling Revelations about Human Memory

Each lecture of Memory and the Human Lifespanstartles you with surprising revelations about the extraordinary subject of memory. These include

  • the different aspects of memory that taxi drivers must call on to do their job, as well as the difficulty of mastering the knowledge needed to pass the qualifying exam in London—a task for which two to four years of study are recommended;
  • the evidence of often-astonishing memory capabilities in animals, including the remarkable feats of a lobster-stealing octopus in Miami;
  • how the principle of perceptual fluency influences your behavior by creating subtle feelings of warm familiarity in many situations in which you aren't even aware it is operating, from writing a story to shopping to making a choice in the voting booth; and
  • what the latest research about so-called "recovered memories" and "false memories" may reveal about the accuracy of episodic memory itself, with implications we would do well to consider in many areas of life—including the courtroom.

While Professor Joordens has built these lectures around the latest scientific findings, he has gone to great lengths to make each one absolutely accessible. Every point is clearly explained, and every lecture is enriched with illustrative analogies and vivid anecdotes and examples. It's this same approach that has won him numerous awards and accolades for his teaching, including the President's Teaching Award—the University of Toronto's highest honor—and the Leadership in Faculty Teaching Award.

Just as important, the science is never allowed to overshadow the idea of memory as central to our very humanity. No matter how deeply into research results a lecture may go to explore the construction or retrieval of a memory, Memory and the Human Lifespan always presents the subject as a human experience—a fascinating, multilayered exploration of yourself that you'll never forget.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Memory Is a Party
    Using the metaphor of a party whose “guests” include the different components of the complex interactions that make up memory, Professor Joordens introduces you to several kinds of memory—including episodic, semantic, and procedural—to arrive at an initial understanding of the variety of processes at work in human “memory.” x
  • 2
    The Ancient “Art of Memory”
    Techniques to embed and retrieve memories more easily—so-called mnemonic strategies—date back at least to classical Greece. See how one such technique—the Method of Loci—can help improve the episodic memory you depend on to recall a group of items such as grocery or to-do lists. x
  • 3
    Rote Memorization and a Science of Forgetting
    Is a mnemonic strategy always the most useful? Examine rote memorization and how it differs from mnemonics. Also, get an introduction to the work of Hermann Ebbinghaus, whose 19th-century experiments in remembering and forgetting marked the first scientific examination of memory. x
  • 4
    Sensory Memory—Brief Traces of the Past
    Begin a deeper discussion of the different kinds of memory, beginning with sensory memory and how its brief retentive power lets you switch from one stimulus to another—and even gives you your sense of “the present moment.” Here, the focus is on iconic (or visual) memory and its auditory counterpart, echoic memory. x
  • 5
    The Conveyor Belt of Working Memory
    Plunge into the mental processes that allow you to work with information, often with the goal of solving a problem. You learn that these processes can also be used to keep information briefly “in mind,” though they require effort and are prone to interference. x
  • 6
    Encoding—Our Gateway into Long-Term Memory
    How does information make its way from your temporary working memory into long-term memory so you can access it again when you need it? This introduction to encoding explains the process and offers useful tips for improving your own recall. x
  • 7
    Episodic and Semantic Long-Term Memory
    Strengthen your grasp of how these two key memory systems function. You explore the relationship between them with analogies that range from the job requirements of London taxi drivers to the famed “holo-deck” of the Star Trek television series. x
  • 8
    The Secret Passage—Implicit Memory
    Encounter still another category of memory—a way in which your experiences can enter long-term memory without the kind of “effortful encoding” discussed earlier. You learn why this sort of memory creation is vitally important, yet also unreliable as a substitute for conscious effort. x
  • 9
    From Procedural Memory to Habit
    In this lecture, you see that your memory for procedures is useful not only in the “muscle memory” of physical skills, but also in cognitive processes. Also, learn about constructivist learning, in which the explicit structure of a procedure—which is usually taught verbally—instead is learned implicitly during exploratory practice. x
  • 10
    When Memory Systems Battle—Habits vs. Goals
    What happens when implicit or procedural memories become so powerful they seize control? In this examination of the tenacity of habits, learn how and why habits are formed and what steps might be useful in changing them, or at least regaining control. x
  • 11
    Sleep and the Consolidation of Memories
    Does sleep play a role in strengthening memories of your experiences during the day? Gain a sense of the latest research about a subject that is difficult to study as you explore the relationship between sleep and memory, including the possible link between specific sleep stages and specific kinds of memory. x
  • 12
    Infant and Early Childhood Memory
    How does the maturation of memory fit into a child’s overall brain development? Gain invaluable and surprising insights into the month-by-month and year-by-year development of a child’s capacity for memory, beginning in the womb and continuing on with its dramatic development after entry into the world. x
  • 13
    Animal Cognition and Memory
    Does an elephant really never forget? Expand your study of memory to investigate the extent to which the mysterious abilities of humans may also exist in animals and, if so, how they might differ from our own. x
  • 14
    Mapping Memory in the Brain
    Almost two decades since its revolutionary appearance, fMRI—functional magnetic resonance imaging—is allowing researchers to watch the living human brain at work, with no harm or discomfort to the subject. Explore what happens in several areas of the brain as memories are created or retrieved. x
  • 15
    Neural Network Models
    Can computer models mimic the operations of the human brain? Examine the use of neural network modeling, in which biologically inspired models posited by researchers in cognitive neuroscience are advancing our understanding of just how those operations take place. x
  • 16
    Learning from Brain Damage and Amnesias
    Leave the world of computers for that of neuropsychology as you focus on the life situations of several patients who have suffered some form of brain injury. You learn how damage to different areas of the brain can have dramatically different impacts on memory and how these patients experience the world. x
  • 17
    The Many Challenges of Alzheimer’s Disease
    In a lecture that explores one of our most frightening diseases from both the caregiver’s and sufferer’s perspectives, learn how Alzheimer’s progresses, how that progression may be forestalled, and ways in which technology may be able to help through the emerging field of “cognitive prosthetics.” x
  • 18
    That Powerful Glow of Warm Familiarity
    Why does something familiar to us actually feel that way? Discover the sources of familiarity as you are introduced to the concepts of perceptual fluency and prototypes, and explore some surprising ways that those feelings of familiarity can trump other considerations. x
  • 19
    Déjà Vu and the Illusion of Memory
    Is déjà vu simply an illusion of memory? If so, can we learn more about memory by trying to understand how this common phenomenon comes about? Examine some of the theories that have been put forth to explain this uncanny experience. x
  • 20
    Recovered Memories or False Memories?
    Is episodic memory subject to the same pitfalls as misattributed feelings of familiarity? Can we “remember” things that never took place with the same intensity and certainty as those that did? Gain new insights into what is at stake when long-forgotten “memories” resurface. x
  • 21
    Mind the Gaps! Memory as Reconstruction
    Metaphors for memory usually reference information storehouses of some kind, such as library stacks or computer hard drives, from which episodic memories are “retrieved.” Learn about the extent to which we actually construct our memories anew each time we summon them and how this explains common memory errors. x
  • 22
    How We Choose What's Important to Remember
    Does our brain always make decisions for us about which aspects of our experience to encode for later recall, or can we influence that process ourselves? Learn potentially powerful techniques for influencing the shape of future memories. x
  • 23
    Aging, Memory, and Cognitive Transition
    Apply a reality check to the popularly held belief that memory naturally declines as we age. Learn what happened when a researcher corrected for the age-related variables long-ignored by traditional testers—and what conclusions we can draw about what lies ahead for us as we grow older. x
  • 24
    The Monster at the End of the Book
    Contemplate the significance of what you’ve learned, with special attention to the common question of whether you can improve your episodic memory—remembering what you want to recall, forgetting what you’d rather not, and making choices about how to achieve a balance. x

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  • 24 lectures on 12 CDs
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  • 136-page printed course guidebook
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  • Memory exercises
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Your professor

Steve Joordens

About Your Professor

Steve Joordens, Ph.D.
University of Toronto, Scarborough
Dr. Steve Joordens is Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto Scarborough, where he has taught since 1995. He earned a doctorate in cognitive psychology from the University of Waterloo. Honored repeatedly as both teacher and researcher, Professor Joordens is on the cutting edge of the emerging field of cognitive prosthetics to assist both learning-disabled patients as well as patients with Alzheimer's disease. He...
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Memory and the Human Lifespan is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 57.
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Solid, wide-ranging, informative This was a solid supplement to my growing collection of brain-based courses. Anyone with an interest health and welfare would enjoy this course. Professor Joordens goes over the basics slowly so you don’t get overwhelmed with complicated concepts or terminology. There is plenty of review and anecdotes to make the concepts more relevant to your daily life. Overall, I came away with a better grasp of how memory works, how it changes over time, and what challenges to expect as times goes by. It’s one of those course you’ll go through again.
Date published: 2018-09-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Completely Fascinating (and Reassuring!) This is an excellent course, whose subject matter is fascinating. The remarkable field of memory studies is covered from the perspectives of subjective experience, objective analysis, brain and neural anatomy and physiology, normal "transition" (I love that!) with aging, and disease states such as, of course, Alzheimer's. I mention "reassuring" because our professor is explicit in differentiating "normal", i.e. expected, changes of memory with aging from disease processes. For most of us with age-related memory loss this will indeed relieve some anxiety. There are even aspects of memory which, from the right perspective, can be seen to improve with the years. For those with true warning signs, learning these will hopefully motivate appropriate planning. (With that in mind, I urge everyone to enroll in the Alzheimer's Prevention Registry. You will then be informed of opportunities to participate in prevention studies, as well as kept up to date on the latest research. The All of Us research program, with a wider focus, is also very worth a look.) Professor Joordens is outstanding. He speaks in an eloquent conversational style which easily maintained my interest. The lectures are well-organized and consistently clear, and the information density is high. Some nice hints on mnemonics - how to consciously improve your memory - are also provided, although this is certainly not the focus of the course. My one significant criticism is our professor's endorsement of the use of "implicit memory", a.k.a. intuition, by physicians when diagnosing illness. In Lecture 8 he advises "don't get too upset" if your doctor can't explain why he or she thinks we have a particular disease. Well, no! As a physician, I advise anyone whose doctor says this to immediately change providers. Imagine if your auto mechanic or airline pilot announced they're going to proceed in a certain way but can't explain why. Implicit memory may be extremely useful and often accurate, but don't bet your life on it. So - my highest recommendation for pretty much anyone with a memory. You will likely enjoy the course, and may well benefit from it in substantial ways. P.S. - I appreciated that at several points Professor Joordens acknowledges the overlooked importance of forgetting, as well as memory, to our mental health. I only wish he had offered one of Nietzsche's apposite quotes: " like a doorkeeper, a preserver of psychic order, repose, and etiquette: so that it will be immediately obvious how there could be no happiness, no cheerfulness, no hope, no pride, no present, without forgetfulness."
Date published: 2018-05-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Learned a lot I bought this course, as I have bought many others, as research into my latest novel. The nature of memory is important to the plot, and I believe that this course has improved the accuracy of the novel considerably and suggested several plot details.
Date published: 2017-10-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Mermorable Professor Joordens is very knowledgeable and lectures in an easy going way. Upon starting the course I found the first few lectures seemed to be directed at memory improvement, but not in a systematical way. He then moved on to exploring various types of memory. It was at this point I reread the course description, I found I had misunderstood the nature of the course. With this better understanding, following the outline and directions of the lectures was obvious. Joordens lecture style is easy to listen to, but I do not consider it dynamic. This being the case I would frequently find myself enthralled by a topic and start thinking about the implications thereof. Of course the direction of the lecture itself was lost, so return to the spot of departure and properly watch and listen. I found the use of graphics well done and helpful in putting the subject in context, and helping to lock it in my mind. It may be time for portions of the course to be redone, in my studies of memory I found some of Joordens conclusion seemed to be somewhat dated. I good course, and a fine introduction to the nature of memory.
Date published: 2017-10-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Engaging, entertaining, and informative overview. I thought this course was an excellent overview for the layperson. The professor is engaging, articulate, entertaining, and informative. He presents an intro to different types of memory (e.g. Episodic and Semantic), Alzheimer's disease, early Infant learning, and other wide-ranging topics associated with memory across our lifetimes -- just as it's titled. Each lecture covers a different subject, but never in such depth that a generalist gets lost. Excellent information and substance. I don't give many 5 star ratings, but this course deserved one.
Date published: 2017-02-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very interesting I definitely recommend this course to anyone interested in understanding more about how memory works and evolves. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the lectures as I was doing my power walks either on a treadmill (on rainy days) or around the neighborhood on good outside days.
Date published: 2015-09-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Engaging and well taught I did this one twice (a year and a half apart), once from audio I made from my DVDs to listen to in the car and then properly watching the DVDs sitting with my wife and discussing it as we went. The second time was better! Not only is the content well organized and engaging, but professor Joordens does an excellent job of showing us how the methodology of experiments is so critical to how we evaluate them. The mix of the fundamental terminology and structure of memory with experimental results is very well constructed. Also, the graphics are the best of any great course I have done.
Date published: 2015-08-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Engaging Topic For us the course had just the right balance between the technical and the popular; the chapter on Alzheimer's was outstanding. Professor Joorden's presentation was excellent.
Date published: 2015-04-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from PLAY IT AGAIN I just finished the 24th and final lecture of this course and enjoyed it so much that I'm inclined to start all over from the beginning. I was simultaneously educated and challenged, learning how the human brain serves to coordinate all the different elements and functions of memory. For me, the course was a stimulating information overload, and I need to play it again to make sure I got it all because it is well worth remembrance. Informative and entertaining, this course is a real winner. Professor Joordens presentation captured and held my attention throughout. Down to earth, smooth, and articulate, he's the type of guy you'd like to invite to dinner because his company would be pleasant and unforgettable.
Date published: 2014-12-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fun and Interesting Dr. Joordens style is interesting, informative and fun. His Canadian accent is interesting throughout the series and I'm he'd say "what accent?" which is covered as part of the memory brain systems related to learning languages. It is good to learn about memory since I'm a prime candidate for Alzheimer's. I hope we find a way to delay the onset! Knowing about the different types of memory will help me recognize the when it starts; hopefully a long time away!
Date published: 2014-11-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Memory and the Human Lifespan I always know I've listened to a great Great Course, when at the end, I'm sad to finish it, and I tell myself, "This is the best Course that I've listened to". (I've told myself a lot with these courses that I've listened to). One of my perks of commuting for 90 minutes a day is that the Great Courses provide a wonderful alternative to my NPR/MPR regimen, especially during the fundraising. Dr. Joordens gives a lot of technical information, and he personalizes it, like a great teacher does. He introduces the objectives at the beginning of every lecture, and then summarizes the main points at its end. He is careful not to over validate the experimental results, since brain cognition physiology is still unfolding. He provides a great range of memory activities, some that I thought initially would be uninteresting, but I was hooked despite my resistance. My recommendation for the The Teaching Company Great Courses is that it provide a BUY IN to the VIDEO format for a few lectures from the audio purchase, as there were just a few lectures in this course that begged for video access.
Date published: 2014-11-06
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Memory and Human Lifespan The topic is important and alluring. The lecturer is easy to listen to. That said it appears that in the extensive breakdown of the memory process the subject becomes blurred by excessive explanation that at times seems irrelevant frequently causing one's mind to wander to other non related areas. Overall, I was disappointed.
Date published: 2014-10-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fun and interesting I'm a psychology doctoral student and have been using The Great Courses as a resource to bolster my learning. This course was an excellent adjunct to the standard courses on learning and memory found in my doctoral program. I think its useful for both newcomers and experienced learners on the topic. Additionally, Dr. Joordens is a very good presenter. He makes each lecture interesting and fun to watch.
Date published: 2014-06-30
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not memorable I found this Canadian professor to be a pleasant man, with his strong regional accent and sense of humor. There is a lot of material contained in these 24 lectures. However, I thought he spent too much time repeating terminology -- parts of the brain and names we create for them -- and not enough time on the big picture concepts. For instance, well into the course he mentions that our working memory is where we create the sense of self. But then he quickly moves on to other things. Isn't that the most important concept to consider here? In the concluding lectures, the professor says that simply learning "tricks" to improve your rote memory may be a case of losing the forest for the trees, but I feel that is precisely what this course does. The big ideas are sacrificed in favor of terminology and minute details. Perhaps a revised version, or a Part II is necessary. I will give TGC credit in standing behind their product. I sent this set of CDs back and successfully exchanged them for a new course that successfully held my interest.
Date published: 2014-02-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic class! This is the first class I have done with The Great Courses and it has set the bar very high for those that will follow. The professor is very likeable and also VERY knowledgeable about his area of expertise, memory. This class will be interesting to someone who wants an academic understanding of how human memory works, and also to someone who wants a personal understanding. I highly recommend!
Date published: 2014-01-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating presentation Summarizing his course, Prof. Joordens elaborates in the last lecture about the question: How can I improve my memory? That was the question that drove me to take this course, and I was prepared to receive some helpful hints of how to remember things better and maybe some recommendations of memory games. That was for example the result of the course “Optimizing Brain Fitness”. This course has so much more to offer! Joordens gives an outstanding presentation of every aspect of memory: what kinds of memory there actually are, how they interrelate, how they can be affected, how memories can be wrong, how they develop over lifetime - to name just a few. Even topics that I expected to be rather boring, for example mapping memory in the brain, were presented very entertaining, with a multitude of pictures, easy to follow descriptions written on screen, and easy to understand explanations by Joordens. The course is not only about learning to be able to remember more (it does include technics to do so). That would have been the easy answer to the question stated at the beginning. "Memory and the Human Lifespan" is rather a multi-layered experience about learning that memories contribute in a variety of ways to the happiness or misery of our lives. The course helps to understand how we can influence our brain to remember the things we want to remember, why our memories can sometimes fool ourselves, or why we keep unwanted memories. Thus it helps to "improve" our memory in various ways. Even though Prof. Joordens’ presentation is not completely flawless - there is an occasional slip of tongue - it is still one of the best ones I have seen so far. He presents fluently without any obvious visual aids for himself (no reading from a teleprompter), with a very pleasant voice, with plenty of visual help for the student to follow his topic. He follows changing cameras easily without getting distracted, and uses many vivid examples to get his points across. Overall, he is just very likable. Due to the outstanding presentation of a topic that affects everyone of us, this is a course I would definitely recommend to anyone.
Date published: 2013-10-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Course worth Remembering I bought this course as part of a set with "Optimizing Brain Fitness" expecting it to be the "B" side of the record. To my delight, Prof. Steve Joordens course on "Memory and Human Lifespan" was the most lucid and informative of the two. His engaging and informal style really draws one in to think of him as Steve. Steve employs the effective communication skill of "Tell them what you are going to say, Say It, then tell them what you told them." (A great "encoding technique" in itself.) He refers back to the model for Memory with Iconic and Echoic Memory feeding into Working Memory which (along with Implicit Memory) is linked to Long Term Memory. Long Term Memory in turn is comprised of three elements: Episodic, Procedural, and Semantic Memory. Sound like a lot of double talk? Well by the end of the course the student will understand this model well (ie have it well "encoded"), will know how each of the memory types works within the brain and how they are used, and will be able to recall several ways these all can be used to improve one's memory function. Steve is a psychologist but he is clearly conversant in basic neurology and computer technology. He is unafraid to provide a pure science explanation for memory functions, interactions among the senses and various parts of the brain and compare/contrast these to how computer technology works. Unlike many psychologists who may wish to stay pure to their discipline Steve seems to welcome the convergence of the various technologies towards new areas such as Cognitive Mapping. The examples and supporting data Steve uses from courtroom eyewitnesses, brain disorder patients, and memory experts vividly illustrate his points. As a retiree, I found the lecture on memory and aging quite informative, especially the part about how to keep working memory skills sharp to help ward off memory related disease and dysfunction. Steve's Canadian accent was "a-boot" as subtle as a hockey player's check, but it added to the congenial and often humorous approach of his lecture style. There are several of his lectures I am sure I will view "a-gain".
Date published: 2013-07-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A course to remember! This course is an excellent introduction on the workings of human memory. It is well structured and organized, evenly paced and each lecture is excellently linked with the previous and following ones. The student is guaranteed to leave this course with a well rounded understanding of the types and intricacies of human memory systems as well as their every day life applications. Professor Joordens clarifies how our memories are reconstructions of events and data not simply recordings. The lectures on Alzheimer's disease and on aging are superb. The term cognitive decline in aging is correctly substituted with the term cognitive transition. This is well supported by careful reading of the available scientific literature. The final lecture is on memory improvement and its approach is surprisingly unexpected. The teaching style of Professor Joordens is by far one of the best I have encountered. He is an excellent teacher, clearly gifted with the ability of illustration and simplification. You will find yourself really learning and remembering the content of the lectures! He also exhibits great humor and challenges you on memory tasks and exercises. He demonstrates his memory skills by real time tasks presented by the thegreatcourses staff. Overall, a great course by a great teacher. I would surely welcome more courses by Professor Joordens.
Date published: 2013-05-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding in every way I have taken dozens of courses from the Teaching Company, all good and many extremely good. But I have never left a review before. I'm reviewing "Memory and the Human Lifespan" because it is the best one yet. Both the presentation and content are outstanding. Dr. Joordens' presentation is enthusiastic and believable, inspiring confidence in the viewer. He speaks directly to the audience, and never consults notes; he doesn't even have a podium. There are frequent visuals, and even live demonstrations, including memory test for his viewers. He brought in a live audience to help with one of his memory demonstrations, and even included a snippet of video from one of the university courses he teaches. The content is just what I wanted to learn about memory, though I didn't always know that before I started the course. I found that when I had a question, it was nearly always answered later in a lecture. Especially interesting were such things as deja vu and false memories. I can't imagine any way this course could have been better.
Date published: 2013-04-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I still don't remember people's names :-) Professor Joordens starts this course off with exercises in improving memory skills. Not what I had expected. I was expecting more of a scientific explanation of how memory works, and he did get to that. I was expecting more of a discussion of how memory affects human lifespan, or how human lifespan affects memory, and he did get to the latter. I found his discussion on childhood memory and animal memory very interesting. Also, his treatment of 'the long goodbye (Alzheimer's Disease)' very empathetic to the sufferer and the care giver. The lecture has given me some taking points with my 91 year old mother. Using examples of people who have lost portions of their memory either through disease or accident was very insightful into the different types of memory we possess. Professor Joordens gives possible explanations for deja vu, and explains what has happened when we go on "auto pilot.' So, after the first couple of lectures on improving my ability to remember people's names and grocery lists, this course did become a thorough discussion of how memory works and how it sometimes does not.
Date published: 2013-03-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Just fantastic This is indeed an excellent course. I recommend it for its content and for a very professional and pleasant delivery. You don't get tired from listening to it. Excellent job. I loved it.
Date published: 2013-02-23
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Convoluted but still Worthwhile! In this series of lectures, Professor Joordens seemingly sets out to energetically teach everything he knows about memory. Unfortunately, his enthusiasm is not enough to compensate his lack of organization. He talks, talks and talks and it is often difficult not to lose sight of the point he is trying to make. In fact, listening to these lectures is akin to dining on tapas: in the end, you know you have enjoyed a wide variety of tidbits but are at a loss to summarize exactly what you ingested. Perhaps because the field is still evolving quickly, Professor Joordens places much emphasis on experiments. Creatively, he makes it possible for the listener to participate despite the fact that he is in a ‘different time and place’. Though they are clearly designed to be seen on video, it must be underscored that these experiments also work well in the audio version. Sadly, the conclusions drawn from them are sometimes farfetched and often appear difficult to generalize. Professor Joordens explains that things best remembered fit within a framework but present peculiarities. He applies this principle to his lectures with excessive diligence and does not hesitate to play a couple of guitar solos or use ‘cool’ vocabulary as he presents. To the point of being irritating, he also frequently refers to personal stories about his two dogs, his wife, his father, his mother, etc. Professor Joordens covers in greater depth many elements presented in Peter Vishton’s ‘Scientific Secrets for a Powerful Memory’. For actual techniques in memory improvement, the latter is more detailed and more practical.
Date published: 2013-01-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic course! Fascinating, extremely well taught, and applicable to day-to-day life. Describes the many facets of memory and how they relate to each other, how memories are reconstructed rather than replayed, various aspects of memory impairments, why forgetting can be as important as remembering, practical tips for improving parts of our memory functions, and much more. Professor Joordens injects just the right amount of personal involvement with the material. There is even scientific good news for those of us who are more than half way along the path to aging. ;-) My wife and I both highly recommended this course.
Date published: 2012-12-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the Best This course is one of the finest courses offered by the Teaching Company. The professor is a gifted lecturer who engenders a "connection" with the listener, using everyday examples of how we "feel", "remember" and "think" about events. He often raises questions that have occurred to all of us and then proceeds to give a comprehensive answer, often with my experiencing an "ah ha" moment. The course structure is such that it builds upon itself in a way that makes perfect sense and reinforces what's been discussed previously. He also discusses age related changes in memory including one of the finest discussions of Altzheimer's disease that I've heard (or read). He does it in a very sympathetic and compassionate way. In his last lecture he says (not verbatim) "now you know everything I know about memory". Obviously it's not quite true but I do think that he presented a comprehensive discussion that's the foundation for ongoing research. My one comment and suggestion is that the accompanying course guide was a bit "thin" and could have, I think, been expanded. Clearly the references do that but within the text itself there could have been a bit more that would have reinforced the lectures. That being said, this is a fantastic lecture series that can be appreciated not just by those interested in Science but by all Teaching Company listeners.
Date published: 2012-09-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Terrific Course I just completed the course "Memory and the Human Lifespan" by Professor Steve Joordens. I am an Occupational Therapist (for 25 years) and plan to use this course for my license renewal. Besides that, I felt this course was so terrific! I am using so much of the information on my geriatric clients at the Rehab facility where I work. I am so impressed by the wealth of information in this course and how it has impacted me professionally and personally. This course is so important and powerful for positive aging. I still have "Optimizing Brain Fitness" to complete, but felt compelled to respond about my first completed course.
Date published: 2012-05-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Our pattern-seeking brain at work DVD reviews. Looking at things simplistically, MEMORY is information stored while LEARNING is information absorbed. One is the box — a noun. The other is the act of filling the box — a verb. Reason enough to compare Dr Joordens' MEMORY AND THE HUMAN LIFESPAN with Dr Pasupathi's HOW WE LEARN. Do their respective strengths and weaknesses make them complementary courses? Or is one of the two clearly sufficient? It depends what you want. While some TTC clients may have a general interest in psychology, I suspect most prospective buyers wish to boost their memory power and ward off the possibility of dementia. Is MEMORY useful in these areas? Yes, but only in a very limited sense. Let me explain. Dr Joordens explores in great detail: • the ancient "method of loci" technique that boosts our capacity to memorize words or images by associating them with lists or images we are already very familiar with. • "Memory" is really a constellation of faculties each associated with different parts of the brain. We have a short-term "working memory" for images and sounds which can become long-term memories through conscious, frequent use. But there is also an unconscious pathway (implicit learning) by which our mind absorbs underlying patterns for long-term use such as grammatical or musical motifs. • Our long-term memories have three components: 1) episodic "short-film-like" scenes, 2) de-contextualized associations (facts without images called "semantic memories" such as 2x2 = 4), and 3) procedural (mostly "muscle") memories without which we could not maneuver our bodies or move our lips to speak. Sleep plays an important role in consolidating long-term memories. • At present, there are no cures for Alzheimer's. At best medication affects certain symptoms, but it cannot stop or even slow the disease. • Finally, memory is best understood as a "reconstructed reality" filled with gaps papered over with assumptions and occasional self-deceptions. We say we want stronger memories, but if ways really existed to boost every recollection we would be horrified. There is simply too much we wish to forget. This final point is probably the weakest part of the course. It is insufficiently developed. Let's take the common example of a romantic breakup. A woman meets a man (or vice versa). He seems perfect. They are obviously meant for each other. Then years later he cheats on her. Suddenly, every memory she has of him is reinterpreted for clues that now seem obvious. The guy was a bum all along! We think of the past as something fixed while the future is uncertain. Yet our brains are pattern-seeking organs. The past is constantly reshaped to fit our needs; optimistic scenarios for most of us, with a "glass-half-empty" minority doing the opposite. And in some cases, such as Oprah or Tony Robbins, our capacity to erase inconvenient memories is celebrated; a requirement for success and mental health. What about Dr Pasupathi? LEARN, though 24 courses too, covers a much wider canvas. Learning is the process, conscious or not, of associating two or more things together in ways that help us better understand, if not influence the world around us. New knowledge both changes the brain and builds very intimately on the fund of knowledge already present in our memories. The list of things covered is enormous: • The specific learning traits of infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age. These are compared to animal studies when relevant. • Learning is also analyzed by topic: categories and scripts among infants, language (first and second), physical movement and spatial orientation, storytelling (my favorite lesson), scientific reasoning (facts vs. theories). In every case, aspects accelerating or impeding development are explored. • Factors that influence learning more broadly: IQ, learning strategies, emotions, accumulated knowledge and learning styles. PRESENTATION Joordens (MEMORY) is a very likeable guy who presents his field in easy-to-absorb, bite-sized nuggets with plenty of pictures and examples. TTC clients interested in brain mapping will get plenty on the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus. I tend to take this stuff with a grain of salt. Pre-modern thinkers thought the heart was the seat of love, and yet had interesting to say about the psychology of romance. In the same way, I focus more on what Joordens has to say about memory as a factor in human behaviour. And, as stated above, I thought he said too little about that. The MEMORY Course Guidebook has a good glossary and new terms are printed in bold. This makes it user-friendly. On the other hand, the booklet is thin. One extraordinary omission is a chart repeated throughout the course showing the relationships between components of short- and long-term memory. I has to freeze the image at one point and hand-draw the chart in my guidebook. Who designs these things at TTC? Pasupathi's (LEARN) strengths and weakness are almost the mirror opposite of Joordens'. Her presentations are much more densely packed with information and academic jargon. Indeed, despite her clear voice, she sounds like she is reading straight from a textbook. You better sit up and pay attention or be left behind. Her LEARN Course Guidebook, on the other hand, is almost perfect. Depending on your learning style, you might treat it as the core TTC product in this case as it clearly states everything she says. Its only weakness is that it has no glossary and does not introduce new concepts in bold type. TTC truly must do a better job of consistency when printing these guidebooks. They are crucially important in science courses. CONCLUSION By now, the simple "box" and "box stuffing" analogies I used at the beginning of this review are clearly inadequate. Both courses stress the brain's plasticity while in use. Our life-long learning process and memory development is a bit like a plane being rewired while in flight. Both courses are excellent, but if I had to choose one, it would be Pasupathi's LEARN. On a more personal note, I encourage as many of you as possible to write reviews about the TTC courses you care about. Not only does it help others (I hope), but it is a marvelous way to remember ("encode" they would say) what you have learned. And another thing. Watch the great Japanese film "Rashomon" (1950) if you can. It is a classic film about memory. So there. Nuff said.
Date published: 2012-04-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic Journey I just completed this course and it is one of the best courses I have ever done. Dr. Joordans has an infectious enthusiasm for his material and presents it in a clear and logical manner. Not only did I learn what the foundations of memory are but I also acquired some great techniques for improving memory. Well done, Dr. Joordans.
Date published: 2012-04-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Introduction to a Rapidly Evolving Science This is an enjoyable, well organized and thorough course on memory. Professor Joordens clearly describes our current understanding of memory and is careful to connect theories with the original works that spawned or first tested them. He teaches the basic vocabulary and the necessary aspects of brain physiology without unnecessary detail. The most interesting discussions on memory function are those that involve pathological cases where some aspect of memory goes awry. These illustrate well why some theories of memory remain possible while others can be discounted. It’s astounding how well people can function without some of the most basic mental processes the rest of us take for granted. It’s also remarkable how a personality can change without detectable impairment of any cognitive function. Of the courses that I have listened to so far, this is the first that clearly deals with subject matter that is still not well settled. It’s clear from the explanations of the workings of memory that many of the theories are plausible but not yet rigorously tested experimentally. Much of the theory rests on a few cases. As a results, it seems very possible that the very foundations of this field will be evolving over the next decades as we probe the mind in increasing detail with new tools and techniques. This course is a great way to get up to speed on what we know already.
Date published: 2012-01-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course! This was a well-balanced and interesting course. The professor includes metaphors and learning exercises to make his points understandable and, well, memorable. I thought he struck a great balance presenting detailed and complex material without being either too dry or too over simplified. I bought the audio version and had no problems following the course. I just finished my first "listen" and plan to listen again. Entertaining and informative.
Date published: 2011-12-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Like Listening to a Stimulating Conversationalist This was a great course to listen to in the car. The professor has a very warm, engaging manner. The content level was perfect--deep enough to give me a working knowledge of the subject but not abstract or droll. I looked forward to hearing the next lecture every morning and I will miss it now that it is over! Highly recommended.
Date published: 2011-12-09
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