Even though people use their memory almost every second, few individuals know how it is formed and works. There are many ways to strengthen memory or clarify its quality factors. This paper will pay attention to memory formation and maintenance in the brain due to changes to the neural circuit. In addition, the evaluation of brain mechanisms that define memory accuracy will be offered to compare the differences between long-term and short-term memories. Finally, people who have memory problems like amnesia or post-traumatic stress disorder should rely on the knowledge of the brain and memory systems. This information helps understand how brain and memory processes are intertwined and how some techniques may improve memory disorders. Forming new memories and maintaining old information are complex but fascinating processes, and learning these facts contributes to the discoveries in a psychological field.
Memory Formation and Maintenance in the Brain
Memory is a number of processes used to obtain, store, and retrieve information. Due to the increased interest of scientists and psychologists, many definitions are developed today. For example, Zlotnik and Vansintjan (2019) explain it as a neurochemical process that includes conditioning and stored experience. There are three forms of memory, namely sensory (to store information around individuals), short-term (to proceed information in short periods), and long-term (to keep information for long periods) (Camina & Güell, 2017). Memories are formed through interactions between specific neurons when they are re-activated in the brain. Neural circuits are synapses-interconnected neurons that carry specific functions like the reaction of the brain to movement and thinking. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study, memory formation occurs simultaneously in the hippocampus and the brain’s cortex (Trafton, 2017). Long-term memories formed in the cortex usually remain ‘silent’ for two weeks before they reach the necessary mature state (Trafton, 2017). However, hippocampus and cortex circuits work together, engaging in memory formation.
Engram cells play an important role in memory formation and storage. They can be found in the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex, with the purpose of containing specific memories. Besides, memory storage is possible in various frontoparietal regions and cortical areas of the brain. One of the complementary mechanisms with the help of which working memory can be maintained is a rapid change in synaptic strength (Smolen et al., 2019). A synapse is a structure in terms of which neurons pass electrical signals between each other. It is the way how information is delivered from one area of the brain to another. These processes can be strengthened and weakened, contributing to memory formation and maintenance. The length and quality of data storage are hard to identify because much depends on genetic and physiological factors.
Memory Accuracy and Differences between Working and Long-Term Memory
Regarding the already offered studies and knowledge about the quality of memories, people are free to build two major conclusions, which are correct: memories are accurate, and memories are not accurate. Many individuals want to believe that they can perfectly represent past events, neglecting possible errors and inaccuracies. Regardless of their age, people have to participate in events and use their experiences as a sign of development and progress (Diamond et al., 2020). Memories are coded and stored in the hippocampus and amygdala, and if there are changes in the levels of activations or additional damage, memory impairment is observed. However, relying on their physiological characteristics and behaviors, in most cases, it is possible for people to recall information in a more or less correct way. Emotions, traumas, and other external factors may affect memory quality, which does not allow giving one definite answer to the question about accuracy.
The human brain stores information in several ways, creating two types of memory: short-term or working memory and long-term memory. Working memory contains limited information that people use for manipulations (Zlotnik & Vansintjan, 2019). Long-term memory allows indefinite information to remain for a long period (Zlotnik & Vansintjan, 2019). As such, compared to working memory, where temporary activation of neurons occurs, long-term memory depends on physical changes within neurons and their connections. The formation of long-term memory occurs in the hippocampus and is based on the information taken from working memories. Neural wiring changes, synapses get stronger, and working memory turns into long-term memory, relying on new connections and new ways of neuron exchange.
Brain Knowledge, Memory Systems, and Memory Problems
One of the main goals of modern psychologists is to improve people’s awareness of the brain structure and work and explain memory impairments. Problems like amnesia, PTSD, or poor memory create additional challenges in human life. They are related to emotional hypermnesia, including salient traumatic cues (Al Abed et al., 2020). Traumatic memories can be voluntarily re-activated and affect behaviors. Therefore, the creation of additional techniques and therapies is highly appreciated to help people reduce suffering and improve life quality. For example, Smolen et al. (2019) recommend sleep as a possibility to replay engrams and contribute to their effective consolidation. Stress management is another approach to assist people in dealing with memory problems, and knowledge of the brain is required. Camina and Güell (2017) discuss the benefits of procedural knowledge that initiate the implementation of automated skills to advance progress and performance at some level. Although these steps are poorly investigated, the possibility to facilitate suffering exists.
In addition, people with amnesia or PTSD should pay attention to their cognitive health and available compensation systems to accommodate their memory impairments. Intra-peritoneal injection of corticosterone (CORT) promotes a cognitive imbalance in favor of context processing (Al Abed et al., 2020). Although the outcomes of this idea are currently in mice, the idea of using corticosterone hormone is effective in controlling stress and memories. The knowledge of memory systems is vital in understanding cognitive impairments because the way how memory is formed and stored shows what brain regions are involved and if it is possible to strengthen the connection between neurons.
In general, multiple brain and memory processes are under thorough research and examination in different fields, including psychology. Working and long-term memories are responsible for maintaining information for various purposes, and the task is to understand their formation mechanisms to achieve positive results. Being formed in the hippocampus and cortex, human memories need to be properly stored and used. Thus, new techniques and methods are studied to offer people more ideas for improving cognitive functions. PTSD, amnesia, and poor memory are the problems that may challenge individuals because of different reasons. It is important to learn as many brain processes as possible to facilitate suffering, manage stress, and increase performance. Literature review and analysis contribute to increased attention to memory processes and the restoration of impairments.
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Camina, E., & Güell, F. (2017). The neuroanatomical, neurophysiological and psychological basis of memory: Current models and their origins. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 8. Web.
Diamond, N. B., Armson, M. J., & Levine, B. (2020). The truth is out there: Accuracy in recall of verifiable real-world events. Psychological Science, 31(12), 1544-1556. Web.
Smolen, P., Baxter, D. A., & Byrne, J. H. (2019). How can memories last for days, years, or a lifetime? Proposed mechanisms for maintaining synaptic potentiation and memory. Learning & Memory, 26(5), 133-150. Web.
Trafton, A. (2017). Neuroscientists identify brain circuit necessary for memory formation: New findings challenge standard model of memory consolidation. MIT News. Web.
Zlotnik, G., & Vansintjan, A. (2019). Memory: An extended definition. Frontiers in Psychology, 10. Web.