Topic: The Human Memory Thesis: Does the Formation of Memory change with Age? What is Memory? What does a Memory do? How does the Memory work? What types of memory are there? Are there...

Topic: The Human Memory

Thesis: Does the Formation of Memory change with Age?

  1. What is Memory?
  2. What does a Memory do?
  3. How does the Memory work?
  4. What types of memory are there?
  5. Are there specific parts of the brain targeted in memory?
  6. Does memory fade as we get older?
  7. What happens when someone has a memory loss?
Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

1. Memory is essential to meaningful life; it is the capacity to store, retain, organize, and recall information from past experiences and learning that is essential to one's ability to operate as a cognizant being.
2. Memory makes learning possible; it assists in recognition and recall. Memory is also a function of a culture as the recollection of past actions, ideas, beliefs, etc. form a collective memory by which social groups perpetuate themselves through transmission of memories to future generations. Further, 

This ability of humans to call on past memories in order to imagine the future and to plan future courses of action is a hugely advantageous attribute in... survival and development as a species.

3. There are three essential processes of memory:

  • Encoding - This is a biological occurrence that starts through the senses. When an individual's attention is stimulated by means of the frontal lobe and the thalamus, neurons begin to fire which increase the likelihood of the experience being converted into a memory. There are four kinds of encoding: visual, acoustical, tactile, and semantic. []
  • Storage - This is the process of retaining information. Information can be stored in the short-term memory, long-term memory, or sensory memory. It is conjectured that the same memory can be stored multiple times in case retrieval from one area is not functioning[]
  • Retrieval - This is the recalling or recovery of the memory once it is stored. It is the re-accessing or remembering of knowledge stored.

4. In 1968 Atkinson and Shiffrin created a theory that there are 3 stages of memory:

  • Sensory memory - Information obtained by the senses is usually stored for only a short period.
  • Short-term memory - Part of the conscious mind, this memory is also named "active memory," If it is held longer, it transmutes into the long-term memory
  • Long-term memory - This is the continuing stage of memory. While it is largely outside the perimeters of awareness of the conscious mind, it can be recalled when needed, although some memories are harder than others to recall, especially if they have been repressed because of psychological trauma. 

5. The cerebellum is the main part of the brain targeted in memory as it is involved in the cognitive functions of attention, language, emotions, and the procedural memories. 

These procedural memories are also called implicit memory. This type of memory includes unconscious memory of skills and how carry out automatically certain skills. Also involved with the storing and encoding of procedural memories are the putamen, candate nucleus, motor cortex.

Explicit memories, also known as declarative memories are encoded by the medial temporal lobe, but are stored in the temporal cortex, among other locations in the brain. The medial temperal lobe is composed of the hippocampus, the entorhinal cortex, and the perirhinal cortex. []

6. Memory can "fade" in older age as neurons do not fire as much and nerve tracks in the brain shrivel. Also significant is diminished blood flow as blood vessels become clogged by fats and cholesterol. Mini-strokes can also occur which cause cumulative damage. Also free-radicals in the environment can block oxygen to the brain. 

7. When someone has a memory loss, he or she can remember things from long ago, but is inclear or baffled as to what has just occurred or about something read yesterday. This loss can be due to biological causes, or as a result of injury. Alcohol or drug abuse, lack of oxygen to the brain, brain trauma--all these can effect memory loss.

 Short-term memory is primarily takes place in the frontal lobe of the cerebral context. Then the information makes a stopover in the hippocampus and is then transferred to the areas of the cerebral cortex involved in language and perception for permanent storage.