Catching Up on Memory

During this presentation, we will be discussing Memory.

Memory is an important part of our cognition and allows us to carry out day to day activities.

What is memory?

Memory is defined as the formation of records of new experiences and the use of the information to guide subsequent activities. Memories draw on past knowledge to use it in the present and future. Everyone has their own personal memories that provide an essential element to their uniqueness. Your memories will be different from your parents, and so on.

Memory is a process of taking in information from the world around us, processing it, storing it, and later recalling that information. We will talk more about this in the next slide.

Lastly, memory also provides the basis for skills and for shared knowledge, including language and social concepts.

The Stages of Memory

The first stage of memory is called attention. You must attend to what you are doing in order for the world around you to be processed. If you are not focused and not concentrating, the process of taking in information will be less likely to go into memory.

The second stage of memory is called encoding.

Encoding is how the memories will be formed, by taking the physical and sensory input that you receive and transforming it into a representation that can be stored in your memory.

The third stage of memory is called storage. Storage is how our memories are retained and saved for later by the movement of encoded information into memory. Maintenance of information in will also occur in this stage.

The fourth and last stage of memory is called retrieval. Retrieval is how our memories are recalled, or the recovery of stored information from our memory, by moving the information into consciousness for use in active cognitive processing. We can retrieve our memories in two ways; either through recall or recognition. Recall is the retrieving of memories with no hints, and recognition is retrieving of memories with hints.

Types of Memory

There are essentially three main types of memory that you can have, sensory, short-term, or long-term memory.

Sensory memory is defined as our initial sensory experience of the world. This memory has a very limited duration in which it occurs, being a fraction of a second. This memory will allow you to remember what is happening around you in the very second that something takes place.

Short-term memory is our second type of memory. This memory is temporarily stored and actively utilized and is readily accessible. Short-term memory has a short duration and a small storage capacity in our brain. This type of memory allows our brain to either dismiss it or transfer the short-term memory on to long term memory (LTM).

Within short-term memory, you have a type of memory called working memory. Working memory holds information in mind while performing complex tasks and keeps the memory active while engaging in the other memory systems until the desired action is executed. For example, remembering a question long enough to think about it and formulate a answer or holding a persons address in mind while listening to instructions to get there are both examples of working memory. For working memory, the storage capacity is about 5-9 items, and the number 7 being the magical number. Remember things, such as cell phone numbers since they are 7 numbers, will help you to remember better. For short-term memory, repetition and practice strategies will help these memories transfer to LTM.

Long-term memory is our third and last type of memory. For this memory, the storage is long-term, meaning the memory can be in the brain for years to life. The brain has a larger storage capacity for these memories, and the memories can be either explicit or implicit, which will be talked about more in the next slide.

Explicit vs Implicit Memories

• Explicit: consciously recalled

• Semantic (words)/ declarative (events): facts and knowledge, word-based information

• Facts, historical information, math facts, vocabulary

• Episodic: autobiographical memory, personal experiences, associated with emotions

• What you did yesterday, high school graduation, wedding day

• Implicit: unconsciously recalled

• Procedural: muscle memory, performing actions without conscious awareness

• Singing a familiar song, typing on your keyboard, brushing your teeth, riding your bike

Explicit memory is when you consciously recall or recognizing particular information, and is information you consciously work to remember.

Implicit memory is enhanced performance on a task, as a result of prior experience, despite having no conscious awareness of recollecting the prior experience. It is information remembered unconsciously and effortlessly and can be automatic over time with repetition.

Implicit and explicit memory do not work in isolation, they can interact with each other in a different ways. For example, when you ride a bike your implicit memory allows you to pedal the bike without having to think about it, but your explicit memory allows you to recall the new route you memorized from a map.

This picture gives a visual representation of the two memories, explicit and implicit. In the yellow, we see explicit memory, or declarative memory which is memory you consciously recall. The example given is a guitar. Semantic memory allows you to recall what exactly a guitar is, and your episodic memory allows you to remember the time that you bought the guitar. Both of these you must consciously think about. In the red is our implicit memory, or memories that are unconsciously recalled. Our procedural memory allows you to remember how to play the guitar.

Memory/Amnesia types

The definition of amnesia is the loss of memories. There are two different ways that one may experience amnesia, either retrograde or anterograde amnesia.

Retrograde amnesia

• Common consequence of brain damage
• Loss of personal past after trauma
• Memory often recovers

An example of Retrograde amnesia is you were in a car accident and you don’t remember what happened before accident and during the accident, but you can remember day to day events after accident

Anterograde amnesia

• Can’t recall day to day or present events
• Past memory (LTM) intact
• Difficulty transferring STM and develop new LTM

An example of anterograde amnesia is you remember what you had for breakfast or what you did 5 years ago, but day to day stuff is hard to do and remember.

Signs of memory problems

Here are just a few signs that can occur when you may have some memory problems or memory loss. Keep in mind that everyone is different and finding the cause of the problems is important for determining the best course of action. The following are areas are areas that can be a cause of concern and raise red flags:

• Asking the same question over and over again
• Getting lost in places you know well
• Having trouble following recipes or directions
• Becoming more confused about time, people, and places
• Not taking care of yourself- eating poorly, not bathing, or behaving unsafely
• Inability to make new memories or learn new information
• Changes in personality, mood and behavior
• Problems with focus, concentration and attention

Causes of memory loss

Multiple different factors can play into why one may experience memory loss. Some common causes include:

Medications — a number of prescriptions can interfere or cause loss of memory such as antidepressants, sleeping pills, or muscle relaxants

Alcohol or drug use

Sleep deprivation — both quantity and quality of sleep are important for memory. Sleeping helps to consolidate and retrieve information from the day and process it into LTM

Depression and stress — can lead to making it difficult to focus and get in way of concentration

Nutritional deficiency — high quality food is important for proper brain function

Stroke — Can cause STM loss right after stroke and months after

Dementia —  is the name for progressive loss of memory and other aspects of thinking that are severe enough to interfere with the ability to function in daily activities

Age-associated memory impairment

Differences between normal aging and Alzheimer’s

Our memory can change as we get older and is a normal part of aging. Alzheimer’s, however, is not a normal part of aging. Here are some differences between normal aging and when it may turn into something more serious like Alzheimer’s.

Normal Aging

• Making a bad decision once in a while
• Missing a monthly payment
• Forgetting the day and remembering it later
• Finding you are forgetting which word to use
• Losing track of your items from time to time


• Having poor judgement and decisions a lot of the time
• Problems taking care of monthly bills
• Losing track of the date or time
• Trouble having a conversation
• Often losing items and not being able to find them

Studies have been done to look at the effects of physical activity and Alzheimer’s. This study included more than 160,000 participants, and found a 45% reduction in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s due to the regular practice of physical activity. I mention this because physical activity is so important for not only our physical and mental health, but for our cognitive health too.

Memory Strategies

Here I will discuss some ways that one can do to help better their memory or work help them work better with the memory that they have. Some strategies may work for some, and not for others. Finding the best solution for you is the best course of action, even if it means trial by error with more than one technique.

• Word list recall
• Visual cues with different colors for different concepts
• Break down the task/instructions, make simpler
• Use S.I.N.G. to remember what you hear — S= stop, I= identify the main points, N= never mind the details, G= get the gist of the conversation
• Spaced retrieval — recalling information over a repetitively longer period of time intervals. Start at 30 seconds, and if retrieval was successful, the time length should be increased which can help one to learn small amounts of information
• Write things down/put in phone/make voice recording
• Use prompts — Set your phone or a cooking timer to remind you when you need to take your medication. Leave things like keys and wallets near front or garage door so that you see them when you leave
• Keep things in same place/ labels on cupboards and drawers
• Memory games
• Get plenty of sleep
• Have a healthier diet
• Exercise/ physical activity