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As she mentions, almost everyone has memory lapses. They’re usually not a sign of a serious problem. But memory lapses are annoying, and her tips may help you to retrieve information more quickly and easily.
To see all of Katherine’s memory tips, click on the 20 Best Tips to Improve Memory link below.
For those who are interested, I wanted to explore the process of memory a bit. I think many people think memory is stored like information in a book – by year, day and time. Memory is far more complex and wonderful than that. Please note that I have just a very basic understanding of the process, but I find it fascinating.
To start with, here’s an example. When you met your first boyfriend or first girlfriend, you probably had a lot of different perceptions: eye color, facial structure, attractiveness, body structure, clothing, the smell of their perfume or cologne, the sound of their voice, the location, how you felt emotionally, where you met and so on.
All of these impressions went to a part of your brain called the hippocampus. The hippocampus and frontal cortex decided if all of the impressions would be stored in sensory memory (very brief), short term memory, or long term memory.
Here’s the amazing thing. For long term memory…the elements of the memory are stored separately in different parts of the brain. In other words, when you have an experience that’s going to be stored in long-term memory, the experience is really broken up into smaller related elements like puzzle pieces, encoded, and the encoded pieces are stored in different parts of the cortex. Also, the brain uses chemicals (protein molecules) to physically store each encoded memory or memory element
It’s important to understand how information moves through the brain. The brain moves messages and information through the use of neurons. A neuron is a complex cell that communicates by electro-chemical signaling. Each neuron has an electrical voltage and fires off electrical pulses. An electrical pulse can travel from one neuron across a specialized connection called a synapse to another neuron.
Each neuron forms thousands of these connections with other neurons. When a neuron receives a piece of information, it fires off an electrical pulse. This causes neurotransmitters to release chemicals, which carry the message across the synapse to the next neuron. That neuron receives the message and then fires off its own pulse, which sends the message to the next neuron.
So long-term memories are stored as groups of neurons. Any related visual, sensory, or emotional components of the memory are stored in neurons in the appropriate part of the brain. To retrieve a memory, the neurons can be fired as a group in the same pattern that was used during the original event, e.g. meeting your first boyfriend or girlfriend. The stronger the links or pathways, the faster you can retrieve the memory.
Sometimes we have trouble remembering though. Memory loss is a concern at any age. As Katherine points out in her article, memory loss can be the result of fatigue or stress. It’s also possible you weren’t really focusing enough on the initial fact or experience. As a result, the fact or experience wasn’t encoded and stored. In other words, the fact or experience never made it to your memory. Finally, it’s also true that as we age there can be some physical changes to the brain that can make it more difficult to remember facts or events.
The process of experiencing an event, encoding it, storing it as a memory and then later retrieving the memory is an amazing and wonderful process!
Again, to see 20 tips to improve your memory, click on the 20 Best Tips to Improve Memory link below.