Q:

How does memory work?

A:

Quick Answer

Memory is a process through which experiences and information are encoded, stored and retrieved. Encoding transforms the information into a usable form that is subsequently stored and maintained for a certain amount of time. Afterwards, the information can be brought into conscious awareness through the retrieval process.

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Full Answer

Encoding is a biological phenomenon that begins with perception and serves as the first step in the process of creating a memory. Once perceived, various elements, such as physical features, scent or auditory qualities, travel to a part of the brain called the hippocampus in which they are fused into a singular experience that forms the basis of a memory. The hippocampus and the frontal cortex determine whether the amalgamation of sensory inputs are worth remembering. If deemed worthy, they proceed to store the information in different parts of the brain where it becomes a part of the long-term memory.

The process of encoding and storage works via neurotransmitters that get released once the electrical pulse that carries the information leaps across the gap between separate nerve cells. As two cells exchange information in this manner, the bond between them, called the synapse, strengthens over time. This effectively rewires the physical structure of the brain, allowing the brain cells to form networks and specialize in different types of information processing. This flexibility allows the brain structure to organize itself in accordance with the new experiences that the brain decides to store as memories.

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