Friday, June 25, 2010

Speaking Tree, times of India, 26 june

Memory Holds The Door
Deepak Ranade, Jun 26, 2010, 12.00am IST


Tags:writer|Deepak RanadeNostalgia|consultant neurosurgeon

Nostalgia is often a pleasurable pain. But pain, nonetheless. Unpleasant memories could create bitterness while pleasant memories tend to fill one with happiness and a desire to relive the experience. Some perceive nostalgia as part of emotional baggage, and question its biological relevance.

From an anthropological standpoint, remembering where the waterholes were in a situation where the supply of water is never constant is a valuable memory input. Similarly, knowledge of the precise location of food sources is important when supply tends to fluctuate. As a recording device, memory provides vital information in trying situations. However, the bank is also filled with a wide-ranging mix of seemingly trivial and redundant data.

The colour of the dress your first date wore on that first day, the tears that coursed down your mother's cheeks after she'd spanked you and the fight you had with your classmate in school over jumping the queue these are all recorded somewhere in our memory bank. In fact, our identity and ego are but an aggregate of all recorded data. Individual identities take shape on the basis of all past events and feelings, experiences and situations that find place in a corner of the brain. Cognitive focus or concentration lends a criticality to this unique and biological data processing system.

Perception, too, plays a crucial role in this recording mechanism. What is assimilated and stored is an outcome of what is perceived. A pragmatic person may therefore not perceive an event in a complex way. If a pragmatic person's friend or colleague encountered him on the street and passed by without a greeting, such a person he would record it as an event, a megabyte of mere oversight. But someone with a more complex perception could interpret this as part of a grand conspiracy. His memory would record it not just as an event megabyte; it would perhaps be a gigabyte of associative emotional data.

Studies have shown that the most vivid autobiographical memories have been of emotional events rather than of any empirical or neutral event. Consciousness is the turntable that keeps rotating while ego is the pin that records grooves on the record. Memories are grooves made by ego on unformatted consciousness. Identity is consciousness formatted by the perceptive ego.

The sense of self as a discrete entity makes all awareness an interaction between self and environment. Interaction is all about duality. But in moments of extreme pleasure or thrill, there is no interaction; there is only a sense of being.

There is an invisible time zone between self and environment. The sense of discreteness disappears momentarily. In those fleeting moments, there is nothing to record. The present has no access to any data. In fact, the present is the moment just prior to the beginning of the process of recording. The dominant temporal lobe is the warehouse of all data. It is an integral part of the limbic system that is phylogenically the oldest in the evolution of the brain. It was linked with emotional responses required for survival and reproduction.

Considering that the limbic system is one of the oldest, all emotional augmenting of mundane events are perhaps vestiges of primitive behaviour, and so is not evolved. In this context, a patient suffering loss of memory may be temporarily or otherwise `liberated' from stored data and its effects, though this is a source of anguish for near and dear ones.

The writer is a consultant neurosurgeon.


krcath said...

I have always been curious about how " the sense of self as a discrete entity " comes into being from the neurological point of view..and what changes in neurology,if any,leads to its dissolution..

May I request you to share your thoughts on this...

doctor said...

reality is beyond mind and it illusion.if u erase the slate clean there is no reference point for the knower and the known.what is the whole excersise

doctor said...

reality is beyond mind and it illusion.if u erase the slate clean there is no reference point for the knower and the known.what is the whole excersise

Mihir said...

I loved your way of beginning followed by the writing style. Especially, "Nostalgia is often a pleasurable pain", this line kissed my heart. Actually, Dr. I am a patient of Epilepsy, I want to know that, is there any possibility of memory loss in this Neurological Disorder?

I strictly apologize for this outlandish comment, but I am very curious about my Disorder.
Thank you Doctor.

Sree said...

I am one of the avid readers of your articles in TOI.Your thoughts on complex issues presented in a beautiful way always answered some of my questions about mind and its functioning. Thanks .

appa said...

doctor saab, thanks for the wonderful article in the TOI. your analysis opened a new line of thought and way of looking at things and people. "nostalgia is often pleasurable moments of extreme pleasure or thrill there is no interaction, there is only a sense of being...all emotional augmenting of mundane events are perhaps vestiges of primitive behaviour,and so is not evolved"...these are golden words.

Kishore said...

True.Reality is beyond mind and ego and therefore it cannot be experienced.While stating that 'it' cannot be described,J Krishnamurti used the phrase "psychological death". U G Krishnamurti, on the other hand, described his calamity as
'physical death'. He also said that his body attained a natural state post his calamity.Some glands in his body got swollen.... I am not getting bogged down with the words used by them or with my analysis. I am trying to find out if there is a possibility,however remote, of a physiological change in the brain as well.

Sandeep said...

Dr Ranade

You may be interested in the following post on my blog



Y V Chawla said...

To feel satisfied, seek satisfaction that any possession, relationship, situation, idea is good, important, sacred, moral, right, beneficial and so on apart from its use, is the psychological comfort to which the mind clings. To disregard this comfort holds the key, restricts the memory to its functional use. This is concentration of total energy.
Y v Chawla