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You’ve heard people throw the word serotonin around, right?
But do you know what serotonin is and how it connects with the quality of your memory?
Well, if you want to experience a better life, it’s time to pay attention.
Serotonin is not only essential to having healthy memory abilities. It also helps you feel good, sleep better and works magic on your mood when you’re feeling down.
In fact, as a neurotransmitter derived from tryptophan …
Serotonin May Be The Most Important
Anti-Depressant In The World!
Actually, there’s a lot of controversy about whether or not serotonin levels create depression. It’s only known that many people with depression show low levels of this chemical.
But here’s the real question:
How can you actually use the information you’re about to read?
Easy: If you can get your serotonin in order, you’ll not only feel better, but you might not need SSRIs and whatever other pills you’ve been taking to regulate your mood. I’ve taken a lot of those pills myself, and although none of what you’ll read in this post should be taken as medical advice …
I can’t emphasize this enough:
Healthy Serotonin Levels = Better Learning And Memory
Because there are seven distinct receptors with different densities. When things get messed up with your serotonin, you’re much more likely to experience the aging of your memory and fall into risk for Alzheimer’s and other issues.
In order to understand exactly how serotonin is connected with memory, we need to look at how it interacts with other neurotransmitters. These include:
- y-aminobutyric acid (GABA)
Basically, all of these elements hang together and require precious balancing in order for you to be able to learn and remember.
When it comes to serotonin, scientists have found that by using serotonin reuptake inhibitors like alaproclate and oxotremorine, they can improve memory retrieval. Moreover, its believed that with more research, they’ll be able to use related chemicals to suppress the retrieval of addiction-primed memories.
Sounds Like A Mouthful, Right?
It’s actually easy to understand:
When it becomes possible to treat addiction-associated memories, that drug addicts might experience decreased cravings. That means fewer destructive behaviors to themselves and others in society.
The reason serotonin plays such a huge role in this area of memory is that its connection to different receptors involve reward-based learning, something that can be helpful, so long as negative drugs like tobacco aren’t involved. (By the way, stop smoking.)
But it’s not just all about addiction memory. Serotonin is also involved in:
Boosting Spatial Memory
If you’re serotonin levels are in check, you have much better chances of remembering locations and the relative distance between objects. This means that you can use a new place you visit as a Memory Palace with greater ease.
Mastering Emotional Memory
It’s well known that we tend to remember things with greater accuracy and vividness when emotions are involved. But if you’re low on serotonin, you might not be experiencing emotions properly.
Lower emotional capacity also means that you may not be paying attention properly. You cannot encode information into memory that you haven’t registered either in part or whole.
This explains why depression and other mental illnesses are so devastating for memory, especially since emotions are often so short-lived.
Luckily, however, we can generate emotions at will. By using mnemonics, we can supercharge every piece of information we meet so that it is more memorable. But it sure helps if we have healthy serotonin levels.
You Can Forget About Fearful Memory
Fear can either create new memories or inhibit their formation. Either way, if your serotonin is out of whack, your brain can’t properly manage fear to any advantage. Having your serotonin out of balance leads to memory errors and contributes to the fearful part of depression. With certain mental illness, for example, you can learn to be afraid when there’s nothing fearful in the environment. Proper serotonin levels can correct this problem, however.
But … What Exactly Does Serotonin Do?
Research shows that serotonin influences memory by increasing the ability of different neurons to get excited by various kinds of stimulation. Too little response to stumili and you’re depressed. Too much and you might go manic.
Either way, without the maintenance of serotonin, it’s difficult to pay attention, form new memories and learn. Poor serotonin levels messes with memory consolidation. Not being able to consolidate memories can lead to forgetting names, new information you’ve struggled to learn and even entire years of your life.
What Interferes With Your Serotonin Levels?
Unfortunately, scientists and doctors don’t always know. It can be that brain lesions create issues, along with some of the mysteries that create Alzheimer’s Disease.
What is known with relative certainty is that serotonin levels are linked to the quality of your sleep, diet and fitness.
The problem with the hypothesis that serotonin levels are connected to diet is that serotonin isn’t found in foods.
It is, however, synthesized from tryptophan. This is an amino acid found in many foods, some of which help create a healthy brain and memory.
Salmon is a big one, and it’s hard to go wrong with eating this fish.
Other ways to get more serotonin include exercise, sunlight and creating positivity in your life. Memory friendly activities such as meditation have been shown to help.
Although there is no clear cut route to boosting serotonin, the important thing is to try without the use of pharmaceuticals.
One reason is that taking drugs to feel better might have this positive effect, but it can also make you fee worse. After all, you now need a crutch to function, something that can crush your self-esteem. It shouldn’t, but the stigmatism has harmed me in the past. Plus, now that I’m living free from lamotrigine, I feel better and going solo has prompted me to live a healthier lifestyle overall.
When it comes to light exposure, it’s no secret that I’ve been using the Human Charger. Steeped in controversy though it may be, I’ve noticed a positive effect. I’ve also been switching on the lights I use to make my videos in order to get more light exposure.
You can also get more light when you …
Spend More Time Outdoors
People used to spend 30-40 hours outside a week. Nowadays, that’s the number of hours people spend inside at work.
Quite frankly, that’s insane and the health of our culture shows it.
Frankly, I believe that becoming an entrepreneur with a strong brand is one of the ways to escape the fate of sitting in an office and helping make someone else rich. As I talk about it in the Self-Improvement Supercharger, I like to walk from cafe to cafe to do my writing, which gives me not only more light, but more air, more exposure to people and much more fitness than I would get sitting at my desk.
I believe it’s the combination that matters: For example, just walking around and getting more light and fitness is helpful. But I don’t think it would be nearly as good without going up to people and asking them for help with German phrases I’m learning. I also go to my friend Max Breckbill’s co-working groups as often as I can to get more exposure to other people for the brain chemical benefits it creates.
And heck, some of them even wind up using memory techniques too after I talk about them.
In sum, people have put a lot of time, money and energy into researching serotonin. Although the link serotonin shares with tryptophan can make it difficult to study, countless experiments have shown that mice and humans alike cope better in life with regulated serotonin levels. They experience less stress, recover from depression with greater speed and remember more with greater accuracy.
Of course, further research is necessary, but my belief is that you are the ultimate scientist. If you’d like to experience better memory, organic brain games might be just what you need.
And when you use Mnemonics And The 7 Eternal Laws Of Memory Improvement, you have the basis for tracking your results.
You don’t have to have your DNA extracted in scientific experiments or undergo the horrors of serotonin depletion in order to experience better memory.
Get more exercise, eat properly, sleep well and use memory techniques. Track your results using some of the tools linked to in this post and you’ll notice an impact.
Your serotonin levels are important and almost guaranteed to go up if you’ll just take care of these few areas. That means more memory and a better life.
Sounds good to me. How about you?
Thank you for addressing this topic. You are quite right to assert that SSRIs can really 87 you up (pardon the Major expletive.)
I can bear witness to many of the issues you raise. I admire your honesty and scholarly integrity as you have shared some of your struggles (mental, physical, personal and creative) with your audiences,
With respect to neurotransmitters themselves, I wonder whether the very act of mind-palace building may be a method itself to ameliorate one’s levels of neurotransmitters, neocons, axons and other necessities for mental health.
Perhaps the saying mens sano in corpore sana means precisely that we may get some mental fortitude by engaging in ordered mental activity. It certainly cannot hurt.
As for me, I am happily engaged in mnemonizing daily using your methods and those of other great mnemonic masters and luminaries. Moreover, my confidence and skill increase with practice.
Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and for inspiring other practitioners of the mnemonic arts!
Thanks for this, Alex!
I do think that using Memory Palaces changes brain structures in a positive way. Give what we know about neuroplasticity, how could it not? Using Memory Palaces is almost like being a London cab driver, but on a smaller scale.
I’m so glad that you use memory techniques ever day. It’s amazing what they can do for you. And the more you use them, the stronger your brain and your mind grows. Of this, there is little doubt. If you track your results over time, you’ll be able to demonstrate it on paper too.
Do you do any kind of results-tracking? 🙂
Thank you Anthony:
You pose an excellent question, and I might wish to employ efficiency techniques regarding my mind palaces. I am at a loss somewhat to know which metrics or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to use. Do you have any suggestions? Is there perhaps some ways to quantify results?
For me, the issues are rather straightforward. Did I remember what I wanted to know or not? Did I have fun or not? Did I learn anything (whether it be about MPs or the subject in which I am interested, or the metaphysical aspects of memory, etc.)?
I can certainly, however, see the use of KPIs with what I soon plan to do, and that is thoroughly to learn certain Bodies of Knowledge (BoK) in Project Planning and Cyber security. This is not merely because I have to do so, but rather because I want to do so. If I must sit for an exam, which by the way is six hours long, I want to know with certainty that I can easily access what I need.
If I can memorize the names of the monarchs of England and certain aspects of their reigns, then I believe I can memorize principles of Cyber security and certain aspects of their applications.
It will take some planning and chunking, but technical information often easily lends itself to that. It is often prechunked and freeze dried for you.
I find it deliciously ironic that the ancients have devised something far superior to cloud and grid computing, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, and likely any other technical device or scheme to come in the near or far future. They have tapped into the primordial essence of our very being: Memory!
I feel that one reason why MPs are superior to technical devices is that they are metaphysical, whereas (so far at least!) technology remains locked in the physical realm. (I am aware of course that scientists are fiddling with ways to try to break that physical limitation with biochemical and neurological projects; so far at least, however, the door is barred to them.)
I have also been looking into relatively older texts (pdf documents available from Google books) where MPs were used for greater breadths of learning (many of which are based on Gregor de Feinagle’s methods, which he adopted from earlier scholars of Mnemotechnics.)
One thing I find useful for me is instead of placing locations at certain items, like couch, chair, TV, etc. (although that is perfectly good and maybe even preferable, certainly for a memory journey!), I tend to have grids of 3X3 on the floor and walls of my rooms, plus a 50th bridging link on the ceiling to go to the next place. This allows me to put 50 items in a place and to be able to move swiftly from grid to grid and Major method peg to peg.
My rooms have themes, Western philosophers or Sports teams, or countries. But I can make a memory store (like a department or grocery store) for what I need very quickly. The grids are like shelves and they contain Major memory pegs to magnetize the ideas.
Well Anthony, I must sign off now; and following your exhortation, I will endeavour to keep magnetic! 😉
Your ceiling bridge concept is fascinating, Alex. I’ve worked with teleportation-type stations myself and they work nicely in some cases.
I’ve come across Feinagle before, but have yet to dive in. I wonder if it’s true that his name is the source of the word “finagle.”
For me, the KPIs are quite binary, as you suggest. One either memorized the material correctly or not.
In language learning, however, there is the matter of use, pronunciation and regional concerns. For example, I was interviewed on a podcast the other day hosted by a Chinese speaker. He did not know one of the words and phrases I used, making it seem as though I had misremembered something.
However, as we discovered later, I was 100% accurate and people do use the keyword and phrase as I remembered it. It just wasn’t a way he’d heard before.
I often experience this in German where I will memorize obscure words that are used perhaps only in Bayern or Saarland, but not in Berlin.
For beginning language learners, this can be very frustrating, especially if they’re using mnemonics. That’s why I teach meditation and relaxation. It helps the body and mind brace for the inevitable mistakes and discrepancies. Language learning should never be discouraging.
Thanks again for your extensive discussion and let the adventures in memory continue! 🙂
As a polyglot myself, who also uses MMPs to learn languages, might I suggest that you have as a bridging guide the person who has taught you the phraseology or pronunciation in your MP? She or he can be in any guise or dress you wish; the more colourful and zany the better. Plus, the utterances of your guide will likely be spot on, and you add auditory memory to the mix as well.
I do this with Polish or Wolof, where I have the language informant talking with me (sounds weird, but no auditory hallucinations! … yet 😉 )
My informants not only tell me I sound realistic, but I also have added links and pegs to the items I want to learn. It adds pleasure and more dynamism to the process.
I am fortunate to live in a plurilingual mileu where opportunities are boundless to employ MPs and to learn languages.
MPs break down barriers to communication. If I can utter a few words in Kreyol, or Ewe, or Polish, or Chinese, I show appreciation and respect for the person with whom I am speaking. Plus, I am able easily to add more knowledge and understanding to the learning process.
An MP need not be a solitary place. It can be a community centre where you have invited your language friends and neighbours. It adds to the vibrancy, joy and dynamism of the learning process. Have a party! Include tastes, sights, sounds, music, etc. as you wish.
“I’ve come across Feinagle before, but have yet to dive in. I wonder if it’s true that his name is the source of the word “finagle.””
The etymology of “finagle” seems to indicate French (likely from middle Latin?). However, Feinaigle and his methods suffered much scorn and ridicule in France and England. He was able to establish himself in Dublin and had a number of students across Europe.
A few books were published on his methods in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. “The New Art of Memory” circa 1813 is fascinating as it describes methods that can be employed in learning vast amounts.
The book by Aimé de Paris (circa 1809) on Mnémotechnie describes ways to learn Civil code laws and the like.
“The New American Mnemotechny” (1845) employs the Major method as we know it today and memory palaces to learn history, geography, etc.
Techniques as employed by you, Mr Lorayne and others, seem to have been employed with as great success as at that time as well.
Well dear Anthony.
I thoroughly enjoy our discussions, and I ask you please to accept my best regards!
I’ve read that 90% of our seratonin and a good immune system generates from good gut health. Good gut health can be obtained by eating natural probiotics you can make at home. I’ve since started making my own saurkraut, etc. John Bergman has a great You Tube channel where I started to learn about this.
Wow – thanks for this, Gigi! I am very much involved in improving my gut health at the moment and starting to use The Automimmune Cookbook.
I’ve taken action on your suggestion with John Bergman’s Dynamic Design Of The Human Body YouTube Channel and will start learning from him. A triply Magnetic thanks for mentioning it! 🙂
I just ordered some L-Triptothan powder from Amazon. I don’t know how much a daily dose is, or even if taking some Triptothan every day will increase my Serotonin level. Any advice?
Sounds like an interesting and exciting experience coming up, Richard.
I’m not qualified to make any statements on the effects this product will have on your serotonin levels, but there are few interesting studies you can read about it. Here’s one example.
Enjoy the process and please do let me know how things develop with respect to memory improvement as you work on increasing your serotonin. 🙂