Interesting Facts About Human Memory

human memory facts

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Memories have a significant impact on the life of an individual, informing a sense of self, decision making, and the way the world is perceived. When most people think about memories in terms of brain functioning, it can be easy to imagine all these images being stored in some sort of ‘memory bank’. In fact, memory is a complex process the involves many different aspects of the brain.

There are Different Types of Memories

Most people are aware that humans have both a short-term memory, which might last for a few seconds or minutes and a long-term memory, which often lasts for years. What many aren’t quite so familiar with is the working memory, which enables things to be kept in mind for a limited period with the help of repetition and the visuospatial sketchpad (basically keeping an image in your mind’s eye).

However, these are not the only ways that memories are categorized. Another method used by psychologists is to group memory is by subject. Declarative, or explicit memory describes memories of conscious experience, which can be facts or personal events. Non-declarative, or implicit memory, is formed unconsciously, an example being procedural memories, which enable the body to recall how to play the guitar or ride a bike.

Memory Begins in the Womb

Recent studies have found that a fetus has the brain capabilities required for memory just 20 weeks after conception. This isn’t to say that people are actually able to retain memories formed inside the womb; however, the language that babies hear during pregnancy is the one they find easiest to learn during childhood. Scientists have come to this conclusion from a result of testing in which acoustic signals were sent through a mother’s abdomen, the fetus’ reaction was then monitored with the use of an ultrasonic scanner. When this process was applied an hour or a day later, the fetus reacted, which suggests some form of retention.  Truly astonishing, IKR.

How Memory is Stored

The process by which memory is stored is thought to have three distinct phases: encoding, storage, and recall.

  1. Encoding

This is the first step of memory retention and occurs when a brain attaches meaning to new information and experiences.

  • Storage

The hippocampus plays a vital role in the formation, processing, and storage of both long- and short-term memories. Damage to the hippocampus can cause anterograde amnesia, which affects an individual’s ability to make new memories. The functioning of the hippocampus can decline with age, and when this is combined with neuron loss, older adults start to show the need for memory care.

  • Recall

The recall is the process in which the brain accesses pieces of stored information which are broken down into smaller fragments to be processed in the prefrontal cortex.

Most Short-term Memories are Quickly Forgotten

Short-term memory is limited both in terms of capacity and retention. Researchers believe that, on average, an individual can hold seven items (plus or minus 2) in their short-term memory for a time lasting between 20 to 30 seconds. However, it is possible to improve short-term memory by using strategies like ‘chunking’ which involves dividing items into smaller groups and subsections.

FAQ

What is the working memory?

What many aren’t quite so familiar with is the working memory, which enables things to be kept in mind for a limited period with the help of repetition and the visuospatial sketchpad (basically keeping an image in your mind’s eye).

What are some types of memory?

Declarative, or explicit memory describes memories of conscious experience, which can be facts or personal events. Non-declarative, or implicit memory, is formed unconsciously, an example being procedural memories, which enable the body to recall how to play the guitar or ride a bike.

How much can humans store in short term memory?

Researchers believe that, on average, an individual can hold seven items (plus or minus 2) in their short-term memory for a time lasting between 20 to 30 seconds. However, it is possible to improve short-term memory by using strategies like ‘chunking’ which involves dividing items into smaller groups and subsections.

Additional Resources:

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Human Memory Lab – UC Davis

Impact of Fluoride On The Brain

Artificial Intelligence

Deep Learning

Computer Vision

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