How does memory work?

A glimpse at the brain work of memory.



Sarah Balough


Memory is the result of a complex constructive power. Like a web-like pattern of cells scattered through the brain, memory is made up of a group of systems that each play a unique role in constructing the system that stores, recalls and creates your memories.

Even the simplest of memories is actually a complex construction. The simplest of tasks like riding a bike requires the use of a variety of cells in different lobes of the brain.

The memory of how to get from one place to another comes from one section of the brain; the memory of bike safety rules from another; and the nervous feeling you get when a car veers dangerously close, from still another.

All of these sections work together to recreate you memories, though it must be stated that experts have found that there is no firm distinction between how you remember and how you think.

Encoding is the first step in creating a memory. A biological phenomenon, encoding is rooted in the senses that begin with perception.

A memory is created by the scenes of that particular moment. The auditory system picks up the sounds of that particular time, your olfactory the smells and every scene that adds to solidification of the memory. Each of these separate sensations travels to the part of the brain called the Hippocampus, a portion of the brain that integrates these perceptions as they occur in a single experience. For information to be properly encoded the brain must have the proper circumstances. Attention must be paid to the information.

Because the human being pays attention to everything all the time, most of what is encountered every day is simply filtered out. Only a limited amount of information passes into conscious awareness. After a memory is created the brain initiates the process of storing it. It’s widely believed among many experts that there are three ways to store memories: first in sensory stage; then in short-term memory; and for some information in long-term memory.

The creation of a memory begins with its perception. Information is first stored in a brief sensory stage, while this stage lasts only a fraction of a second it is still important. It is you sensory memory that allows a perception of visual patterns, a sound, or a touch. This form of memory is what you use in the moment. After a brief moment the stimulation is over and the information, if important, is moved to the next storage area of the brain. After the initial memory occurs the sensations is stored in the short-term memory.

This stage has a fairly limited capacity to hold information. It can only hold about seven items for a time spanning from 20 to 30 seconds. Because of the limited capacity of the short terms memory the brain uses a variety of tactics to retain the information, like that of chunking information together and using visual ques.

Information that the brain must retain is then transferred into long-term memory. The more information is repeated or used, the more likely it is to be transferred to long-term storage, to be “retained”. While both sensory and short-term memory are limited and decay rapidly, long-term memory does not. There is no limit to the amount of information stored in long-term memory and there is not designated time limit. The information that is stored in the long-term memory will always be stored there. It is only when there is a retrieval fail with information from storage does the phenomenon called “forgetting” occur. When thinking of memory, many think only of long-term memory, but most experts believe that information must pass through all of the stages to reach this level of storage


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How does memory work?

by admin time to read: 2 min