View Full Version : Human Memory-why things stick?

Ian B
02-16-2014, 06:21 AM
I hope I'm in the right area with this, but I've often wondered why very small insignificant things stick in the human memory, while matters of past importance are completely forgotten.

Take for example the line," I do love the smell of napalm in the morning".

Why would I remember that after all these years?

Do other members have the same problem?

09-24-2014, 01:22 PM
One of the most fascinating of all brain functions is memory. Memory refers to the brain's ability to recall events that have taken place at some time in the past. Scientists have learned that two kinds of memory exist, short-term and long-term memory. They believe that the way in which these two kinds of memory function are somewhat different from each other. People who have a condition known as retrograde amnesia, for example, lose the ability to remember events that occurred immediately before some kind of shock, such as a blow to the head. Yet, they can easily remember events that occurred days, weeks, months or years before that shock.

Scientists are still uncertain as to how the brain remembers things. They use the term memory trace to describe changes in the brain that correspond to the creation of memory. But no one really knows exactly what a memory trace corresponds to in terms of brain structure, chemistry, or function.

According to the most popular current theory of memory, exposure to stimuli can cause changes in the connections that neurons make with each other. These changes may be the "memory traces" that scientists talk about. Those neural connections appear to be able to survive for very long periods of time and can be recalled when a person decides to recall them or when some stimulus causes them to reappear.

Some exciting research on memory has suggested that nerve cells may actually grow and change as they are exposed to light, sounds, chemicals, and other stimuli. The new patterns they form may in some way be connected to the development of a memory trace in the brain.

Two surprisingly small areas at the front of the cerebrum, located on each hemisphere roughly above the outer edge of the eyebrow, are the brain's centers for high-level thinking. In 2000, scientists announced that this paired region, called the lateral prefrontal cortex, was activated in people who were given tests involving verbal and spatial problems. This is the same region of the brain that previous research studies had shown to be important for solving novel tasks, keeping many things in mind at once, and screening out irrelevant or unimportant information. Scientists also believe the lateral prefrontal cortex acts as a global workspace for organizing and coordinating information and carrying it back to other parts of the brain as needed.

Certain structures in the cerebrum and diencephalon make up the limbic system. These regions are responsible for memory and emotions, and are associated with pain and pleasure.

By studying patients whose corpus callosum had been destroyed, scientists have learned that differences exist between the left and right sides of the cerebral cortex. The left side of the brain functions mainly in speech, logic, writing, and arithmetic. The right side of the brain, on the other hand, is more concerned with imagination, art, symbols, and spatial relations.

Read more: http://www.scienceclarified.com/Bi-Ca/Brain.html#ixzz3EEsyfI65

09-24-2014, 02:09 PM
Like most people, I find my memory 'isn't what it used to be' and I rely on my week planner notebook to make sure I do what I am supposed to...and god help me if I fail to put an appointment/task in my little book-it will almost certainly have no chance of getting done without some 'help'

One funny thing I have found about memory is how 2 things unrelated in time but associated for some reason can bring back really powerful memories
....my best example is when I was in my early 20's and moving to another city for University. It got its water from a rather questionable source, so the tap water was very heavily chlorinated. I stepped into the apt. for the first time an old buddy of mine and I were going to share , and instead of saying hello, I had a major flash back to when I was a young boy and playing in a motel pool in florida!
After a few seconds, I figured it out...the kitchen to the apt was right next to the door and you could smell a rather powerful 'chlorine' smell from the sink...that triggered the memories of me swimming in a very heavily chlorinated pool on the Gulf side of Florida my family always used to stay at when I was a little boy...very trippy for sure

Of course, many of us have a few other examples that are a bit more straight forward, like a 40 yr old song comes on and the first thing that pops to mind is a girl we used to date and that was our song (Fleetwood Mac's 'go your own way" is a big one for me)

Finally, some of us seem to have our brains memory function organized differently or perhaps better said, we are naturally much better at some memory tasks/styles than others. It took years for me to figure this out, but I have lousy rote memory skills. I'm not good at it, I have to work my ass off to be minimally competent at it and it bedeveled me in school, particularly in intro classes that relied heavily on rote memory.
On the other hand, I have an excellent memory for patterns, remembering the exact sequence a conversation that took place 10 yrs ago went, the nuances and context of a story line and problem solving...in university, when I got to the more sr years in which those skills were more needed, my marks would shoot up from a struggling B to A and A+---and with little effort! I suprised a few prof.'s that had written me off as a knucklehead!

did I mention as I am now in my mid 50's, my memory is going? I was never great with names, but now I am positively lousy!! I use pal, buddy and chum alot more than I ever used to!!


09-24-2014, 07:00 PM
Names bedevil me, as well. As a teacher, I have about 100 students a year. During the school year, I know all of their names and regularly call them by their first names. By the time most of them have been gone for a year, I have forgotten their names. If I happen to see the student a year or more later, I recognize the face, but the name escapes me, except in rare, especially memorable, cases.

I had a friend some years ago who is now deceased. I had no trouble remembering his first name, but for some reason I was constantly forgetting his last name. In order to remember it, I made a kind of image-association thing. His surname was Garbarino, so I used to picture the city of Reno, Nevada, and garbage cans together. Now I can't think of the guy without thinking "Garbage Reno" and seeing garbage cans in Reno. It worked.

I did not intend to trash his name (with the "garbage" part), but those images brought me the closest approximation of his name I could think of. He was a great guy and one of the nicest people I have ever known (the very opposite of garbage, in fact).

09-24-2014, 08:12 PM
Wouldn't it be odd if we always forgot the little things? It would be like flapping your arms in the air and telling everybody you're really swimming.