In many ways, our memories make us who we are, they are our essence as human beings. But in order for those memories to last, they need the memory to work correctly. The memory is a concept known by all, but something we know very little about in depth. In this article we will try to address it more precisely.
What is memory?
Memory is a term that refers to a mental capacity whose function is to encode, store and retrieve information. That is to say, it allows us to store within us experiences such as feelings, events, images or ideas. In short, any element that belongs to our past.
It is a function of the brain that is essential for our learning and therefore for our survival. Thanks to it, we can better adapt to the needs of our environment.
From a morphological point of view, memory is closely related to the hippocampus, but it should be noted that there are several brain regions that influence the process. It is interesting to mention that the meaning of words is stored in the right hemisphere, childhood memories are preserved in the temporal cortex or that the frontal lobes are in charge of perception and thought.
Types of memory
We have three different types according to Richard Atkinson and Richard Shiffrin’s multi-storage theory, which states that information goes through different stores as it is processed. Therefore, we make the following division.
Of short duration, it registers information through the senses. It processes a large amount of stimuli, which remain for the time necessary for their selection and identification for further processing.
Also known as operative or working memory. Its capacity is limited, being able to retain few elements for a short period of time. This type is broken down into four parts.
- Visuospatial memory. It is responsible for the active maintenance of information (images). It would take place, for example, when learning a route.
- Episodic store. It is a system specialized in integrating information coming from different sources. Thus, it represents visual, verbal, spatial and temporal information.
- Phonological loop. It operates with verbal information. It facilitates the maintenance of the internal speech process involved in short-term memory, as occurs when we memorize a telephone number.
- Executive system. Its task is to control and regulate the working memory system.
It is the one that allows us to retain the information the longest. Within this we distinguish between two types.
- Explicit memory. It is the conscious storage of information. It is present in the recognition of people, places, things and what it entails.
- Semantic memory. It comprises all the general knowledge that we have collected throughout our lives. It is required for the use of language. An example would be knowing that Rome is the capital of Italy.
- Episodic memory. It is characterized by the memory of events or experiences of a personal nature, such as our wedding day.
- Implicit memory. It is the unconscious storage of information. It refers to actions that we do automatically, such as riding a bicycle.
How can we work on our memory?
Sometimes we forget certain things such as the name of a person or the place where we left our cell phone. Many times these are mere absent-mindedness, but if the frequency of these events increases, it may be a symptom of cognitive impairment. Fortunately, we can improve the functioning of our memory through training. If it is exercised frequently, it is possible to enhance it and even prevent its deterioration.
There are different exercises that allow us to train this mental process.
Reading is highly recommended because it helps stimulate different areas of the brain, including memory. In addition, it increases storage capacity and promotes the creation of new neuronal connections. Reading is to memory what running is to a runner.
Playing chess is beneficial because it stimulates the hippocampus and improves communication between the different hemispheres due to the neuronal change that activates a set of brain pathways. In other words, we become experts in the prolonged retention of information.
Learning something new
Learning drives new synaptic connections thus strengthening our brain. Performing a new activity such as learning to play an instrument is beneficial because it keeps our mind active.
Looking at pictures
The exercise consists of looking at pictures and trying to remember the events linked to them. It is a simple and very useful practice. It should be noted that the older the photo is, the greater the challenge.
Reasoning games such as Sudoku or crossword puzzles are both fun and beneficial. They enhance and reinforce memory as well as other areas such as language or arithmetic.
Evaluation and cognitive stimulation
Seeing a specialist in case of cognitive impairment is essential. The professional will put his experience at your service to find the best method to work on memory through cognitive stimulation.
Cognitive stimulation brings together all those activities aimed at maintaining or improving mental functioning and slowing deterioration through different exercises with the help of stimulation programs. At NeuronUP we have a wide variety of cognitive stimulation exercises focused on memory training.
Associated with episodic memory, one of the exercises is “animal pairs”, which consists of discovering the pairs among a set of face-down cards. In addition, it allows working memory and selective attention to be worked on. Another activity, in this case related to semantic memory, is “common elements”, which is based on selecting a series of specific elements among a group of stimuli.