About 95% of the ocean is yet to be explored by people – it is almost the same story with what we know about human memory.

As with much of the brain, we are still learning how memory works. It is an intriguing field of study. There are so much more to be studied and understood about how it works and how it affects our daily decisions and actions.

There are experts who want to find out how to enhance it, scientists that want to help people easily forget it, while other professionals just want to know how it works. At the moment, all aspects of memory are still comparatively unexplored because of insufficient knowledge of its mechanisms. This area is still currently being developed and theorized.

Three Stages of Memory

As soon as a memory is made, it has to be stored.

There are three phases in which humans store memories: first in the sensory stage, also called encoding, second in the short-term memory, and finally in long-term memory.

Since it is not necessary for us to keep a lot of data in our brain, the various stages act as a kind of filtering system to protect us from a great deal of information we face on a regular basis. As we already know, our society today is far more exposed to loads of data because of the rise of the Internet, television and other forms of media.

The development of a memory starts with its perception.

The registration of data in the course of perception happens in the short sensory stage, which often takes only a small fraction of a second. It is your sensory memory that enables a perception like a sound, a visual pattern, or a touch to last for a short time after the stimulation has ended.

After that initial stimulation, the impression is kept in short-term memory. With its restricted capacity, it might keep about seven items for a maximum of 30 seconds at a time. You might be able to boost this capacity somewhat through the use of different memory techniques. For example, you can memorize a 10 digit phone number by dividing it into parts, creating patterns, cues or signs in remembering long speeches and other such methods. Memory athletes have developed techniques to enhance this ability from seven or so items, to more than a hundred at the elite level.

From short-term memory, important data is then progressively transmitted into long-term memory. If the information is repeated or utilized, the bigger its chance to ultimately go to long-term memory. This is the reason why studying helps us do better on exams.

Contrary to sensory and short-term memory, long-term memory can keep indefinite amounts of information for an unlimited period of time. For example, if you have just studied an hour before an examination, you’ll probably have fewer correct answers than if you have studied a week or a day before it. Memory is transferred by long-term potentiation, which helps reshape the brain.

Important facts, terms or events have a greater chance to be retained in your long-term memory if it has been associated with an event, person, or even sounds, tastes, and smells.

Where is Memory Located?

Our memory is not located in one specific place in the brain. It is stored across the brain where a number of different regions utilize and operate with each other.

For instance, the process of cooking a dish for dinner is directly and easily reconstructed from different areas of the brain. Your memory of its ingredients came from one part, how it should taste like from another, and that painful feeling you got when you were burned making a dish is in a different region altogether.

Every single component of a memory, including the words, sounds, sights, and emotions that come with it, are embedded in the brain. Its recall efficiently refreshes the neural patterns produced during the initial encoding or experience.

Imagine a memory as a complicated web. The fibers represent its numerous aspects that connect at intersecting points to make a complete memory. This type of circulation helps ensure that even if a portion of the brain is damaged or is affected, some parts of a life experience may still remain. People have a tendency to readily store experiences they have previously learned, since the details have more significance, and can be subconsciously linked to related information that is kept in their long-term memory. This is why we might be able to remember bigger details about a particular subject.

Human memory is yet another area we have not totally understood, but having the idea of how it works, when it can be triggered, and its capacity can give us a little glimpse of what our brains can do.


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