Episode 5: ‘Memory’

April 4, 2023

During this episode of the documentary, Hemsworth takes on the memory task differently than the tasks in previous episodes. Usually, the days are planned out and Hemsworth is told how many days he has to complete it, but in his newest task, there are no number of days. Hemsworth is pushed to complete the challenge of hiking thousands of acres in the wilderness hoping to make his brain stronger. As every other episode is packed with lots of energy, this episode is calm and less physical.

In the beginning, Canadian-American Physician Peter Attia, had tested Hemsworth to see the healthiness of his brain and body. Unfortunately, the test results showed that Hemsworth is eight to ten times more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Hemsworth has copies of APOE4 (a set from each of his parents) that increases the risk of having this disease. After learning this information, Hemsworth fears that his memories with his wife and kids will slowly fade away, and this task becomes one of the most important ones he has done. While Hemsworth appears fearful of learning about Alzheimer’s, Attia says that this gene is a blessing because it will give Hemsworth motivation to work towards slowing down the process since he is younger and this disease does not occur until later in life. 

Neurologist Sharon Sha completes a frontal lobe test with Hemsworth that will show his voluntary movement, expressive language, and higher skill levels. Sha explains that when a person hits the age of 30, the brain will start to deteriorate causing atrophy, dementia and other diseases. In Hemsworth’s situation, he made the decision to find any way possible that will reduce the process of Alzheimer’s. Although a person can eat properly and work out regularly, it does not mean it is actually helping the brain. 

Sha sets up Hemsworth with a friend, Otis Hope Carey, who will navigate Hemsworth through the wilderness but also teach him to use his surroundings instead of technology. Carey is a part of a tribe that believes in the goodness of nature and he expresses that through sculptures and paintings that symbolize cultures and the bringing of communities together. In order to keep Hemsworth’s brain healthy, he and Carey use objects in the woods to help remember which direction to go in as Sha made the rule of no phones. Using surrounding objects will improve memory and build a stronger brain. In the wilderness, senses are heightened and sights and sounds are easier to process because the body becomes relaxed, releasing stress build-up. It is important that Hemsworth and Carey do his hike together because interacting with others is healthy and also because spending time alone leaves a person with a 50% chance higher for developing dementia.

The hike took more than one day for Hemsworth and Carey, so they had to find land to camp overnight and this was the biggest challenge they faced. In order to find the ground they wanted to camp on, Hemsworth and Carey had to jump into a waterfall and swim across to reach their destination as there was no other way down. 

After all the navigating Hemsworth has done by only using his brain, he found that the water cleared his mind. Although his mind is cleared going into a good night’s sleep, Hemsworth explains that sleeping is a struggle because many thoughts are still going through his head and he repeats situations over and over, trying to pick at something he has done wrong. Ultimately, viewers can relate most to this because usually sleep is the time when our brain and body shut down to feel refreshed, yet this is when people’s thoughts keep them up at night the most. Getting enough sleep has a variety of benefits including the brain being healed while sleeping and this is one of the most important factors in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s. 

On day two of the hike, Hemsworth and Carey reach their final destination at a spot called the Wrights Outlook that is located on top of a mountain. One of the benefits of the outlook is that Hemsworth and Carey will have to climb the side of the mountain and this will encourage the neurons to grow and stay healthy. The outlook is a special meeting place where nations come together to connect, feel powerful and spiritually recharge. In order to let in these feelings, the three nations are gathered to do a dance called the Corroboree and the people apply white paint to the whole body. Applying paint gives the people a sense of belonging, empoweredness and an understanding of the ancestors speaking of the earth. 

Hemsworth explains that being in touch with nature has given him a different perspective on how to live life as he understands his risk of developing Alzheimer’s. He wants to live a happier and more rewarding life just like his grandfather (diagnosed with Alzheimer’s) did and hopes to continue holding onto his memories. Overall, this episode was the shortest, but viewers received much more detail in how the brain functions and an understanding of how powerful nature can be.