Under the Hood

The Science Behind Memory And Remembering

And so another year is drawing to an end. Usually at this time, people often do reflections about the year that has come and gone, and looking back at all the things that have happened (both good and bad) and the lessons and memories they’ve formed from them. Indeed, memories are one of the most powerful records we can keep of our lives, and it would be hard to live without them since so much of our identity depends on it.

But on a scientific sense, what exactly is a memory? Simple, they’re a biological process in the brain, one of many.

Science Behind Remembering

“Memory has different components for how people define it but, in general, memory is anything that the brain is able to register, such as visual memories, speech memories, knowledge memories and tactile memories. For example, there is a working memory, brief memory, short memory, long-term memory, semantic and non-semantic memory as well as procedural memory,” Dr. Suhail Abdulla Alrukn, Consultant Neurology, Head of Stroke Programme at Rashid Hospital (DHA) and President of Emirates Neurology Society, said, stating there a number of ways that we can interpret memories.

Furthermore, the most powerful ones are often categorized by our brain as procedural, which means learning how to do something via memory, such as driving or horseback riding.

“This is because horse riding will have been stored as a procedural memory and this is the strongest type of memory,” Dr. Alrukn pointed out.

Then there are semantic memories, which are long-term memories that are similar to working memories and are usually concerned with remembering life processes, such as solving math equations. However, while working memory is drawn from personal experience, semantic memories are oftentimes based on fact-based learning. This means that it can be quite complicated to differentiate between the two, especially when a person is experiencing dementia.

“To differentiate between semantic and working memory, there are different tests that we can carry out to establish which part of the brain is affected by the dementia,” the doctor added.

And when it comes to making memories, other factors such as health and age come into play as we get older. So be sure to remember the good times.

Sleep & Memory Sleep is necessary for the consolidation of memories i.e. the process which helps in strengthening and solidifying memories for later recall. Cassandra Hamer/Unsplash