Memory and The Brain

Types Of Memory

Memory is a recording of one’s experience stored in the brain — be it an interesting conversation, a piece of information, a “memorable scene,” or notable event. There are 3 types of memories differentiated by the time lapse between the experience and the recall of that experience. Each type of memory activates different brain areas when one attempts to recall it.

Working memory resides in the frontal lobe and lasts less than a minute. This form of memory is commonly referred to as one’s attention span and lasts up to one minute before being erased. Trying to memorize and dial a telephone number that someone just gave you is an example of working memory.

Short-term memory resides in the medial temporal lobe and lasts a few minutes to a few weeks before being erased. When you try to recall a conversation or a phone number learned a few minutes to a few weeks ago, these brain areas are activated.

Not all of one’s moment-to-moment experiences activate short-term memory. Only those experiences that are novel, interesting or those that one intended to remember will sufficiently stimulate nerve cells in the medial temporal lobe to record them.

Long-term memory can last a lifetime. Scientists are not yet certain which brain areas are directly involved in long-term memory. When one tries to recall their first love or the name of a school they went to as a child, they are accessing their long-term memory.

The brain

The brain is the command-and-control center of your life. It uses its over 100 billion neurons to perceive and analyze incoming information; decide what, if anything, to do about the information; and then instruct the body to do it.

The brain is divided into lobes and regions. Each brain lobe is responsible for specific functions, such that impairment in that lobe results in specific problems.

Medial Temporal LobeShort-term Memory LearningShort-term Memory Loss
Lateral Temporal LobeHearing/Listening, Reading, Reading social cues, Recognizing objects by sight, Anger control, Naming thingsReading problems, Word-finding problems, Trouble reading social cues, Episodic rage, Poor object recognition, Religious or moral preoccupation
Parietal Lobe Direction sense, Sensory perception, Spatial processing, sees motion, Visual guidance, such as to grab objects, Recognize objects by touch, Ability to know where you are in space, Know right from left, Reading and creating mapsImpaired direction sense, Trouble dressing or putting objects together, Left-right confusion, Denial of illness, Impaired position sense, Trouble with math or writing, Neglect or unawareness of what your see, Impaired copying, drawing or cutting
Frontal LobeJudgment, Impulse control, Attention span, Organization, Self-monitoring, Problem solving, Critical thinking, Empathy,Poor judgment, Impulsivity, Short attention, Disorganization, Trouble learning from experience, Confusion, Poor time management, Repeated mistakes, Lack of empathy
Occipital LobeSight, Color perception, Lines, DepthVisual problems, Can’t see outlines or objects, Visual (simple) hallucination, Visual (simple) illusions, Functional blindness, Objects appear larger or smaller than they are, Colors not recognized