Brain Health,

#224: Don’t forget about Prospective Memory

April 10, 2018

Remind me again – what’s Prospective Memory?

“Prospective Memory” sounds like an oxymoron. 

How can we remember something that hasn’t happened yet?

But it’s actually a form of memory that each of us uses every single day — probably a lot, if our lives aren’t too repetitive or too disorganized.

Prospective Memory is the middle-ground between habit and initiative.

Habit is an ingrained behavior, that we will allow us (or force us) to engage a behavior without needing to give it conscious thought.  And the initiative is just the opposite: It is deciding in the moment that it’s time to take deliberate action.

Prospective memory, on the other hand, is when we want to do something in the future, or in some specific circumstance, but it’s not an ingrained habit and we need to remember to do it when and if the situation arrives.

It’s why we write Post-It notes to ourselves, why we tie strings around our fingers, and why we invented egg-timers and alarm clocks.

They’re the micro-memories that we’re meant to forget.  (Once they’ve served their purpose.)

Age, Distraction, and Sleep – oh my!

Dr. Michael Scullin is an Assistant Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Baylor University, and one of the world’s leading researchers into prospective memory.  Following a reckless youth spent indulging in poor sleep hygiene (insert horror-movie scream here), he cleaned up his cognitive act and began looking into how the brain can best withdraw the memory-deposits we’ve made earlier.

In Episode #224 we discuss the interwoven relationships between prospective memory and sleep, distraction, age, mood, and more.  Are our digital devices friend or foe?  Does mental repetition help us or hurt us when we’re struggling to “keep something in mind”?  Prepare for an interview you won’t soon forget.  🙂


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Show Notes
  • 00:00:31

    Episode introduction: Don't forget about Prospective Memory.

  • 00:01:41

    This Week In Neuroscience: Potential cognitive benefits of curcumin.

  • 00:04:07

    5-Star review shoutouts.

  • 00:04:41

    SDS news and updates.

  • 00:06:27

    Guest introduction: Dr. Michael Scullin.

  • 00:08:05

    Interview begins.

  • 00:10:00

    The relationship between sleep and prospective memory.

  • 00:11:20

    Writing manipulation study on sleep onset.

  • 00:16:45

    How important is sleep position for neurological functions?

  • 00:20:54

    Changes in sleep habits and sleep architecture with aging.

  • 00:25:00

    Is technology helpful or hurtful for prospective memory?

  • 00:25:55

    Implementation intention and better smartphones.

  • 00:30:25

    Cognitive processes that support prospective memory.

  • 00:31:53

    Delayed execute task.

  • 00:34:29

    The dynamic interaction of the different memory systems.

  • 00:36:00

    Top-down and bottom-up processing within prospective memory; spontaneous retrieval.

  • 00:38:51

    The valuable implications of research on prospective memory.

  • 00:41:35

    Interview wrap-up.

  • 00:42:49

    Ruthless Listener Retention Gimmick: Recent findings on mind wandering.

  • 00:46:19

    Episode wrap-up.

One comment

  1. ben says:

    It wasn’t defined but I assume deep / slow wave sleep is what’s commonly referred to as delta wave 2–4 Hz?

    But I’ve also read that healing and regeneration is also done during this period,

    So if clean-up and memory formation occur during this stage of sleep, any idea why inducing 40hz gamma wave seems to clear up plaques in mice as published in the recent issue of Nature magazine (“How flashing lights and pink noise might banish Alzheimer’s, improve memory and more”).

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