After studying the basic anatomy of the brain and the functions of the brain, let's move on to more advanced brain anatomy. If you look
at the brain, there is more than just the cerebrum, cerebellum and brain stem — there are multiple brain structures inside the brain. Some of these structures, like the hippocampus, are responsible for memory. If you can, get a model of a brain that opens up into different sections to see where these parts are. If a model is not available, a diagram can also help.
How Memory Works
Let's start by going over the mechanism of memory. When you learn, the information must go through certain stages to become permanent. You can also click on a diagram of the brain from BrainWavesCenter.com.
- The first step is gathering information from the different senses. Star these terms:
- Iconic memory: information comes from vision
- Echoic memory: information comes from hearing
- Haptic memory: information comes from touch
- Selective attention chooses which information proceeds to short term memory
- Short term memory only holds 7 ± 2 items for about 200 ms
- That capacity can be increased by chunking, which is grouping items together, thus increasing the memory capacity
- Working memory is a type of short term memory that is manipulated, such as taking numbers and doing calculations (prefrontal cortex)
- To become long term memories, the short term information is consolidated
Now knowing this information about memory, how can you use that to improve your studying?
Memory and the Brain
Now that you have the memory process down, connect it to the different parts of the brain. As you learned from the brain function study guide, memory is mainly centered in the temporal lobe. In the temporal lobe is the hippocampus, a brain structure that converts short term memories into long term memories. When damage occurs to the hippocampus, the brain's ability to form new memories is affected. H.M. is a famous case of this: he underwent surgery for epilepsy that resulted in a drastic removal of his hippocampus. After the surgery, H.M. could not form any new memories. As a result, neuroscientists now know the hippocampus' role in memory.
Once a memory becomes permanent, it becomes independent from the hippocampus. This means that long term memories are stored elsewhere in the brain. However, the place of storage depends on the type of memories. For example, declarative memories, which include episodic memories (events) and semantic memories (concepts), are in the neocortex, or the outer layer of the cerebral cortex. Procedural memories, which H.M. could still do, are stored in the cerebellum, since they have a motor connection. Emotional memories are connected to the amygdala, which is the emotion center of the brain. Get a diagram of a brain and next to each structure, write the type of memory stored there.
- Carey, Benedict. "H.M, an Unforgettable Amnesiac, Dies at 82." New York Times, 2008,
- Canadian Institutes of Health Research: Memory and Learning