What is Memory and What Causes Memory Loss?

Authors Avatar


What is memory?

As part of a continuous process in which living creatures obtain and store information are three phases: Perception, learning and memory. Human memory has been studied and researched in science and philosophy for thousands of years and has become one of the major topics of interests in cognitive psychology. Simply put, memory is the mental activity which refers to the processes used to obtain, store, retain and retrieve information that one may have learnt or experienced. However, such a simple statement covers a complex process.  Scientists still do not fully understand how the human memory works but they have carried out many memory tests on humans and animals and studies of brain damage has provided some insight into the memory processes.

In the brain, there is no single place where a person can think, remember and learn. These processes are spread out among many different parts of the brain, especially the ‘grey matter’ of the cerebral cortex; the outer layer of the cerebrum (See figure 1.0), which receives messages from the senses, does most of the thinking and stores the memories of facts and events.  The hippocampus plays the single largest role in processing information gathered as memory while the amygdale helps imprint memories that include emotions. Although a memory begins with perception, it is encoded and stored using electricity and chemicals. There are billions of neurons in the brain, each one capable of connecting with over 1000 others. Each time the brain receives new information, the brain creates a new pathway of nerve connections called a memory trace. (See figure 1.2) As the connections break down due to lack of use causing a person to ‘forget’ certain information.  

Join now!

The memory system

Memory is considered to be a three-part system that consists of: sensory memory, short term memory and long term memory.  Sensory memory is the earliest stage of memory where new information can only last for about three-tenths of a second. It refers to what is seen, heard and felt in the present and allows perceptions such as visual patterns, sounds or touches to linger for a brief moment after the stimulation is over.  If this information is not selected ...

This is a preview of the whole essay