|Human memory is the result of an incredibly complex constructive power, which each of us possesses / Photo by Roman Legoshyn via 123RF|
Memories hold some of the greatest and worst experiences people have in their lives. In this way, we remember the events, people, feelings, and places that happened during the course of our lives. Essentially, memories help make us who we are and indeed, play an important role even in the smallest things. They contain everything that we have learned and the lessons we have acquired in our lives.
Most of the time, the memories we have are associated with emotions, such as disgust, fear, agony, anger, nostalgia, and many more. However, have we realized or even thought about how our memories work? Or why do we tend to forget some details in our lives and remember only a few?
According to an article by the National Geographic, humans retain various types of memories for different lengths of time. Thus, human memory is indeed a complex, brain-wide process that is important to understand. The more you know about your memory, the better you'll understand how you can improve it.
Over the past decades, a lot of scientists and researchers have described memory as a sort of tiny filing cabinet full of individual memory folders. Memory is also described similar to a neural supercomputer located under the human scalp. However, researchers now believe that it is complex and elusive and it is not only working within one particular place in the brain. Instead, it is a brain-wide process. It is important that we understand how our memory works so we are aware of how we can greatly manage it.
How Memories Are Formed
Human memory is the result of an incredibly complex constructive power, which each of us possesses. Our brain gathers disparate memory impressions from a web-like pattern of cells scattered and formed to create a particular memory. It is made up of a group of systems in our brain that plays an integral role in creating, storing, and remembering. All of these various systems work together when the brain processes information to provide cohesive thought.
According to an article by the Very Well Mind, an individual's hippocampus plays an important role in memory. It is a horse-shoe shaped area of the brain that's involved in complex brain processes, such as creating, storing, and retaining memories. It is essential in gathering information from short-term memory into becoming a long-term memory. It is also part of a system that is linked with a person's emotions and long-term memories called the limbic system.
The hippocampus is located on both sides of our brains, which is why it is extremely important. Damaging it can affect a person's ability to create new memories that is known as anterograde amnesia. According to an article by the How Stuff Works, although processing a single memory seems easy for us, it is actually a complex construction. For instance, an image of an object is actively constructed by the brain from various areas. The process of memory begins with encoding and then proceeds to organization and storage. The final step would be retrieval.
|It is believed that memory creation is connected with the growth of new connections between neurons / Photo by Dean Drobot via 123RF|
Additionally, studies have shown that changes in brain neurons are linked with the formation of memories. It is also believed that memory creation is connected with the growth of new connections between neurons. Synapses, the connections between nerve cells, allow information to travel from one neuron to the next. The reasons behind how humans can feel, think, and behave are the trillions of synapses that form a flexible and complex network.
In a study related to this that was conducted by researchers from the New York School of Medicine, lead author Wen-Biao Gan explained: "Our idea was that you actually don't need to make many new synapses and get rid of old ones when you learn, memorize. You just need to modify the strength of the preexisting synapses for short-term learning and memory. However, it's likely that few synapses are made or eliminated to achieve long-term memory."
How Our Brain Makes Stronger Memories
A recent study conducted by a team of scientists at NeuroElectronics Research Flanders showed that stronger memories are the result of highly demanding and rewarding experiences in people's lives. According to an article by the Science Daily, the researchers used rats in their experiment to understand how human memory works. They looked back to the mechanism behind this selective memory enhancement to so-called replay processes in the memory-processing center of the brain called hippocampus.
During the experiment where they used trained rats, the researchers found out that the animals tend to remember the locations where they find a larger amount of food. Aside from that, it has been shown that this reward-related effect on memory was strongest when there's a required more complex memory formation.
The findings of the study showed new insights into humans' memory consolidation. According to the researchers, stronger memories usually happen when the said memories are enhanced. For instance, life experiences that are fulfilling or satisfying tend to be remembered more than the other ones. Prof. Fabian Kloosterman, one of the authors of the research, said, "One of the ways in which our brains consolidate memories is by mentally reliving the experience. In biological terms, this boils down to the reactivation or replay of the neuronal activity patterns associated with certain experience. This replay occurs in hippocampal-cortical brain networks during rest or sleep."