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Learning and Memory

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Essay title: Learning and Memory


Learning is the process of gaining knowledge or skills through study, experience or teaching. It is a process that depends on experience and leads to long-term changes in the possible behaviour of an individual in a given situation, in order to achieve a goal.

Memory is a property of the human mind. It describes the ability to retain information. There are different types of classifications for memory based on duration, nature and retrieval of items.

The generally accepted classification of memory is based on how long you can remember an item or experience (memory retention), and identifies three types of memory: sensory memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory

The sensory memory corresponds approximately to the initial moment that an item is acknowledged. Some of this information in the sensory area proceeds to the sensory store, which is referred to as short-term memory. Sensory memory is defined by the duration of memory retention being from milliseconds to seconds and short-term memory from seconds to minutes. These stores generally have a strictly limited capacity and duration

Information in the long-term memory or general store can be retained for months or years. This makes the store slightly more complex and generally memories stored here are split in to two groups declarative or explicit and procedural or implicit memories.

Declarative memory requires conscious recall, in that some conscious thought is required to call back the information. It is sometimes called explicit memory, since it consists of information that is explicitly stored and retrieved.

Procedural memory is not based on the conscious recall of information, but on an implicit learning. Procedural memory is primarily associated in learning motor skills. It is revealed when we do better in a given task due to repetition - no new explicit memories have been formed, but we are unconsciously accessing aspects of those previous experiences.

The hippocampus (see attached diagrams) is a part of the brain located inside the temporal lobe (humans have two hippocampi, one in each side of the brain). It forms a part of the limbic system and plays a part in memory and navigation. The name derives from its curved shape, which supposedly resembles that of a seahorse.

Doctors and scientists dispute the exact role of the hippocampus, but agree that it has an essential role in the formation of new memories about personally experienced events. Some researchers prefer to consider the hippocampus as part of a larger medial temporal lobe memory system responsible for declarative memory. When a long-term, declarative memory is made, certain neuronal connections in the temporal lobe are strengthened, and others are weakened. These changes are fairly permanent, however some may take weeks or months before they are complete

Skill memory or procedural memory however, is processed in the cerebellum and then the information is passed the basal ganglia which store memories of this type and are also responsible for co-ordination and refining movement


Diagram of parts of the human brain

Diagram showing the location of

Hippocampus in the temporal lobe

The first process of memory is attention. There is much more information around you than you can process at any one time. Thus, you must make choices (conscious and unconscious) regarding the information you will remember. Once information is acknowledged, it needs to be encoded in order to be remembered. Encoding refers to translating incoming information into a trigger that can be stored in your memory. You can encode the same information in a number of different ways. For example, according to its sound (acoustic code), what it looks like (visual code), or what it means (semantic code).

The memory, once it has entered your brain and been encoded needs to be stored. Storage is the process of holding information in your memory. A distinction is often made between short-term and long-term memory. The transfer of information from short-term to long-term memory can be achieved in many ways. Simply repeating the information can help if it's repeated enough times, although simply repeating, or practising, something can

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