Memory is essential daily living. It is necessary for all new learning. Forgetting keys or misplacing a paper can set of alarm bells. Is this the first sign of Alzheimer's or general memory loss?
Knowledge is power. It can also be reassuring. My aim is to give each reader the best and latest scientific information. But first you will want to understand some basic terminology that
is used in this field.
Neuroscientists and neurologists These are key figures in the field and it is important to understand what each does. Neuroscientists do laboratory research. Neurologists are the medical doctors who deal with living patients. Both groups contribute to our knowledge.
Ordianry vs Vital Memory
There are a number of ways for classifying Memory
- Ordinary vs Vital Vernon H. Mark, M.D. is a neurologist who often treats people who have difficulty remembering. At the opening of his book Reversing Memory Loss he says that that many get concerned about the Ordinary type - where they put their keys, their glasses or an ad from the newspaper. But Dr. Mark says that this type of forgetting is not so important.
What is really important is forgetting how to do things that are involved in every day living: how to dress in the morning, how to fix lunch or even the fact that you ate lunch. Such forgetfulness shows a loss in VITAL Memory and such losses makes the ordinary tasks of daily life difficult or impossible.
Dr. Mark's work is devoted to helping those who are losing this VITAL form and what can be done to reverse such losses. See: Regaining losses
- Neurologists and Neuroscientists add three other scientific classifications: Sensory, short term and long term memory.
Sensory is the term scientists use for what we remember after only a second of exposure to some stimuli. Experimental scientists study this form. They flash images on a screen or give a brief exposure to audio stimuli and then ask subjects to say what they saw or heard. Other experiments ask subjects to press a button each time they see or hear a specific stimuli during a presentation. Researchers are interested in how much the mind can take in during just a second of exposure.
Short term is the name given to what we can remember in after 2- 60 seconds of exposure. Some of what we notice in the sensory stage (explained above) can be transferred into our short term capacity.
A quick test of your short term auditory capacity would be to ask someone to tell you a phone number and then see if you can dial it correctly without writing it down.
You can get a sense of your short term visual ability by looking up a number in the phone book and then immediately dialing it or writing it down correctly withoutconsulting the original as you do this.
It is possible to improve through practice. For example, after a car accident in which I sustained a traumatic brain injury, I found that I could not remember more than 2 numbers at a time when I wanted to process the credit card number of a customer. I could only type in two numbers at a time when I wanted to process a charge. But I kept practicing and practicing this skill. After about a year, I could remember 4 numbers at a time. Then after about 2 years I found that I was able to do 8 numbers if I 'clumped' them in groups of 4. Practice does work
with short term memory.
Long term is the name given to our ability to remember things for longer periods of time. For example, if you lived in a house with repeated plumbing problems and you were calling the plumber every few weeks for a year, you might not have to keep looking up the number. You just remember it.
Repetition is one of the main keys to your long term capacity to remember. (Did you sing the ABC's or say multiplication tables as a child?) Another key is the emotional intensity of an impression. Many people remember winning an important game years after the event or the birth of their first child or... Of course emotional intensity can work both ways. Sometimes we can repress or forget traumatic memories.
Remembering is a complex subject.....
- Working memory - is a term that is often used to designate the things that we remember and can use without 'looking them up'. When you start a new job or learn a new technology or a language, you need to build up a working knowledge so that you do not have to keep looking things up or asking someone. When you are experienced you just recall and use things as you need them.
Example: When you first learned the computer, it took you a bit of time and repetition before you could to turn it on, open your browser, find book marks etc. Over time all this became part of your working or functional memory and you no longer need to explicitly recall each step as you do it. (This is why businesses look for experienced workers. They want people ready from the 'get-go'.).
If you want to read more:
Here are some articles that you may find useful:
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