Memory : How it forms and how we forget?

Article credit : Dipsana K.C …B.Sc Ag.. IAAS, Paklihawa

You see a bicycle at the ground and you automatically retrieve a faint memory of it on your brain; its color, its shape and how you fell badly from that bicycle that one day and got hurt. You have memories for absolutely anything you have been acquainted with. But the real question is where these memories really come from? Are they stacked in the brain like the pictures as they feel to be?

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The brain processes and the memory have always made the scientist curious about. Several researches have been going on for centuries to learn the mechanisms of memory and brain. This includes the famous study on Henry Gautav Molaison widely known as H.M. patient, one of the most studied patient on human history. He was an American memory patient suffering from intractable epilepsy. Unknown to the various brain parts function at that time, the doctors did the surgery and cut off the part of the brain called hippocampus. Later that patient was found not being able to create new memories. This brought quite havoc in the researches and led to the major finding about the importance of hippocampus in creating new memories. Various other researches also corroborated to this finding.

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The research has shown that there are basically two types of memory. One is short term memory and other is long term memory. As soon as we obtain information of any sort, it is encoded into short term memory and it can hold only about 5-7 items for more than 20-30 sec at a time. Once this information is processed in hippocampus, two different things can happen; the information can be either lost or can be transferred to long term memory. Long term memory is also of two types i.e. Procedural memory and Episodic memory. Episodic memory is mainly the memory of events or dates whereas procedural memory is the memory of a habit like riding a bicycle, tying a shoelace.

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It is very likely of us to forget what we learn in a school but we learn how to tie our shoelaces once and we don’t really forget it. It is because the memories are not really stored in a single place like a picture. We have different places for different memories in a brain. For e.g. Emotional responses are stored in amygdale, and memories of facts and events on medial temporal lobe, thalamus and hypothalamus. All we have to do is connect the dots and the memory will strike you back. Like you see a cake in a restaurant and you get this memory of the cake you made at home. For this; color of the cake, its flavor, its shape all should get connected in a brain and will give a full memory of it.

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If we are not able to connect it somehow, then it’s what we called forgetting. This can be either due to failure of encoding the memory or retrieval of it or simply the storage decay. Most of the time we go through this tip of the tongue phenomenon and believe me, nothing is more frustrating than the feeling of knowing the movie, song or person name or couldn’t just name it right there. These retrieval problems actually stem from the interference from other memory getting in the way or connection between the memories not being so strong.

For making our memory more strong and long-lasting all we need to do or can do is that we should practice the memory more. For e.g. we learn a new word called ‘inclement’ which means unpleasant or stormy weather; we will forget it in due time but if we will recall it time and again and also have this image of the stormy weather we faced for it on our brain the connection in the brain will be more stronger every single time and we will hardly forget it. Practicing a memory is what will make our memory stronger. So keep learning more and more things in life and in the process try to forget it less.

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