How Memory Works and How It May Be Improved
There are two broad aspects to a person’s memory: first, is the ability to absorb information and second, is the ability to recall recorded information.
Most people do not notice their state of memory until they reach for it but fail to retrieve it. Memory evaporation could be normal in the sensory memory realm, where retained information lasts only for less than a second, or in short-term memory realm, where information lasts only for a few seconds. In both of these circumstances the subject may not have spent enough time processing and coding information.
However, not remembering a relative’s name, not remembering everyday things, such as, the way home, not sure anymore on what to do with a tooth-brush, points to a lapse in memory and certainly a cause for worry. Diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease have brought the discussion about memory loss or amnesia to the fore.
Memory is applicable in many aspects of human functions. Body cells, especially the blood surveillance and defense cells rely on intact memory to remember previous encounters with exogenous intruders. Moreover, if we did not have any recollection of our friends they will be strangers each time we meet them. Such repeated learning of experiences is inefficient and costly to the human body.
The manners in which humans acquire long-term memory are diverse and may never be fully explained by existing theories.
Objects and events create memorable impressions on us through the senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch and so forth.
These external stimuli are propagated as impulses by relay of neurons to participating areas of the brain. Each experience is coded in the hippocampus and in the limbic system as actionable memory. Structures in the limbic system are among the oldest part of the brain to evolve.
It is the uniqueness in impulse trajectory that codes for a particular information and sets it apart from others. The brain recognizes, remembers and interprets patterns that have occurred before. New information patterns are stored as well. With billions of neurons at its disposal, the brain is an organ capable of accommodating and discerning innumerable information.
Establishing a lasting memory is an active process that involves real biochemical changes across neuronal cell membranes. It is like a walk path in a bushy backyard. The more you walk on it, the more difficult it becomes to erase. Similarly, the more time we spend absorbing experiences, the more those experiences remain as indelible tracks in our consciousness.
One way of exercising our memory is to take it to task. Do not allow weeds to grow over your memory lane. Walk over it back and forth by ruminating on your childhood, youthful, middle age and ongoing experiences. Take quick steps forward and backward over as many life experiences as you can. These exercises may help anchor your memory and perhaps delay some memory fog often seen with aging.
By Anselm Anyoha MD
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