According to surveys conducted at the fall of 2007 – we give little to no credit to our current memory capacity, which seems to be gradually deteriorating (As stated by more than 58%). Most people believe this collective memory decrement stems from technological memory replacements: cell phones, palms, laptops and other hi-tech gadgetry.
A large body of research gathered throughout the past 3 years show that this may very well be the case. As technology usage increases, we become less and less dependant on our biological memory, gradually causing our memory to deteriorate. The brain thrives when used repeatedly. Not using it enough can cause a profound decrement in our cognitive abilities overall: Memory impairment, decrease in verbal fluency, decrease in thinking speed and many other mental skills.
The Memory is a neural activity, involving many different areas and processes inside the brain. Memory is often described as “a process of data retention in which our experiences are stored, sorted and later recovered by will”.
Neurologists divide memory into long-term and short-term memory, or “working” memory. Short-term memory, or STM, is the brain’s mechanism for remembering information “in use”. Most people can only hold five to nine items in their short-term memory at once. STM works like this: First, “the brain’s cerebral cortex receives nerve messages from eyes, ears, and touch sensors. This sensory stimulus is held for a fraction of a second in the sensory memory. Unless an effort is made to encode the stimulus into STM, it will be lost and gone. Shortly after the memory is stored two things can happen to the information: either further processed as long-term memory or lost (forgotten).
Long Term Memory
Long-term memory, or LTM, is a component of our memory storage mechanism that has infinite capacity to retain data, as long as sufficient amounts of time are given for neurological assimilation. At least three different types of memory are included in what we call “LTM”:
Procedural memory represents motor or skill learning which is memory without verbal mediation and thus without record. It includes learning how to ride a bicycle or tool usage. Such memories are slow to acquire but very resistant to change.
Declarative memory is the memory for facts, such as names or dates. It is fairly unstable since the information activates the receptors (within the synapse) without being retained via LTP process.
Remote memory Refers to memories that were acquired early in life. They represent the infrastructure upon which newer memories are linked and stored. This type of memory is considered to be relatively stable.
Both STM and LTM are composed of three processes: encoding, storage, and retrieval. These processes take place in various areas of the brain.
Scientists now know that the hippocampus is involved in the process of long-term memory. Research implies that every single memory can be broken down into several elements and stored in many locations at once. They seem to be stored through circuitry. In addition, different kinds of memories are stored in different areas: Reflexive memory is a product of the cerebellum and amygdala; formative memory is produced by the hippocampus and thr temporal lobes.
The Prefrontal Cortex
The prefrontal cortex, located in the forehead area of the brain, is heavily involved in working memory (STM). Experiments using PET scans and fMRI show that the prefrontal cortex is consistently active when specific data is being processed.
Short-term memory is believed to be formed by brief changes in synaptic transmissions, or by reverberating feedback circuit, where a memory is held electrically within a loop. Long term memory, is encoded by plastic changes in existing synapses, a process also called “Long Term Potentiation”, or LTP.