The Process of Memory

    Memory plays an important role in everyday life; whether it is reminding one of that upcoming assignment, or the name of that tasty restaurant. Memory defines. It makes one who they are. Although this process is so natural that one rarely ever stops to contemplate it, the stages in which memory occurs are an interesting procedure. Many parts of the body play important roles in this intricate and vital process.

    Physiology breaks up the process of memory into three phases: encoding, storage, and retrieval. Encoding is the phase where one receives, processes, and combines information. This process can be triggered via physical or chemical stimuli. The second step, storage, is activated after the brain deciphers the information received. Storage is the making of a permanent record of interpreted data. The last process is retrieval, also called recall or recognition. In retrieval, the newly developed memory is brought forth after a trigger, such as a word or action occurs. This memory process works the same way in all three main types of memory: short-term, long-term, and sensory memory. 

    Short-term memory, as the name implies, is the type of memory that can retain around two to seven pieces of information for short periods of time, usually up to twenty seconds. Information located in short-term memory can be transferred to long-term memory through processes like rehearsal. The second type of memory is long-term memory. Long-term memories are the information one stores for long periods of time. Explicit and declarative memories, two types of long-term memory, need conscious recall in order to be brought forth. Explicit memory can be further divided into two subgroups: semantic – information taken from context, and episodic memory – personal experiences. Implicit memory is another type of long term memory. This is information that is recalled unconsciously. Procedural memory is a subgroup of implicit memory, and involves the learning and carrying out of motor skills. The last of the three main types of memory is sensory memory. Sensory memory is the retaining of information involving impressions of visual stimuli. Sensory memories are used to provide detailed information about an event, and are not consciously controlled. 

    Some parts of the brain involved with memory include the amygdala, hippocampus and cerebellum. The amygdala’s main job is to monitor emotions. Because of this, the amygdala also helps one remember events induced with strong memories. One example of this was a lab done with rats. In this experiment, scientists paired a foot shock to a neutral tone. Afterward, when the rats heard a neutral tone used, they would freeze, one of the defense techniques rats use. Another part is the hippocampus, a part of the brain located deep in the temporal lobe. This part is key in forming memories about facts and events as well as object and spatial memory. It is more of a processing area for explicit memories. Damage to this area leads to difficulty or inability in forming new memories. The cerebellum is another part of the brain used in memory. It is more active in the process of implicit memory development. One example of this is when one closes one’s eyes when they are given a puff of air.