The human race has been gifted with the most complex organ of the body: the brain. Our brains are always working, even when we’re sleeping. It is the control center of our bodies and receives information, processes it, and responds to it. Wrapped in layers of protective tissues and bones, our brains function in ways that include controlling our intelligence and basic instincts. In the last one hundred years, scientists have been trying to figure out how this nearly three-pound organ is able to work twenty-four hours a day and how it keeps so many memories [1]. The way memories happen still seems so impeccable to many. 

Experiences and facts are encoded in our brains as patterns of electrical pulses passing between neurons, which are nerve cells. Memories are patterns of pulses which are repeated without the experience actually taking place. A particular memory returns each time a pattern of electrical pulses is activated [2]. Every day, the brain decides how to process memories- whether to destroy them or keep them.

Before a memory is created, the brain must experience it. Every day, a memory starts with the stimulus, or a thing that evokes a specific functional reaction in an organ or tissue, that triggers the senses. Information comes into the brain through the sense organs which may or may not be essential for the brain to know. For example, when a person is reading a book, the information from the sense organs travels through the sensory register. This is when it enters the brain. It acts as a waiting room for arriving data. The information is held for less than a second which is long enough for the brain to decide whether the information should be kept or deleted. Most of the memory input gets deleted, and if it is not deleted in the sensory register, then it moves into short-term memory [3].

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                                                               Photo from bebrainfit.com

The two types of memories are short-term memories and long-term memories. Short-term memory is needed every day. When an electric impulse continuously repeats, those neurons create a stronger connection until they synapse, or they consist of a minute gap across which impulses pass by diffusion of a chemical substance, a neurotransmitter. After the arrival of a nerve impulse, the neurotransmitter is released at the end of a nerve fiber, by diffusing across the synapse or junction. This causes the transfer of the impulse to another fiber [4].

The continuous flow of electric impulses makes a path, and when the electric slows down, the new connections are completed. This pathway made by a short-term memory is quickly formed. Most facts are temporarily stored in the brain as sounds. It can endure from one minute to several days only. If not, after a few minutes, the information in the short-term memory is replaced by new facts. The old pieces of information either go away or transfer to the long-term memory [4].

Long-term memory is the storage of something a person knows for a longer period of time; it can go from remembering it for hours to years. As stated before, if a pathway of electric pulses created by a long-term memory is much more stable than the flow of electric pulses of a short-term memory. Information is usually stored according to what they sound like. For example, “Come here right now” would be an easier phrase to remember than “Now right here come.” People can also store sights, sounds, and smells. If a fact is repeated long enough, then it will go into permanent memory. Although long-term memory can also be forgotten, it is done differently than short-term memory. The more importance and organization a memory has as it is filed into the memory, the better the chance someone has of remembering it. Long-term memory can store so much information to a point where scientists believe that its capacity is limitless [3].


References

[1]. “Your Brain & Nervous System.” Edited by Steven Dowshen, KidsHealth, The Nemours Foundation, July 2015, kidshealth.org/en/kids/brain.html.

[2] “Neurons & Synapses – Memory & the Brain – The Human Memory.” Memory Storage – Memory Processes – The Human Memory, www.human-memory.net/brain_neurons.html.

[3]. Ascd. “Research Says / Which Strategy Works Best?” Manipulated Kids: Teens Tell How Ads Influence Them – Educational Leadership, http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/oct14/vol72/num02/Which-Strategy-Works-Best%C2%A2.asp

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