All About Memory: A Breakdown Of How Humans Store Information

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By Dr. Peter Klapper Ph.D.

Our brains are a powerful organ that most of don’t take the time to comprehend. It controls pretty much every component that regulates our body, motor skills, emotions, thoughts, and our memory. While each are all equally important, can you imagine what it would be like to not recall important events and experiences in your life or tasks your learned that help you achieve your goals?

Memory is “the power or process of reproducing or recalling what has been learned and retained,” and it’s what connects us to every person and event in our lives. That said, how does our memory work?

The human memory has four components: sensory, working, short-term and long-term memory. All of which help us recall tidbits of various information.

Short-Term Memory
Have you ever had someone give you an account number or phone number while you’re searching for a pen to write it down? The ability to quickly recall those string of numbers in a matter of seconds is an indication of your short-term memory at work. Typically, those type of memories will disappear after about 30 seconds.

Long-Term Memory
Your long-term memory is a bit more complex than short-term in the sense that there are subcategories of memorization divided into implicit and explicit memory. For example, when you’re able to recall memories of events, autobiographical facts like an election or personal facts about another person, it’s part of your explicit long-term memory.

Implicit memories are memories that we don’t consciously think about doing. When we learn to do a task such as driving or walking, we initially learn it, but eventually, it’s something that we are just programmed to do. If you can recall something longer than 30 seconds, it’s a good chance it will be stored into your long-term memory.

Sensory Memory
Everyday our senses are experiencing news smells, visuals, textures, sounds, etc. So much so that we don’t pay attention, and the memory is gone within seconds. However, if a sense has a hold on you and you process it, that’s when it can move from a short-term memory to long-term. This is an example of why a song or smell might bring you back to a place and time.

Yet, for the most part, our sensory memories are short, and we quickly forget the sounds and smells from the day.

Working Memory
Working memory and short-term memory are very similar, however your working memory requires you to remember more details in a current working task.

For example, if you are reading instructions to build a desk, your working memory allows you to remember the steps you completed prior to the nail you’re hammering into the wood.

Now that you understand how our brain categorizes memories, it’s important to know how our brains and memories develop. So, when do we have our first memories that we can recall?

Children begin to form explicit memories around the age of 2. They can remember that you had pizza Friday night, but the excitement that they get passing a Pizza Hut (implicit memory) might take a few years to register.

Researchers have found that around the age of 3, is when explicit memories begin to become more frequent and detailed like your memories. At around age 7, their memories should be similar to yours in what they can recall.

Many of us fear getting older and becoming forgetful. Our experiences are near and dear to our hearts, and most of us don’t want to lose happy memories from our youth. So, what happens to memory as we age? As we grow old, it’s normal for it to take time to recall a name or fact and have moments of forgetfulness. No matter your age, your brain is still capable of preserving memory functions such as performing everyday tasks, recalling events from years ago, and general knowledge.

On the flip side, age does impact our ability to learn new information and can take longer to be able for you to recall the new information you may have recently learned. Does that mean you’re on your way to experiencing a serious brain disease? Not necessarily.

Yes, it’s natural for most of us to worry about the potential of Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia, but keep in mind that it’s not inevitable. Researchers have found that individuals in their 70s perform just as well on cognitive exams as those in their 20s.

If forgetfulness is classified as normal, when should you worry? It’s one thing to forget your keys at home, but when you forget what keys are used for is when you might feel concern. Signs of Dementia is not a part of normal aging and should be a sign it’s time to see a professional.

With all of that said, is it possible to improve our memory and delay forgetfulness? Well, it doesn’t hurt to try as our brains are capable to adapting and change. There are many tips on how you can improve your memory that include, exercising not only your body, but your brain with activities such as crossword puzzles, chess, learning a new language or instrument, etc.

Eating a healthy brain-boosting diet, such as foods with omega-3s and avoiding alcohol that can cause confusion and memory loss. Getting enough sleep at night so that your brain has time to consolidate memories from the day and keeping your mental health in a good spot by socializing.

There are also natural remedies to help you recall information if you are experiencing brain fog and issues with your focus such as our natural brain boost, Focus More. It helps improve brain power by increasing your focus, enhancing positivity, creativity, and motivation all while reducing cognitive decline.

And while there are certainly no quick fixes to improve our memory, living a healthy lifestyle and improving your ability to recall information can go a long way.

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