Do you know the characteristics of long-term memory and short-term memory? Do you understand the factors that influence the memory process? Do you think that forgetting can be a good sign? Do you know the effects of stress on memory? Test your knowledge by answering the following five questions.
1. True or false? The three main chronological processes of long-term memory are encoding, storage and recall.
- Encoding: This is the processing of information from our senses so that it can be stored in memory.
- Storage (consolidation): This corresponds to the retention of learned information over time after the brain has sufficiently repeated it.
- Recall (retrieval): This is a process that allows information to be retrieved from memory at the appropriate time; recall can be conscious or unconscious, spontaneous (free) or facilitated (or “cued,” i.e. facilitated by cues).
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2. Which of the following statements about working memory is incorrect?
A) It is an updated concept of short-term memory.
B) Its function is limited to temporarily holding new information before it goes into long-term memory.
C) It allows us to consciously retain only 4 or 5 elements.
D) When it is overloaded, the exchanges between the three brain regions involved in its functioning are short-circuited.
We now know, thanks to neuroscience, that “short-term” memory does more than just temporarily hold new information before it goes into long-term memory. It also processes and manipulates it in processes such as reasoning, comprehension and learning.
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3. You have probably already noticed that your memory performance is not always constant and can vary from one moment of the day to another, from one context to another. So which of the following factors can influence this highly complex brain faculty?
A) The degree of attention, vigilance, alertness and concentration.
B) Interest, motivation, need or necessity.
C) The emotional state and the affective value attributed to the information to be memorized.
D) The environment in which the memorization takes place (the place, the lighting, the noises, the smells, etc.), which is registered together with the data to be memorized.
All these responses
Although it may seem surprising, the way we breathe and the phase of breathing (inhalation or exhalation) also have an impact on our memory. This is the surprising finding of an American study published in 2016.
We already know about olfactory oscillation, the phenomenon that causes the neurons of the olfactory system to activate when air enters the nose thanks to the receptors at the end of the nasal hairs. It was also known that there are four types of olfactory oscillations, some of which are associated with learning and memory.
What the 2016 study highlighted was the fact that information is better stored if, when we take in the information to be memorized, we inhale through the nose. Exhaling through the nose and breathing through the mouth (inhaling and exhaling) do not have the same effect since it is the entry of air through the nostrils that allows olfactory oscillations.
For more information: 5 factors that influence the memory process
4. True or false? Forgetting is an essential mechanism for the proper functioning of our memory.
One of the functions of memory is to help us make the best decisions at all times. Since our brains have to process a monster amount of information every day, it seems logical that they would have a powerful information management system that includes methods of disposing of unused memories (Davis & Zhong, 2017).
Of course, we are not talking about memory pathologies here but about the normal, ongoing forgetting that would occur in any healthy brain. This forgetting would, therefore, not be synonymous with failure, nor would it be accidental or the result of a conscious sorting of our memories. There is evidence that this process is triggered by cellular and molecular mechanisms and is involuntary and daily. Contrary to what has long been believed, “normal” forgetting would not result from a gradual erasure of the data recorded by our brain.
Moreover, minor amnesia is not necessarily a sign of pathology. You have probably already experienced the phenomenon that scientists have called the “doorway effect”: entering a room and not remembering what you were going to do there. Researchers have tried to elucidate this intriguing and widespread effect and have found an explanation…
Find out more: Learning and forgetting: new perspectives on the brain
5. Select the correct term to complete each statement about stress and memory in this excerpt.
Terms: altered functioning; smaller brain volume; mild cognitive decline; proper functioning
After conducting studies on the subject, the Center for the Study of Human Stress has shown that our ability to learn and remember new information diminishes when we secrete too much stress hormone and too little. These results indicate that stress hormones – and more precisely, a “normal” level of stress hormones – would be essential for the ________ of memory. For their part, other researchers have noted in their study a correlation between high cortisol levels and ________ of memory and visual perception going hand in hand with changes at the microstructural level in the brain as well as a ________, particularly in women (Echouffo-Tcheugui et al., 2018). Finally, it is worth mentioning that the authors of a longitudinal study of some 500 older adults observed a link between chronic stress and an increased risk of experiencing amnestic-type __________, a cognitive decline – potentially reversible – that is characterized by, among other things, memory loss and is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease (Katz et al., 2016).
The complete, correct statements are as follows:
After conducting studies on the subject, the Center for the Study of Human Stress has shown that our ability to learn and remember new information diminishes when we secrete too much stress hormone and too little. These results indicate that stress hormones – and more precisely, a “normal” level of stress hormones – would be essential for the proper functioning of memory.
Other researchers have noted in their study a correlation between high cortisol levels and altered functioning of memory and visual perception, going hand in hand with changes at the microstructural level in the brain as well as a smaller brain volume, particularly in women (Echouffo-Tcheugui et al., 2018). Finally, it is worth mentioning that the authors of a longitudinal study of some 500 older adults observed a link between chronic stress and an increased risk of experiencing amnestic-type mild cognitive decline, a cognitive decline – potentially reversible – that is characterized, among other things, by memory loss and is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease (Katz et al., 2016).
For more information: Stress and Memory