Understanding Memory

Understand Memory More Carefully

There are a number of different processes and levels of understanding when we talk about memory. We don’t simply mean the recollection of childhood events, or how to find our way around. Here we’ll explore these different kinds of memory, and our understanding of them.

Sensory Memory

Sensory memory is remembering how something looks and being able to describe it, even after just a fleeting glance, or recalling a sound. These kinds of memories are often short lasting and are an automatic function that we have very little control over.

Immediate Memory

Similar to sensory memory our immediate memory is a very brief window of recollection – repeating a sound within a few seconds, for example.

Short term Memory

Short term memory is a longer period – usually up to a minute – in which we retain information, for example making a note of a phone number you’ve been told, or an appointment time. The ‘magical seven’ is a reference to George Miller’s investigations into short term memory, wherein most people can store up to seven pieces of information short term before becoming confused. Short term memory can be improved by grouping information into patterns.

Long term memory.

Long term memory can be retained for an entire lifetime, and is apparently limitless. Our capacity for remembering events, dates, details and directions, facts and figures, is enormous and fascinating.

The processing of information from short term to long term memory comes from repetition, semantic encoding within the brain, connecting various stimuli and associating factors and a conscious desire to retain information. For example, making note of a phone number for a business call means you don’t retain that information once you’ve written it down – but we can remember our own phone number, because the information is more important thus we consciously store the information in our long term memory.

understanding memoryUnderstanding Memory Loss

Memory loss can be caused by a huge range of factors and incidents. As well as the natural decrease in cognitive ability that comes with age there are outside factors, from illness to injury, stress to depression, vitamin deficiency to side effects of medication, that might cause memory loss.

If you are experiencing memory loss, or are concerned about a loved one or family member who is struggling, it’s common to be concerned and worried, but often the cause – and thus the remedy – is simple to identify.

If medication is the cause then a change in dose or switching to a different drug can show results very quickly in improving memory again.

If the cause is stress, anxiety, sleep deprivation or depression then speaking with a professional about ways to deal with these issues and their cause can mean rapid improvements, or adjusting the medications that aid these symptoms.

If you have ruled out the more common causes of memory loss but are still experiencing problems there are tests and screenings that can look into other causes, such as Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia.

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