Research Paper on Human Memory SystemThe Gift of Memory: The Short-term and Long-term benefits of Understanding the Human Memory System
List of Abbreviations
STS = Short Term Storage
ST-WM = Short Term Working Memory
STM = Short Term Memory
LTS = Long Term Storage
LTM = Long Term Memory
LT-WM = Long Term Working Memory
TLE= Temporal Lobe Epilepsy
Yoko Ogawa is a Japanese author who has written over 20 novels of fiction and nonfiction. Her masterpiece, entitled The Housekeeper and the Professor, is an account of a professor, who has an accident and suffers from short-term memory loss. While the protagonist is able to retrieve memories stored in his long-term memory, such as the concepts he learned as a mathematician, he is unable to create new memories due to his short-term memory loss. Every eighty minutes, he must relearn everything he knows about the present situation (Ogawa). The romantic piece by Ogawa serves as an excellent introduction to the concepts that differentiate short-term memory and long-term memory. In terms of from a psychological understanding of the human brain, the importance of these two phenomena cannot be overstated. Furthermore, their interdependence on one another has been systematically researched and studied as one of the most complicated aspects of human life (Oberbye 9).
Recently, the growing use and application of animal experimentation has caused many theorists to move from analyzing human consciousness and memory to a more behavioral science oriented approach (Burgess and Hitch). Behavior associated with memory loss in accordance with outstanding occurrences such as different forms of amnesia and diseases such as temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) and Alzheimer’s have revealed many insights in regards to all types of memory studies. Other wonders such as the various methods of retrieval of memory and effects of aging on memory cannot go unconsidered in the analysis of the concepts mentioned in this essay. Due to several restraining factors, however, this paper will focus on a brief review of several concepts, in the aim to distinguish between short-term memory, long-term memory, short-term working memory (ST-WM), and long-term working memory (LT-WM). By the end of this paper, the reader should be able to relate the different memory-oriented brain process theories such as STS, LTS, STM, LTM, ST-WM, and ST-WM and be piqued in his or her curiosity about brain-training methods that utilize these processes in the aim for a better memory system.
An Outline of the Memory System
Memory can be looked at through the magnifying glass of many detectives; philosophers and psychologists analyze memory differently. The former group precedes the latter in historical debates, while the latter analyzes memory from an information processing perspective. Psychologists maintain an emphasis on the theory that the creation and retrieval of memory occurs in a three-step process. This process consists of encoding, storage and retrieval. These processes use different parts of the brain to register, create and recall learned information. Storage occurs in the two process system that this paper highlights in the following paragraphs. In order to understand the complexities of STM and LTM, one must first grasp a general understanding of the memory system. In order to retrieve memories, information must first be stored. Short-term storage (STS) and long-term storage (LTS) have different capacities, interactions and response to different types of information. This means that the way a word or digit is remembered is different from the way an image or a face is remembered. STS accounts for environmental information, processed by sensory triggers in various physical modes, such as visual, auditory and haptic. The length that the information is stored here depends on control processes. Sometimes newly acquired information will be copied into LTS. Older information, which is relevant can also be transferred into and activated through STS (Atkinson and Shiffrin, 3a). For example, when the professor in Ogawa’s novel learns of the housekeeper’s son’s age, the number 10 is stored in STS. Although, in his particular case, this information cannot be saved in LTS, the mathematical formulas he is well versed in allow him to perform meaningful calculations and associations to his past experiences with this number.
The Relationship between STM and LTM
The studies conducted recently have focused on a two-process theory, which examines the sensation otherwise known as memory as two separate entities. Up until the 1970s, there was little information available to distinguish between STM and LTM but the emphasis of the two process system was then encouraged by the times’ advances and developments of computer systems, which helped to generate models of behavior through mathematical psychology (Atkinson and Shiffrin). Since then, thorough research has proven that STM and LTM have a clear and interdependent relationship. In a supporting research article conducted by the Epilepsy Center Hamburg analyzing long-term receny effects in TLE, results showed that both temporal lobes could have influence on the long-term recency effect, but not on immediate recency effect (Benger and Malina). These findings indicate that that abilities associated with both STM and LTM are affected by the same processes, including proactive interference, albeit long term recency effect is more vulnerable when disturbed by Right TLE(Benger and Malina). In another research paper written by professionals in speech language pathology and audiology indicates that verbal short-term memory reflects the way the brain organizes long-term memory (Majerus and D’Argembeau). The interaction between STM-LTM has been proven to show that through the level activation of lexical-semantic knowledge (how and what the words of a particular language denote) and attentional resources, LTM is a critical determinant of STM performance (Majerus and D’Argembeau, 181).
Working memory is “the temporary storage of information that is being processed in any range of tasks” (Ericsson, and Kintsch), it is the evolution of theory related to STS, it is used in processes such as reasoning and learning, and it is a prerequisite for LTS. To gain a better understanding, the human brain can be compared to a computer processing system, where Random-access memory (RAM) acts as working memory for processing an end product or result, which is then saved on the computer’s hard disk, which acts as the LTS. There is much data to indicate that the acquired knowledge and skill related to temporary working memory can be used to explain long term retrieval capability. LT WM memory, in essence, depends on retrieval cues stored in ST WM. For example, skilled performers such as chess players possess acquired knowledge that help produce special memory skills.
Development of these skills leads to “(1) increased speed of storage and retrieval of memory tasks through practice, (2) incidental storage and retrieval of information in LTM during skilled activities, and (3) memory skills for selective storage and retrieval in LTM.”(Ericsson, and Kintsch). Some hypothesize that these special memory skills can be used to differentiate between data that others are not able to, therefore minimizing proactive interference. Furthermore, it is possible that if not for proactive interference, there would be no forgetting information acquired through working memory (Keppel and Underwood, 154).
Discussion and Conclusion
The studies aforementioned present some interesting ideas about the storage and retrieval of short term and long-term memory. After a brief analysis of the overview of the memory system, it is evident that there are a lot of elements that can be learned by correlating principals such as the two process system in accordance with several negative and positive contributing factors such as aging, disease, as well as memory skills and learning. Recommendations for further research would include similar studies such as that of Ericsson and Kintsch as in regards to the practical application of memory skills procurement as well as older studies to such as those of Atkinson and Schriffin memory model. Such studies could have positive effects not only on students around the world, but also on improving the quality of life of people who have to live with various forms of impaired memory.
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