What is Memory?
Memory is an important part of who we are. From recollecting childhood memories to remembering your grocery list, memory is important in all aspects of our lives. It is defined as the ability to acquire, store, retain, and retrieve information. Various parts of the brain are involved in the complex process of memory.
Memory is not perfect. Memory declines with age. People may sometimes have problems with remembering things or are forgetful at times. There are also certain medical conditions like dementia that can cause problems with memory and lead to memory loss.
There are three major processes involved in memory, namely encoding, storage, and retrieval. Based on what you’ve learned or experienced, the human memory stores the information. This information can be recovered whenever needed.
Types of Memory
Broadly, memory is classified into sensory, short-term, and long-term memory.
Also called working memory, this is brief storage of information. It lasts for lesser than a second for visual information and a few seconds for auditory information. Sensory information is taken in by the sensory receptors processed by the nervous system and stored very briefly till it's passed onto short-term memory.
When you hold a sparkler, which is a handheld firework, and move it in different patterns, your eyes move along the trail of light. This is an example of sensory memory.
Also known as primary or active memory, it is the information that we are thinking about at present. This lasts for about 20-30 seconds. Short-term memory can be quickly forgotten. From this stage, information is transferred to long-term memory.
When you need to remember a phone number someone just told you or a grocery list, you use your short-term memory.
Long-term memory involves the storage of information for a continuous period of time. Some long-term memories can be recalled easily, while others take longer to remember.
Long-term memory involves recollecting past events, some events that happened years ago. Remembering how to ride a bike or swim requires long-term memory.
Interesting Facts About Memory
Also called Lethologica, this is the inability to remember the right word. This problem occurs when you feel like you have the answer to a question at the tip of your tongue, but you can't remember it.
Smell is a powerful memory trigger. The ability to smell is linked to memory. The olfactory nerve is located close to the hippocampus and the amygdala, the region of the brain responsible for emotion and emotional memory.
Importance of Memory
A good memory can be a great asset and can help in daily life, in school, or at work. Apart from playing a role in your daily life, memories are also important for your personal life. Your memories and experience can define you as a person. Long-term memories can lead to nostalgia, which is a warm, emotional feeling you have when you come across something familiar.
Memory and learning have a symbiotic relationship. Memory is needed for learning, but through learning, information is stored in one's memory.
Memory also helps you focus. In today's world, there is a lot of technology that tends to distract you. Recalling past events through memory can help you focus and be more disciplined.
Everyday events of life influence one's memory power. Genetics also plays a role in your memory power.
Genetics and Memory
Research shows that genes also play a role in influencing your memory. Genetics can be responsible for some of the differences in memory between individuals. Genetics influence educational attainment, emotional memory, and memory performance.
People with certain genetic types are more likely to have better memory and may exhibit characteristics such as rapid recall of events, be better at remembering names, and more adept at learning new skills/language.
The KIBRA Gene
The KIBRA gene carries instructions for the production of kidney and brain expressed protein. This protein is also called WW domain-containing protein 1. Research shows that changes in this gene are linked to memory performance.
rs17070145 is a single nucleotide polymorphism or an SNP in the KIBRA gene. People with the T allele of this SNP are found to have better free recall performance and improved episodic memory, a type of long-term memory compared to those with the CC genotype.
The CLSTN2 Gene
The CLSTN2 gene carries instructions for the production of a protein called Calsyntenin 2. Studies show that changes in this gene are linked to memory performance.
rs6439886 is an SNP in the CLSTN2 gene. People with the T allele were found to have better memory performance.
Non-Genetic Factors That Influence Memory
Memory declines with age.
Getting too little sleep or too much sleep can affect your memory power. An adequate amount of sleep is needed to maintain memory.
Stress can affect your memory power. Stress can create problems with short-term memory and retrieving long-term memories. Depression can lead to confusion and memory loss. Anxiety also affects memory power.
Thyroid hormones regulate metabolism, which affects your memory. An underactive thyroid can affect your memory span and ability to concentrate. It can lead to forgetfulness. Hyperthyroidism also affects memory and can lead to confusion.
Vitamin B12 deficiency
Some studies show that Vitamin B12 deficiency affects memory power.
Heavy alcohol use can result in memory lapses. You may find it difficult to recollect certain events or the entire night. People with alcohol use disorder may have short-term or long-term memory loss.
Certain medications, including antidepressants, antihistamines, anti-anxiety medication, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and pain medication, can lead to memory loss and confusion.
Here are some ways to improve your memory.
- Taking note of things or writing them down helps you retain information better.
- Try to remember long lists using mnemonics like abbreviations, acronyms, or even songs and rhymes.
- Getting sufficient sleep is important for maintaining memory power.
- Try to avoid consuming large amounts of alcohol as it can lead to memory problems in the long run.
- Brain training can improve working and short-term memory. Mental workouts may improve memory.
- Regular physical exercise can reduce the risk of cognitive decline with age.
- Studies show that mindfulness meditation can improve brain function and memory.
- Sugary foods, a high-calorie diet, and refined carbs may create problems with memory. Low levels of vitamin D can also cause problems with cognitive function. A balanced diet, including anti-inflammatory foods, fruits, and vegetables, can help maintain memory.
- Memory is defined as the ability to acquire, store, retain, and retrieve information. It is an important part of who we are.
- A good memory can be a great asset and can help in daily life, in school, or at work.
- Various parts of the brain are involved in the complex process of memory. There are three major processes involved in memory, namely encoding, storage, and retrieval.
- Memory is broadly classified into sensory, short-term, and long-term memory.
- Many genes involved in learning and memory have been discovered in Drosophila, a species of flies, commonly used in genetic experiments.
- KIBRA and CLSTN2 genes have been studied to play a role in differences in memory power among different individuals.
- Memory declines with age. Other factors that affect memory include sleep, alcohol, certain medication, mental health, vitamin B12, and thyroid hormones.
- The ability to smell is linked to memory. Smell is found to be a powerful memory trigger.
- There are several ways by which you can maintain or improve your memory power. These include a balanced diet, meditation, lower alcohol consumption, and brain training.