CogniFit's Science blog: Memory – Definitions, Types And Processes

Memory – Definitions, Types And Processes

Memory is the way in which we store, retain and recall information and experiences. We can recall sights, sounds, smells and emotions through memory. We’ll discuss memory in further detail including types of memory and the manner in which it is processed.

There are three main ways in which memory is formed and retrieved. They include: encoding which is the way in which we receive, process or combine received information; storage which is way in which encoded information is kept; and retrieval which is the way in which stored memories are recalled so we can analyze and respond to them.

The main types of memory include the following:

Sensory memory relates to our ability to look at an object and sense it. Our ability to look at an item and then remember what it looks like is an example of sensory memory. Sensory memory tends to be very short in duration. In order to recall the information over a longer period of time, it must be converted into other types of memory.

The sensory memory may then be converted into short term, working memory which enables recall of information or senses for several seconds to a minute or more. It tends to work well for information which is less complex or shorter in duration. For example if someone is trying to remember a long phone, they are usually more successful in memorizing the number in smaller chunks. For example they may remember the area code first and then the primary number rather than the entire 10 digit number.

Long-term memory is our brain’s ability to take information or senses and then store it and retrieve it for long periods of time. In some cases it can be stored and recalled over a lifetime. The method in which memories are turned into long term memories are unique and quite complex.

We have to train our brains to store and retrieve long term memories. There are various techniques used which can be quite effective in doing so.

It has been found that short term memories are supported by differing patterns of neural communication largely within the frontal lobe of our brains. Long term memory on the other hand is supported by permanent changes in neural connections throughout the brain. The information is essentially stored by physiological changes made within our brains. This is how the information can be stored and retrieved so completely and effectively over a long period of time.

And while the sensory or short term memories can fade rather quickly, the long term memories are imprinted on our brains and tend to be more readily available as we require it.