Making Memories

Imagine yourself at an elegant party. People are talking, dishes and utensils are clinking, and music is playing softly in the background. Soft candlelight illuminates silk-covered furnishings while the aroma of dinner fills the air.

All of these impressions saturate your five senses, which trans-fer as much information as they can to the brain via what is called the sensory store. These fleeting sensations remain for only a few milliseconds before the majority of the sensations are lost and only a small subset is passed on to short-term, or working, memory (STM). The information is lost within 15 to 30 seconds if not selected for closer consideration. If you were not paying attention to a conversation, you could reconstruct a recent comment if asked within this 15 to 30 second window. However, after this brief interval of time, you must begin to organize and rehearse the information you want to store in long-term memory (LTM). The process of learning new information does not stop when we go to sleep. Recent research indicates that sleep is essential to the formation and efficient storage of memories. As we sleep, the brain appears to replay the activities of the day, reactivating old and activating new brain cell connections. With proper encoding and retrieval strategies, information that is stored in LTM is considered relatively permanent because it can be recalled years later.1

Sleep is essential to the formation and efficient storage of memories.

The overwhelming mode of human communication is a mix of verbal and visual information. Figure 1-1 shows brain images, which demonstrate the different parts of the brain that are active when listening to words and looking at words.

Notice that if material is presented orally, the brain reacts as shown in Figure 1-1a, whereas if material is presented visually, the brain reacts as shown in Figure 1-1b.

Figure 1-1a Hearing Words Figure 1-1b Seeing Words Figure Figure

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