Memory is one of the brain functions that makes us human, as it allows us to store, encode and retrieve information from the past, in order to promote a persistence of learning throughout the individual’s (and society’s) life..
Although various informative portals report on the powerful memory of elephants, fish, dogs, dolphins, bees and many other animals, none of these brain functions has been subjected to such extensive scrutiny as that of humans, since we hominids have the most complex brain structure in the entire evolutionary scale.
Dive with us into this exciting world of memories and neurobiology, because with more than 86 billion brain neurons and 100 billion synapses brain neurons and 100 billion synapses between them, we hold the banner of cultural persistence over the centuries thanks to memory.
What is memory?
According to the Real Academia Española de la Lengua (RAE), memory is defined as the psychic faculty by means of which the past is retained and remembered.. Certain theories claim that memory is produced as a result of repetitive synaptic connections between neurons, which creates neural networks. Surprising as it may seem, this hypothesis has been tested in multiple animal groups throughout history, but not enough in humans (for obvious ethical reasons).
Memory is not a “thing”, nor a warehouse, a library or a camera: it is a faculty that is preserved, trained and elaborated throughout the life of the individual. From a philosophical point of view, we are dealing with an essential tool for life, since it allows us to “be”, “be” and configure the relevant responses based on our feelings and past experiences.
- You may be interested in: “What are mirror neurons and what are they for?”
As a final note regarding the definition of memory, we should point out that there are three stages that allow us to remember. We will tell you about them briefly:
- EncodingTransformation of what we feel or receive as stimuli into a mental representation. It depends largely on attention and concentration.
- StorageRetaining data in memory for later use. This storage can be from a few seconds to a lifetime.
- Retrieval: localization and reactivation of the stored memory. Something like “going to the memories”.
Memory is based on these three pillars and, thanks to it, we know who we are as individual entities and we move towards a more sophisticated society, because every grain of sand placed in the past is part of the beach of knowledge that we keep today.
How do we classify the ways of memorizing?
Once we have defined the term memory and its bases, it is time to dive, without further ado, into the 6 types of memory. We will divide them into three large blocks, depending on whether they occur in the short or long term. Let’s get down to it.
Sensory memory is the ability to register sensations perceived through the senses. It is characterized by processing a large amount of information at once, but for a very short time, approximately 250 milliseconds. There are several types within this category.
1.1 Iconic memory
The sensory memory record related to the sense of sight. In this type, visual information is stored for about for approximately one third of a second and only those elements to which the individual pays attention are selected and fixed.
1.2 Echoic memory
This type of memory is responsible for retaining stimuli perceived by the auditory system. Auditory information is stored for 3-4 seconds The auditory information is stored for 3-4 seconds and the sound image remains active in the mind during this interval, which is why the individual can reproduce it.
1.3 Haptic memory
This concept works with tactile information and, therefore, with common sensations such as pain, painlessness, pain, pain, pain, pain, pain, pain, pain, pain, pain, pain, pain common sensations such as pain, tingling, heat, itching or vibration.. In this case the information is stored for a little longer (about 8 seconds) and allows us to examine objects by touch and interact with them.
It is interesting to raise the dilemma of the rest of the senses, since certain informative portals place the gustatory and olfactory memory as subtypes of sensory memory, but others do not take them into account. We are dealing with two senses that are much less developed in humans than in other living beings and, therefore, to categorize these last two types of memory at the same level as echoic or iconic memory would be strange, to say the least.
2. Short-term memory
Short-term memory (STM) can be defined as the memory mechanism that allows us to retain a limited amount of information for a short period of time. It is estimated that the amount of information that can be retained in this interval is 7 items (2 up or down). for a maximum of about 30 seconds.
We can perceive short-term memory as a gateway to long-term memory or, alternatively, as a “store” that allows the individual to retain information that is relevant at a specific moment, but that he/she will not need to use in the future.
3. Long-term memory
Long-term memory is the concept with which we humans are most familiar, as it is the one that allows us to consciously remember the elements of the past that encode our actions, thoughts and feelings. Unlike short-term memory, this variant can hold an indefinite amount of information. can hold an indefinite amount of information for an unlimited time (until the individual dies). (until the individual dies), at least theoretically speaking.
It’s time to hold on to your seat, because there are curves ahead. Within this category we find a complex typology that is a little more extensive than what has been presented so far. We will try to summarize it in a few lines.
3.1 Explicit (declarative) Memory
Explicit memory is the one that comes into play when the individual wants to remember something intentionally, i.e., the facts are evoked consciously and voluntarily, the facts are evoked consciously and voluntarily.. The clearest example is that of a student remembering the subject for an exam, but the truth is that human beings use declarative memory continuously: that appointment with the doctor, remembering the WiFi password, not forgetting to take a pill and many other examples are cases of the implementation of explicit memory.
It should be noted that within this category, memory can be semantic (remembering concepts that are not linked to concrete experiences, such as dates, numbers or names) and episodic (recalling events, moments or autobiographical, i.e. that the individual has lived).
3.2 Implicit memory (non-declarative or procedural)
Procedural memory is that which, as its name suggests, stores information related to procedures and strategies that allow us to interact with the environment around us in a consistent manner. In other words, it is the type that participates in remembering the motor and executive skills necessary to perform a task.
According to experts, this type of memory does not require conscious effort (as is remembering a date) and learning is acquired gradually, through the execution of the task being learned and a feedback process. The speed of execution of the task, as the Law of Practice dictates, undergoes an exponential increase during the first few repetitions. It is as simple as stating that the more we do something, the faster we get at it.
It should be noted that this series of motor repertoires or cognitive strategies are unconscious, i.e., we develop and implement them without realizing it. Textbook” examples of implicit memory can be writing, riding a bicycle or driving: we are not thinking about the most efficient way to perform these events or remembering what were the steps to carry them out, as we simply do them “without thinking”.
As we have seen in these lines, the world of memory is full of terms, considerations and temporal intervals. From iconic memory (which lasts no more than a third of a second) to implicit memory (which can accompany us all our lives), there is a range of types with their clear characteristics and functionalities.
Unfortunately, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that as many as 8% of the population over the age of 18 years has a memory impairment. 8% of the population over the age of 60 will suffer from dementia during their lifetime.In other words, you will forget a large part of everything stored in your life history. Let us dedicate these last lines to appreciate the capacity to remember, since not all human beings have this privilege.