Memory, How it Works

Memory really describes who we are.  It’s your memory that prompts behavior and governs  your skills.  Neuroscientists divide memory into a variety of types.  But all memory can be sorted into three (3) parts;  working memory, short term memory and long term memory.  Look at each of these as a container that will hold information for given periods of time, depending on what you do and how important  it is to you.

Your Working memory container retains information based on need and use.  Your Working memory container will retain information for a short time when it’s something as simple as remembering an unfamiliar telephone number long enough to make the call.  Or it will recall from storage and hold complex information, such as math functions, when they’re needed.

Your Short term memory container, on the other hand, functions as a filter.  You are constantly receiving information from your five sensors; sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch and feel.  All information received from these sensors goes into your Short term memory container where it’s sorted based on need and importance.  Importance is established by repetition and reward.  Information in your Short term memory container may go into Working memory.  It may go into Long term memory or it may be discarded.  It all depends on need and past experience.  If your short term memory container isn’t doing its job, you won’t be able to make long term memories.

Short Term and Working memory are the primary types of memory used for day-to-day living.  We will periodically draw on Long Term memory when needed.  Memories that are recalled and used get stronger.  Memories that are used infrequently will get weaker with time.  A second language learned and not used for a long period of time  is a good example of this.

Your Long term memory container is just what it says.  It stores information for recall and use sometime in the future.  Your Long term memory container can hold anything from memories of your childhood days to work related skills.  You have to be careful with Long term memory though.  Long term memories that are not recalled and used regularly tend to lose accuracy over time.

Once we’re born, memories are made from information we obtain as a result of exposure, or experience, both formal and informal.  To make those memories we need experience-dependent brain cells.   are neurons with a dopamine rider.  You could say that the neuron provides the transportation while the dopamine acts as the messenger.

Experience-dependent brain cells allow us to absorb new information, make memories and learn.  We generate experience-dependent brain cells rapidly when we’re young.   Until about 1998 it was believed that we stopped generating experience dependent brain cells in our early twenties.  Now we know that we can generate experience-dependent brain cells throughout life as long as we stay physically active.

You can picture the body of a brain cell, or neuron, as a circle with branching trees extending from the top half of its outer rim and a tail extending from its lower rim.  The branching trees are dendrites.  They are the cells receivers of information.  The tail of the brain cell, or neuron, is called an axon.  The axon transmits information, received and processed by the cell body, to other neurons.

Brain tissue is basically a skeletal structure that holds cells just like a building holds rooms.  Blood supplies the tissues and cells with water and nutrition,  For tissue to remain healthy and for cells to function effectively they must draw an adequate supply of blood.

Circulation blood in the brain is essential for memory formation, processing and retrieval.  Experience-dependent brain cells are essential to the retention of information as memory.



Experience-dependent brain cells (neurons) are essential to the retention of information and memory.  Experience-dependent brain cells can be generated throughout life.  It’s the Hippocampus that produces experience-dependent brain cells.   But their production is dependent on the availability of a hormone known as “Brain Derived Neuronal Growth Factor” (“BDNGF”).  The production of “BDNGF” is dependent on an individual’s physical activity.  Memory, therefore, is closely related to how physically active an individual is.

Information, formally and informally collected, is the essence of memory and learning.  That information is collected by the brain’s sensors; vision, hearing, smell, taste, touch and feel.  With the exception of smell, all information received goes to the Thalmus for signs of danger and sorting.  Information collected by smell goes to the olefactory bulb for review and distribution. 

To begin with, it should be understood that the internal structure of your brain is governed by a set of laws, and  functions according to a set of rules. The Laws and Rules work together as a team to guide the functioning ability of your brain.

Laws -1. Neurogenesis (nerve birth) We can generate new, experience-dependent brain cells (neurons) throughout life.  To do so requires the hormone “BDNGF” (Brain Derived Neuronal Growth Factor).  The generation of “BDNGF” is responsive to physical activity.  To generate experience-dependent brain cells requires being physically active. 2. Neuroplasticity (nerve responsiveness) Neuroplasticity, or brain plasticity, refers to the movement of cells and cell pathways in response to what you do or don’t do.  Neuroplasticity operates to ensure effective communication between cells with the least cost in terms of blood use.  Neuroplasticity arranges and rearranges cells and cell pathways according to need, importance and use.

The first 3 rules by which the brain functions directly affect memory.  Rule 1 – Your Brain must survive.  All living things strive to survive.  Your Brain is a living structure.  Your Brain must, therefore, survive.   Rule 2– Your Brain only knows what it knows.  It doesn’t know any more.  Rule 3 – Your Brain uses what it knows to survive.  Learning, both formal and informal is critical to your brain’s survival.

Your Brain is constantly receiving external information from its sensors, vision, hearing, smell, taste, touch and feel.  The information you’re receiving is the result of your experiences, both formal and informal.   “Knowing” is experience-dependent.  It’s experience and learning that builds memory.

The information received from the smell sensor, goes directly to the olfactory bulb in Your Brain where it’s processed for response and storage.

Most of the information received from vision, hearing, taste, touch and feel goes to the Thalmus for signs of danger and sorting. We think of information as words, but your Thalmus receives and transmits information as pictures and patterns. Your Thalmus sends Information, in the form of pictures and patterns, that need to be worked on or stored for later use, to your Hippocampus.  The Hippocampus then has to decide what to do with it. There is a Hippocampus on each side of your brain in the area behind the ear.  It’s your Hippocampus that generates experience-dependent brain cells and dopamine, the brain cell and hormone essential to memory and learning.

There is some information received by the Hippocampus  that is worked on and disposed of.   Some needs to be communicated to, and combined with other cells housing information.  All information to be stored will first go into short term storage.  Priority, importance, need and use will determine if it goes into long term storage.  For information to go into long term storage it must have some type of emotional tie.

Information that needs to go into working memory may require recall from short term or long memory storage.  The results of that effort will go into, at least, short term storage, possibly long term storage.  Other types of information used in working memory will be discarded once it’s used.  Hippocampus has to do something with the information that’s to be retained.  All information to be retained has a stay in short term memory.  Information that needs to be kept for longer than a short period will go into long term storage where it can be recalled.

All information received by Hippocampus is experience generated.   To get it into either short term or long term storage Hippocampus  produces experience-dependent brain cells (neurons) and generates dopamine, a hormone.  The dopamine will ride atop the neuron to form the dopamine neurotransmitter.  That neurotransmitter will ultimately take the intended information to its point of storage.  Dopamine neurotransmitters are needed to build memory, but neurons functioning by themselves won’t draw blood.  Without blood the neuron won’t won’t be functional.  To draw blood and remain functional a neuron must belong to a network of neurons.

Producing experience-dependent brain cells requires a brain chemical referred to as “Brain Derived Neuronal Growth Factor” (BDNGF).  But your brain produces BDNGF in response to your physical activity.  To produce BDNGF you must be physically active.  That means that memory, to some extent, is dependent on how active you are.

Hippocampus has deleted the information it didn’t need and generated delivery containers in the form of a hormone and a neuron.  Those two combine (neurotransmitter) to deliver the message for storage.

Now that Hippocampus has the information it needs to do something with it.  It might have to combine it with other information in working memory.  Some of which it will keep in longer term memory expanding your brain’s base of knowledge.  All information to be retained is kept for a short time, but there’s some information that should be kept for longer periods.  Where to put it is not the job of Hippocampus.  It’s the job of Plasticity, the warehouse manager.  So Hippocampus uses the dopamine neurotransmitter and sends it to Plasticity.  When the need arises Hippocampus will use that dopamine neurotransmitter to retrieve the stored information.