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The brain and the mechanics of memory

If the human brain is the crown jewel of creation and evolution, then memory is its most prized quality. It is an attribute that invests humans with special skills. Because of how important it is, memory is often a subject of concern among most of us, and developing a sharp memory a major desire. The word “memory” is derived from the Latin word Memorie, which means remembering and recollecting.


Because of these specialized functions we are able to remember all that we have learned and experienced in life and that in turn helps us take appropriate decisions. The brain contains 200 billion neurons and is capable of forming 300 trillion synapses in a single life span. Every new learning creates new synapses and connections in the brain, increasingly its capability tremendously. This process starts at birth and continues through a life time. Learning and adapting to newer situations is also called plasticity.

Memory is of several types. Sensory memory stems from various experiences mediated through the sensory organs of the body that could be visual (photographic), auricular (from the sounds we hear) haptic (from touch and feel) olfactory (from smell) and memory from taste buds. These sensory memories are usually short lasting.

Further, memory can be classified as immediate, short and long-term. Most sensory memory is immediate in nature. Experiences that are of special interest to us fire neurons in several parts of the brain and we remember them for longer. This is short-term memory. Long-term memory connotes to consolidated storage of information, which remains in our mind for years. Some of our life-time learning experiences could even pass down generations (Janma) and is called “genetic memory.” The phenomenon of child prodigies is due to such genetic memory.

For several years, it was believed that memory is stored only in one part of the brain. Latest research, however, shows that every part of the brain participates in the process of memory, with the Hippocampus, Amygdala and Fornix playing the lead role. There are several association areas that help in generating organized memory-based action or reaction. This process is called synchronization, which is beyond the capability of even super computers. The capability of the brain is unique and equal in everyone. All that one need to do is “JUST USE IT”.

Dr.Venkataramanaa N K
Director- Global Institute of Neurosciences,
Vice Chairman- BGS Global Hospital
Vice President – Indian Society for Pediatric Neurosurgery,
Past President – Indian Society for Stereotactic & Functional Neurosurgery,
Convener – Neuroendoscopy Study Group of India
Chairman – ANSA Research Foundation
email : [email protected] , [email protected]
website: www.bgsgin.com

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