It's different than your husbands.
You say: "My husband can drive or be driven somewhere once and remember the route months later, even if it's in another state. I, on the other hand, continue to get lost in my own city unless I follow a known route. Is there a sense-of-direction centre in the brain? Or does he just have a better general memory (even though he can't remember to buy milk)?"
From brain expert David Perlmutter, MD, FACN: good observation! In fact, the right parietal lobe and other areas of the brain are specifically involved in the process of learning and remembering directions and orientation. And men seem to have a better ability at this skill than women. Women, on the other hand, are more skilled at reading human emotional cues. Different people, different talents.
It confuses itself.
You say: " About a year and a half back, I booked a last-minute flight to a business meeting. I slept for most of the flight and awoke abruptly when the plane touched down. After several minutes, I finally reached into my briefcase and checked my calendar. Aha! A meeting in Toronto. It was only during the 7-minute drive across the airfield that I realized I was at a completely different airport than I thought I was. I know I may have been a little disoriented after waking up, but why didn't I get a clue from announcements on the plane, signs in the airport, or even the layout of the airport itself?"
Dr. Perlmutter: You've already mentioned one important reason for your confusion-it's common to be confused after awakening, especially when you've slept at a time during the day that is unusual for your biological clock.
Another important factor rings clear in your query. Your descriptions of the "last-minute flight" and preoccupation with the time constraints are clear explanations of why your mind was elsewhere. With all that going on, you were obviously relieved to find the answer to your confusion in your planner, so the rest of your brain relaxed. With less stress, you probably won't experience this again.
It puts itself on autopilot.
You say: "As I pulled into the office parking lot this morning, I realized I couldn't remember anything about the drive. How is the brain able to work on autopilot like this?"
Dr. Perlmutter: The monarch butterfly has a brain smaller than a pinhead, and yet it can migrate more than 3,000 kilometres to a specific location. Your big brain can certainly allow you to drive to your office without conscious involvement-although I'm not advocating brain-dead driving. Repeated activities and behaviours create packages of information stored in the brain that, over time, become instructions when those activities are repeated. Under normal conditions, we call upon these instructions for familiar tasks and then make minor modifications moment to moment as our environment changes. If you had seen a large object in the road in front of you, your brain would click back on and you would consciously be able to steer around the hazard.
佩尔穆特博士：帝 王蝶的大脑比针头还小，但它能迁徙3000多公里到达特定地点。尽管我不提倡不动脑子的驾驶，但在没有意识参与的情况下，你聪明的大脑确实能指导你将车开 到办公室。重复的活动和行为产生信息包，贮存在大脑里，时间长了，这些信息包在活动被重复时会转化为指令。正常条件下，在做熟悉的工作时，我们唤醒这些指 令，当环境发生变化时，会随时进行一些小的调整。如果看到前面的路上有个大障碍物，你的大脑会立即警觉，使你能自觉地绕过它。
It has trouble with familiar faces.
You say: "Why do I sometimes blank on the names of totally familiar people when I try to introduce them? This happened once when I was in the mall with my best friend, and met up with another friend. I looked at the two of them, realized I couldn't remember either of their names, and finally said, 'Would you two please introduce yourselves?' Why did this happen?"
Dr. Perlmutter: The information was encoded firmly in your brain; the problem was with retrieving it. It could be that spotting your other friend in the mall shocked you in some small way, or you worried about how to handle the situation, and the emotion temporarily jammed your retrieval system. Totally normal. Now, here's the bad news: Because this has happened to you and the experience was embarrassing, any situation that requires introductions could become a source of anxiety. Then, the brain "jam" could happen again and again. It is an everyday form of stage fright. Like any actor, try to rehearse your "lines" as you see the scenario about to unfold, and you'll be just fine.
佩尔穆特博士：这 些信息已被编译并牢牢地记录在你的大脑中，只是信息检索时出了问题。可能在这个商场里碰到其他朋友有些让你吃惊，或许，你为如何应付这个局面而烦恼，你的 情感暂时阻塞了检索系统。这完全正常。但还有个坏消息：因为你遭遇过这样的事，并体验了尴尬，所以任何需要介绍的情境都可能引发你的焦虑。于是，大脑“阻 塞”可能会一再发生。这就是怯场的日常表现形式。可以像演员一样，当看到这种情况临近时,尽力演练“台词”，这样你将会有不错的表现。1