How does Memory Work | 3 Stages and Types
Memory is the ability of the brain to collect, store and also retrieve information. This memory varies from person to person and also with age and disease. In this article we will see how does memory work and what factors influence it.
It works in three stages as
1. Encoding the information
The memory is read, formed and recollected when required. However there are other aspects to study like types of memory, factors influencing the memory, disorders etc. So, we will see them in detail.
How does memory work
As mentioned earlier, it involves three stages like
Encoding: We perceive an object by use of sensory organs like the eyes (seeing), nose (odor), ear (hearing), skin (touch) and even tongue (taste). So, we tend to remember what we see, the scent we smell, the music we hear, the feel of touch and also the taste. These sensory information are carried by nerves to the brain. The brain interprets them in particular pattern and registers them. This is the encoding stage and it mostly happens in the brain regions like cerebrum, amygdala and hippocampus. Once the encoding is done, the next step starts i.e. storage.
Storage: Memory is stored in the brain in regions like amygdala and hippocampus. This storage of memory is of different duration like short term, long term etc.
Retrieval: This is recalling of memory and is the most essential stage of the entire process. If this stage fails, then there is no use of memory at all. This retrieval is dependent on amygdala and hippocampus. But the expression is controlled by cerebrum.
Like many other complex phenomenon of the brain, memory is not completely understood. When ever memory happens, there is consolidation of matter in the brain as a function of memory. As the consolidation of the matter loosens, the memory gets vanished slowly. So overall it implies two things
a) Memory is present in the brain so keep it safe i.e avoid head injury or infection or disorders (like Alzheimer’s etc).
b) Consolation of the matter related to brain slowly loosens, so keep the process slow. This we can do it by reducing the stress, having adequate sleep, nutrition, fresh air as brain depends on glucose and fresh air for its activity.
Neurotransmitters involved in memory:
Mainly 3 neurotransmitters are involved in memory like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.
Types of memory:
There are 3 types of memory as
1. Sensory memory
2. Short term memory
3. Long term memory.
Sensory memory is present for very short time like just upto 1 second or so.
Short term memory is present for 30 seconds or so. While the longterm memory can be present upto life time.
Factors influencing memory
In daily life we notice memory happens in almost every instance of life. But there are variations like
Importance: The more the important is the information, the stronger is memory i.e. it is recalled frequently and also remains for long as a memory.
Like and dislike; These are prime factors in most cases. An information is remembered for long either if you like it or dislike it. For an instance, the memory of a beautiful picture or scenery is remembered for long. While those without like or dislike or remembered for short time.
Fear or disgust: If there is something which causes fear or irritation, there is longer memory of the information involved.
Age: We seem to have a lot of memories of our childhood. This is possible due to growth in the body and the entire system of brain is fully active with regards to physiology and memory processing. In old age the system slows down with regards to nutrition to the brain and excretion from the brain and the nerves involved are worn out.
Nutrition: Brain is highly active organ in the body. It requires ample supply of glucose, oxygen for proper function. So having regular diet and taking slow and steady breaths gives sufficient supply of glucose and oxygen to the brain and there by memory improvement.
Though nerves do not grow or multiply, the surrounding cells supporting neurons are engaged in multiplication and growth. These support the functioning of nerves so essential nutrition like amino acids through protein diet and fats are necessary in diet. Brain is made to a large extent by fat material. Hence fatty acids including omega type are essential for nourishment of brain.
Pollution: Especially air pollution has drastic effects on memory. Though brain is encased in a highly impermeable membrane, still gaseous molecules like CO2, CO etc can pass by being dissolved in blood and can cause brain cell damage. It has been shown in some scientific studies that students residing in highly air polluted areas have less memory than those in non-polluted areas.