Think for a moment about your favorite family trip. Where did you go? Who did you go with? What did you do when you got there? You can recall these details thanks to your brain and something called memory. Memory is how your brain stores and remembers information. This includes a variety of information ranging from what you experienced during your favorite vacation to what you learned in school today.
Types of Memory
You have two main types of memory. The first is called short-term memory. Short-term memory lasts about 15 to 30 seconds and it is made of the information you’re currently using or working with. For example, short term memory is processing the information you’re reading right now. Short-term memory only lasts for a brief moment and then is forgotten unless it can be turned into the second type of memory, long-term memory.
Long-term memory is the type of memory that is stored for long periods of time. Memories of your favorite family trip, a friend’s birthday party, and the details of your favorite book all qualify as long-term memories. Whenever you learn something new or experience something you want to remember, you want to turn it into a long-term memory so that it gets stored and can be recalled later. So how are these long-term memories made?
How Memories Are Made
While scientists don’t know all the details of how memories are made, they know the basics. To make a memory, your brain processes information through a part of your brain called the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the part of your brain responsible for emotion, memory, and a division of the nervous system known as the autonomic nervous system. Once information enters the hippocampus it forms new memories by creating new synapses through a process called encoding. Synapses connect different nerve cells (also known as neurons) and allow signals to pass between these neurons. Once a memory has been formed, it is stored throughout the brain where it can later be retrieved and remembered.
However, you might be wondering why you can’t seem to remember everything you’ve ever learned or experienced. Scientists aren’t completely sure why people forget things or why some experiences are never turned into lasting memories, but they do have a few theories. One idea is that the hippocampus sorts through information and experiences and prioritizes what is most important to remember. Experiences that have a strong emotional connection or information that is repeated is more likely to be encoded and stored than other information. This is why studying helps you recall what you’ve learned in class.
Triggers for Memory
At times it can be difficult to remember something that you have previously learned or experienced; however, triggers from when that memory was made, such as the sights, sounds, and smells from when you had that experience, can help you better recall a specific memory. This is true for studying as well. Try diffusing an essential oil such as InTune® or doTERRA Motivate® while you study, take a test, or work on an assignment.
As you can see, memory is a fascinating, complex process that happens in your brain. Memory is responsible for recalling how to walk, read, write, and ride a bike. Memory also stores your past experiences and helps you recall your favorite food, vacation, and color. Memory is an important part of life and knowing how your memory works can help you strengthen and improve it.