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How does memory work?

It's often easy to describe the brain as a "warehouse" or a "bank" that holds our most personal memories and experiences.

With those examples, people can try to envision what the memory process looks like. Slipping a file into the folder and closing the door. Or a massive turning bank lock twisting shut to store our memories safely. While the visual depiction is an excellent way for us to connect with how we believe our memories are stored - how we remember is more complicated than that.

How do we remember things? 

When we make memories, our brain sends signals in a particular pattern associated with the event we're experiencing. The brain simultaneously creates connections between our neurons, called synapses. Once these synapses are formed, the brain separates our memory retrieval and storage in different ways. These memories are processed and cataloged into either working, short-term or long-term memories. The mind creates new synapses and connections that can be recalled as long as they remain in use. 

However, making memories is more than just synapses and functions of our brains. Memories are essential to our daily lives. Memory enables us to improve our behavior, and it also provides context to our environment. The process of making a memory, such as the first time your daughter rode her bike without training wheels or where you last put your car keys, is a series of highly complicated steps orchestrated by our brains. Our brains filter everything you see, smell, taste, and experience into various categories such as working memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory. 

black and white photo of a family

Working memory

Working memory is an aspect of memory used as the framework of structures and processes for temporary storage and manipulating the information you take in. While often used interchangeably with short-term memory, the two are different concepts that often overlap. The primary difference between short-term and working memory is that working memory is a pattern, state of mind, or a process of the brain. Short term memory is an actual thing that works to help categorize and record memories for a specific duration. For example, working memory helps you understand and improve memory through adjusting and determining your ability to read, reason, and understand complex issues. Short term memory utilizes a set of steps that help assist with the capturing and categorizing of memories over specific time periods. 

Short-term memory

As its name suggests, short-term memory stays with us for a short amount of time. Short-term memory can last from 20 to 30 seconds to as long as a couple of days. The short-term memory bank has a limited "storage" area, and the brain needs to either eliminate the information or move it to a more permanent location. Examples of short-term memory can be what you had for lunch yesterday, where you parked your car this morning, or remembering details from a magazine you read a few days ago. These memories are often here today, gone tomorrow. When short-term memories are deemed essential or vital, they are transferred into long-term memory, where they stay stored and ready for retrieval for more extended periods.

Long-term memory

When long-term memories form, the Hippocampus retrieves information from the short-term memory warehouse and changes the brain's physical neural wiring. Long-term memory holds memories that range from a few days to many decades. Long-term memory capacity could be unlimited, but the primary constraint of long-term memory is accessibility rather than availability. These memories are more complicated than short-term memories and are further categorized depending on what type of memories they contain. The criteria for long-term memory is how often they are recalled, used, and the kind of information they carry. Since long-term memories can be vast, they are typically divided into explicit and implicit memories.

Explicit memory

Explicit memory refers to any memory or information that can be consciously recalled. Types of explicit memories include memories that can happen in a person's life, such as knowing the time, place, or details of events. Examples include your last vacation, a well-documented family reunion, or other events specific to you. Explicit memory also stores factual information such as the meaning of words or general knowledge of things. An example of this would know that the capital of Michigan is Lansing or that the sky is blue.

Implicit memory

Implicit memory refers to the movement of your body when it uses objects. Examples of implicit memory would be the knowledge of how to swim, ride, or drive a car. These are all examples learned and stored within the long-term memory warehouse and pulled up when they are ready to be used. 

How we can always remember

When we recall a memory, multiple parts of our brain rapidly talk to each other. From the Hippocampus that retrieves memories to various regions within the brain's cortex that complete high-level information processing, the brain is continually coordinating and adjusting for new and old memories. However, this process can be disrupted during memory formation, creating a lack of memory and forgetfulness. How do we remember things if our brain begins to become disrupted, and we become forgetful? While there are ways to improve memory, you should try to keep a digital or paper record of as many events you can, well before your memory wanes.

When you share your memories elsewhere, you not only have an opportunity to preserve your memories, but you also create a space you can use to share your experiences with others. Using the Rosy Go app and Rosy Home console makes saving and sharing your memories easy and convenient. With Rosy Go, you can upload and recall pictures, all from one location. These programs also work together to provide a completely private and secure space where you can upload, edit, save, and share your memories. Not only can you search for images and documents within the search feature, but you can view photos, videos, and audio files with the touch of a button. 

While our brains work hard to make memories, we sometimes have to lend a helping hand and make sure that our memories can be preserved and shared for generations to come. With Rosy Go and Rosy Home, you can do just that! 

 

For more information on how to keep your memory sharp with Rosy Go and Rosy Home, join our waitlist.