Functioning of the Long-Term Memory

Long term memories last for a longer period of time as it has the capacity to store information for a relatively longer period of time and retrieve the same whenever required. Some of the important facts related to long term memory which should be known are provided below:

  1. Long term memories usually remain out of our conscious mind but can be recalled back into the working memory wherever required. Some of the memories can be recalled quite easily while it may be relatively difficult accessing or recalling some memories.
  2. All long-term memories are not created equally as information which is of much greater relevance can be recalled much strongly. For example, it is relatively easier for someone to recall the important events or memories of their life such as anniversaries or special occasions, than any common days.
  3. Memories which can be accessed frequently become much stronger and can be recalled very easily. By accessing certain memories time and again on a repeated basis, one can easily recollect the information by strengthening the neural network where information encoding takes place. Memories which are not repeated or recalled many times, often get weakened or lost or even replaced by some other information.

Information Holding or Retention Capacity of Long Term Memory

Information present in the short term memory can be transformed into long term memory by way of association process and rehearsal. Though long term memories can last for days, to several decades or sometimes even the entire lifetime, still it is very much susceptible to forgetting process. The retention capacity or recalling abilities of long term memory depends upon a gamut of factors.

  • The way in which information was encoded plays a crucial role in influencing how long the information can be stored in the long term memory. The memory will be much stronger or vivid, if one is more alert or aware while experiencing something or being subjected to some information.
  • If the information access or exposure is provided for multiple numbers of times, long term memory will last for a long duration. It is for this reason while preparing for the exam one is expected to repeat the studies again and again for making the memory last long.

Long Term Memories are subject to Change

The information processing in human memory takes place exactly like a computer. The information firstly is temporarily stored in the Short Term Memory and then some of the information moves to the Long Term Memory which has relatively a permanent storage capacity just like the way in which information is stored in the computer hard disk. Whenever the information is required, it is retrieved or called out from the long term memory store by using certain environmental cues, which is quite similar to the process of accessing the saved information from a computer.

Memory Consolidation: How Does it Work and the Major Influencers of the Consolidation Process

Memory Consolidation is the process by way of which the brain converts the short term memories to long term memories with the help of synapses. Synapses function like an electrical transmission in the brain which passes from one neuron to another neuron through neurotransmitters. If the frequency of this transfer of electrical signals in the brain would be high, then stronger will be the synapses and this process is called as the process of Potentiation which plays a major role in memory and learning processes. Memory consolidation takes place because of communication which takes place between various parts of the brain like the cerebellum, the hippocampus and the amygdala. Though the hippocampus itself does not store the memories but plays an integral role in consolidation of memories.

The neural networks become much stronger by way of repetition of the same experience and rehearsal. For example, a course which is revised for several times over a period of time can be recalled much easily. Because of the repeat firing of same set of neurons, it becomes much likely that the same set of neurons will be able to repeat the same exercise in the future too if required. As a result, remembrance will be much stronger and the information can be recalled with much accuracy and ease in future too.

Memory Consolidation process can be influenced by multiple factors, prime one being sleep. Sleep helps in processing and consolidation of information, which we have acquired while being awake. Memories should be reconsolidated once the same is recalled as there is always of possibility of forgetting or losing the consolidated information unless it is reconsolidated. By reconsolidating and recalling, memory can be strengthened for a longer period of time. Memories are required to be reconsolidated each time it is being accessed. The memory consolidation process can be enhanced by way of repetition of exposures, rehearsals and by following certain memorization techniques.

Though long-term memories exist for a longer duration, such memories are quite highly susceptible to various kinds of change, interference or misinterpretation of information or trigger some false information. Various factors like brain injuries, trauma, and lesions can adversely affect the long term memory storage capacity. In several cases, old memories interfere with the new memory formation process thus adding difficulties in the entire process of recall. Long term memories can be made stronger or improved by following the below steps:

  • Paying more attention to the information and studying in a distraction free place.
  • Avoiding cramming: Researches have proven that regular studies yield far better outcomes than the last minute marathon race.
  • Making use of mnemonic devices
  • Structuring and organizing the thoughts more effectively, with focus on grouping of similar concepts and making outlines.
  • Elaborative rehearsals for effective encoding,
  • Relating new things with the already existing information,
  • Proper visualization of the information which is under study,
  • Reading the materials loudly,
  • Focusing more on the information which requires extra attention,
  • Varying the routine for studies
  • Getting extra sleep.

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