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Put Your Pants on Hippocampus

forgetIt’s a biological fact. The human brain never admits to mistakes.

Due to my unfortunate experiences with antidepressants as a teenager, I have a bit of an (un)natural distrust for the “good ideas” that my brain pushes on me.

Like millions of other teenagers, I was prescribed these little black-magic pills before it was “discovered” that antidepressants can actually increase suicidal thoughts and actions.

(“Eureka, Dr. Holmes! It seems that if you look at the empirical data that we deleted to get Prozac passed by the FDA, the suicide rate actually increases with use as compared to the placebo or even doing nothing at all.”  “My God, Dr. Watson! I’d say that means it’s time we start working on Abilify.”)

My brain, even antidepressant free, is sneaky, sneaky, always seeming to try to build up my trust for it. Of course you won’t forget the special place you put your passport. Or, I’ll remind you the parking break is on. Or, I’m sure caffeine won’t keep you up all night this time. My brain is like a badly run government agency trying to cover its tracks and reassure the public. The levies won’t break, people, the levies won’t break.

It’s a biological fact. The human brain never admits to mistakes. It’s why people with schizophrenia continually quit their medicine. Their brain tells them that they haven’t had any symptoms for weeks and they must be cured. But you need to take your medicine.

The brain’s stubbornness can also be seen in the paranoia associated with dementia. Even as the part of the brain that is thought to be involved in memory forming, the hippocampus, is eaten away by Alzheimer’s, it will never concede that it just may have forgotten something:

Frontal Lobe: “Message to hippocampus, message to hippocampus, where is the toothbrush?”

Hippocampus (roused from sleep): “Hmm?” Blinking and wiping his glasses. “Hmm, what was the question?”

Frontal Lobe: “WHERE is the toothbrush? You were supposed to transfer that to her long term memory yesterday.”

Hippocampus: “Well, yes I did do that, and it should be in the medicine cabinet.

Frontal Lobe: “It is not in the medicine cabinet. We already looked twice.”

Hippocampus: “Well if it is not there, then … it must have been stolen.”

Frontal Lobe: “STOLEN??? Who would want to steal a 95-year-old woman’s 10-year-old toothbrush?”

Hippocampus: “Are you trying to suggest that I forgot? I am the hippocampus. I said it has been stolen, so it has been stolen.”

Frontal Lobe: “Fine. Fine. OK. Send it on to the nervous system. Red alert everybody. Queue the adrenaline. It has been stolen.”  Frontal lobe pauses, listening and then continues. “Amygdala is saying we should hide more stuff to prevent further stealing. Hippocampus, will you remember where the stuff is put?”

Hippocampus: “ZZZZZZ”

Frontal Lobe: “HIPPOCAMPUS!!!”

Hippocampus: “Yes. Yes, I always remember.” Hippocampus stands and stretches.

Frontal Lobe: Holy Brain Stem, Hippocampus! Put some pants on for Oxygen’s sake.”

I think my hippocampus has a few holes in it also, because I have a horrible memory. But I thought I had finally accepted it: as much as my brain tells me I’ll remember, I won’t. So I have to write everything down. A few weeks ago I started keeping lists, using Google Calendar, doing things as soon as I think of them. I was taking my medicine, so to speak.

Then yesterday I was going to the store and my brain said, You don’t need to make a list, you haven’t forgotten anything in weeks.

And I hadn’t forgotten anything in weeks! I was so proud. I do have a good memory. See I told you.

So I went to the store without a list. I only needed two things from the store, and I came home with seven.

Then this morning my husband had to break up a fight between me and my brain as I was trying to strangle it to death because I realized I hadn’t gotten either of the things I needed.

So take your medicine. (Unless it is antidepressants and you are a teenager.)

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