The following essay is reprinted with permission from The Conversation , an online publication covering the latest research. When you need to remember a phone number, a shopping list or a set of instructions, you rely on what psychologists and neuroscientists refer to as working memory. Researchers believe working memory is central to the functioning of the mind. It correlates with many more general abilities and outcomes—things like intelligence and scholastic attainment —and is linked to basic sensory processes. Given its central role in our mental life, and the fact that we are conscious of at least some of its contents, working memory may become important in our quest to understand consciousness itself.
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So there are strategies for better organizing what may at first glance appear to be unrelated information to connect it to what we already know to help us better remember things, according to Kang and others. In a recent paper, Richards and his colleague Paul Frankland, PhD , senior scientist at The Hospital for Sick Children and Fellow at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, looked at previous studies that have investigated the physical changes in the brain associated with memory — and why sometimes that process completes and sometimes it does not. But training can definitely plays a role in memory, as is the case for people who compete in memory competitions, he adds. Decades of research support the fact that sleep is a critical time when memories consolidate and get stored. And that means missing out on sleep — or high enough quality sleep — can compromise some of those processes. The National Sleep Foundation recommends getting between seven and nine hours of sleep each night for optimal health and brain function. What is exercise not good for?
Memory actually takes many different forms. We know that when we store a memory, we are storing information. But, what that information is and how long we retain it determines what type of memory it is. The biggest categories of memory are short-term memory or working memory and long-term memory, based on the amount of time the memory is stored.
Eyewitnesses can provide very compelling legal testimony, but rather than recording experiences flawlessly, their memories are susceptible to a variety of errors and biases. They like the rest of us can make errors in remembering specific details and can even remember whole events that did not actually happen. In this module, we discuss several of the common types of errors, and what they can tell us about human memory and its interactions with the legal system.