Many researches have shown that our memory can be strengthen with mind stimulating activities. When people grow old, the memory fades, because of the weakening of the brain functions, but we can prolong this fading by slowing it down. Preventive mind activities are useful in mild and moderate stage of dementia.
Different memories are stored in different part of our brain in a specific system. Different kind of memories are described below with an example of tea drinking.
- long-term episodic memory: memories can evoke the memory of the taste, shape of the cup, warmth of the tea. All these memories can evoke the desire of drinking tea.
- long-term semantic memory: in this memory there’s everything we know about tea: name of the tea, health benefits, how the plant looks like, etc.
- long-term implicit-procedural memory: in this memory there are stored our motoric functions, that allow us to follow through the entire process of making tea: take the teapot, put it on the stove, prepare the cup, pour the tea into the cup and drink it. This memory is also responsible for language recognition, sound recognition, word combinations, …
- short-term memory, working memory, attention span and concentration help us through our process; it helps us to know if we have already put the sugar in the tea or not.
Before we store the information in our memory, our body (senses) serves as a door to open the path to our brain. The information is accepted in a form of stimuli. Stimuli can be versatile; it can be a picture, that we see, it can be music, that we hear, it can be a warm offered hand that we feel. It can also be a phone number, that we just heard, it can be smell of the rain or the taste of chocolate cake. Stimuli are also notifications that we collect through the media, newspapers, or tv programmes. All of this is accepted by our sensory system. This system chooses, selections and gathers stimuli that are later on pushed through and saved into our memory system.
For this all to happen, we also need our attention span. If the attention span wouldn’t be present we would have too many information in our brain and it would cause chaos. Attention span therefore serves as a filter to collect only useful information.
Short-term memory has limited space of withholding information that are later transferred into more permanent memory. At the same time, it has limited capacity of information recalling.
The next step is that stimuli enters into short-term memory. With short-term memory we withhold the information for a short period of time. This memory differs from the attention, but at the same time it means direct and wider attention span. Example: our neighbour tells his phone number and we repeat it in our head, because we are nowhere near pen and paper. Short-term memory has limited space of process information. Our body activates different area of the brain, regarding on which stimuli we are dealing with (location, space, shape, colour, name, object). Usually we can hold up to 7 units (minus, plus 2 units) of information. This is how much our mind is capable of processing. If the phone numbers were 20 digits long, we would have had a big problem remembering them.
Example: when we solve math equations, we leave a part of the problem in our working memory because we have to use some information to solve the problem. But when we are dealing with remembering the phone number, we later on transfer it into visual or auditory notion, so we can keep it in our memory and save it into our long-term memory.
Short-term memory is prone to forgetting, because the information can overlap and are not related, or they are insufficient. If we put some meaning to the information, or we use it, it has a better chance of getting into the long-term memory. We know that gained knowledge can be forgotten if we do not use it. But if we learn something and we use if often, the chances of forgetting are low.
Long-term memory is our library, that does not only contain knowledge, but also gives us the tools so we can do things that we once learned and can now do automatically.
For example: driving the car, brushing teeth, unscrew the bottle cork. These are all the learned skills, that we use in our private lives, on our workplace, hobbies. Long-term memory also means studying. When we study, we find new information, new skills, new data. We are able to learn them, when our brain is able to keep these information for a longer period of time. Process of saving this information can happen very fast or can happen slow, with repetition and over a certain period of time, if we repeat it enough. Sometimes it can happen without any activity, only with thinking or even subconscious.
The important function of working memory is recalling and recognition of the information. This is the basic element of recalling the information, so we can upgrade our knowledge.