Monday, May 13, 2013

Science of memory

Science of memory
Memories are the internal mental records that we maintain, which give us instant access to our personal past,
complete with all of the facts that we know and the skills that we have cultivated. The following are primary stages of the human memory process.
  •      Encoding
  •      Storage
  •      Retrieval
  •      Forgetting may constitute the fourth stage of memory, although forgetting is technically a setback in memory retrieval. 
During the encoding stage, information is sent to the brain, where it is dissected into its most significant composing elements. Some group of brain cells processes incoming stimuli and translates that information into a specialized neural code. In the storage stage of memory formation, the brain must retain encoded data over extended periods of time. Retrieval stage constitutes the right of entry into the infinite world of stored information, where we bring old information out of permanent memory back into working memory, which can be mentally manipulated for usage. 
Science of Memory –
Learning is an active process that involves sensory input to the brain, which occurs automatically, and an ability to extract meaning from sensory input by paying attention to it long enough to reach working (short-term) memory, where consideration for transfer into permanent (long-term) memory takes place.
Vision has a much longer history in the human experience than does the printed word. By exploiting this competency, students learn quickly when they can visualize the concept while studying, by directed use of the mind’s eye, where mental pictures can be developed. 
Writing words in the air on an imaginary blackboard forces students not only to visualize the order of letters in a word, but to maintain visually what they have already written in working memory as they continue to write. When young learners are taught to construct diagrams that show relationships, their memory of content improves substantially.
Once the elements that make up an experience are classified according to their special traits, each part is shunted to a different brain region for further detailed analysis. The various pieces of new information get stored in neural circuits distributed throughout the cerebral cortex. Because the elements making up a memory reside in multiple cortical areas, the stronger the network linking the associated pieces together, the more resistant to it will be to forgetting.
As the brain transacts learning events, physical changes occur both within brain circuitry and in its structure-function correlations.  Memory is quite fluid, and, over time, the brain continues to revisit and reorganize stored information with each subsequent experience, reprogramming its contents through a repetitive updating procedure known as brain plasticity. This is advantageous, since improvements are made repeatedly to existing data. Prior knowledge is revised based on new input, resulting in a more accurate representation of the current world, increasing one’s probability of thriving. 
The relationship between learning and memory
While memory cannot occur without learning, once information has been learned, our memory may allow the learning to decay.  Stress and multitasking are among the chief causes of memory lapses.  Memory failure most likely reflects the consequences of stress, poor nutrition and exhaustion.
Emotions can be a catalyst to learning. In school, mere exposure to content information (lecture, text, etc.) is no guarantee that it will reach the personal/emotional threshold of “personal importance” to the learner, where encoding the information for permanent memory storage is deemed warranted. What students encode depends on what they are paying attention to at the time. Although we often wonder why our students forget important lesson content, the bigger problem is, Was it ever encoded for memory?
Hippocampus – The Site for Memory Building
Several connected brain regions play key roles in memory formation, including the thalamus, amygdala, hippocampus and cerebral cortex. It is the interaction of nearly all parts of the brain that allows for the construction of our memories.
The hippocampus plays a crucial role in forming and storing our memories of facts and events. Initially, short-term memories are briefly stored in the hippocampus, prior to being transferred to other brain regions where they are consolidated with prior knowledge into long-term memories. While persistent stress can damage hippocampal brain cells, patterns, emotions, relevance, context, content and sense-making boost attention, memory formation and recall. Collectively, they can determine what information reaches permanent memory storage. As Stanford Ericksen summarized the requisite emotional element in learning, “Students learn what they care about and remember what they understand.”
When information is determined to have potential long-term value, the hippocampus links the significant elements of that event or experience together, forming a permanent memory. Brain-imaging studies have shown heightened activations in the hippocampus not only when we are recalling memories but also when we put the mind on “wander and wonder.” This has important implications concerning creativity and innovation, which are based on our ability to manipulate and expand on stored factual information.
Emotional experiences (both positive and negative) enjoy the highest probability of reaching permanent memory storage. It is the amygdala-hippocampus connection that fosters the development of our most memorable moments in life. In the classroom, emotions determine what students pay attention to, which impacts what students will later remember.
Mnemonics help    
When attempting to memorize unrelated terms, mnemonics present the most practical solution. For students attempting to remember the most important neurotransmitters, the term “San Dope” works effectively.
§  Serotonin 5-Hydroxytryptamine
§  Acetylcholine 
§  Norepinephrine 
§  Dopamine
§  Oxytocin
§  Phenylethanolamine 
§  Epinephrine (adrenaline)

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