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Types of Memory: Learn everything you need to know

Where did you put the keys? Why does she look so familiar? What was his name again? This is a situation we have all been at one point or another. That feeling like we don’t remember where we were going, or what we had on our to-do list for tomorrow. All these situations have in common one cognitive skill: memory. There are different types of memory that can explain why sometimes we are forgetful about certain things and not others. Learn everything about the different types of memory in this article. 

Memory is one of the cognitive abilities that we use daily, without even knowing it. It allows us to properly store new information in our brain so that it can be easily recalled later. Even though this process is intuitive, it’s a lot more complicated than it seems because we have different types of memory. Like other cognitive skills, types of memory can also be assessed. There are many ways of assessing types of memory, from standard testing such as the Weschler’s scales to CogniFit online General Cognitive Assessment.

General Cognitive Assessment Battery from CogniFit: Study brain function and complete a comprehensive online screening. Precisely evaluate a wide range of abilities and detect cognitive well-being (high-moderate-low). Identify strengths and weaknesses in the areas of memory, concentration/attention, executive functions, planning, and coordination.

The good news is that this complex cognitive ability can be trained by practicing specific memory exercises. Even though we’re not always aware of it, we can do things to train our memory to keep it from deteriorating prematurely. It’s much more effective to prevent its decline and boost our memory while its still in shape than to wait until we see signs of memory problems. Memory problems cause anxiety in those who suffer, which is why more and more people are starting routines to help them improve their cognitive functions. Many scientific studies have shown that memory is one of the cognitive abilities that can be trained with exercises designed by neurologists and specialists.

Types of Memory

The main two types of memory are the short-term memory and long-term memory based on the amount of time the memory is stored.

Short-Term Memory: the memory mechanism that allows us to retain a certain amount of information over a short period of time. Short-term memory temporarily retains processed information that either fades quickly or turns into a long-term memory. It is limited and has two objectives. The first is to keep information in our brain without it being present, and the second is to manage this information so that it can be used in higher mental processes. 

Long-term Memory: Long-term memory could be defined as the brain mechanism that makes it possible to code and retain an almost unlimited amount of information over a long period of time. The memories stored in long-term memory can last for up to a few years.

Types of Memory related to short-term memory

Types of Memory: Sensory Memory

We receive sensory memory through our senses and it lasts for a very short period of time, about 200 to 300 milliseconds. This information can be visual, auditory, tactile, smell, etc. These memories either fade or are stored in short-term memory. The information only lasts for as long as it takes to be processed and stored.

Types of Memory: Working Memory

Working memory, or operative memory, can be defined as the set of processes that allow us to store and manipulate temporary information and carry-out complex cognitive tasks like language comprehension, reading, learning, or reasoning. Working memory is a type of short-term memory. Its capacity is limited We are only able to store 5-9 elements at a time. It is active. It doesn’t only store information, it also manipulates and transforms it. Its content is permanently being updated and it is modulated by the dorsolateral frontal cortex.

Once you have assessed the different types of memory, there are different types of activities that help improve them. From games such as Sudoku to full on personalized brain training.

CogniFit Brain Training: Trains and strengthens essential cognitive abilities in an optimal and professional way.

Types of Long-term Memory

Types of Memory: Declarative 

Declarative Memory is the information stored in our memory systems that can be explained and recalled voluntarily and consciously. The brain systems related to this memory system are the medial temporal lobe, the diencephalon, and the neocortex, and is divided into two parts.

Types of Memory: Semantic

Semantic Memory refers to the set of information that we have about the world around us. This information is unrelated to how or when it was learned and includes vocabulary, academic concepts, or anything that we know about a certain subject. For example, you know that an apple is a fruit that you can eat, that there are different colored apples, and that it comes from the apple tree, but you probably don’t remember when you learned this information.

Types of Memory: Episodic

Episodic Memory includes the concrete experiences that we have lived and has a very close relationship to how and when information is learned. For example, remembering what you ate for dinner last night, where you parked your car, when you visited a certain city for the first time, who you went to a certain party with, or when you met that person.

Types of Memory: Non-Declarative or Implicit

Implicit Memory is stored in your memory systems, but can’t be talked about. It is usually acquired or incorporated through implicit learning (you may not be conscious that you’re learning it). This type of memory is quite resistant to brain damage, which usually leaves it less affected than other memory systems. This type of memory uses different parts of the brain, like the neocortex, the amygdala, the cerebellum, and the basal ganglia. It also includes other subdivisions. This is used subconsciously and helps to learn new skills like driving or riding a bike.

Types of Memory: Procedural

Procedural Memory is made up of information of muscular movements that we have learned to automatize through practice, like habits and other skills. For example, riding a bike, throwing a ball, or moving a computer mouse.

Types of Memory: Priming

Priming refers to the ease with which we activate and remember a certain concept in our minds. For example, you would probably remember the word “sedan” quicker if you were talking about “cars”, “trucks” or “convertibles”.

Types of Memory: Classical Conditioning

Classical Conditional relates to the link between a conditioned stimulus and a response that has previously been associated with an unconditioned stimulus. For example, if you hear a bell chiming (conditioned stimulus) before blowing air in your eye (unconditioned stimulus), hearing the bell chime would be enough to cause you to blink (conditioned response). This relationship forms part of the non-declarative or implicit memory

The use of all of these types of memory is essential in our day-to-day, as it is one of the cognitive abilities that we use constantly. 

Learning Styles: What are They, Models and Discussion

Learning Styles. Learning is a massive part of everyone’s life. From childhood to adolescence, we go to school for hours daily to learn about various subjects. Outside of schooling, we continue to learn in everyday life — including how to perform better in the workplace, how to work through interpersonal issues, or how to fix practical household dilemmas. But does everyone learn in the same way? That doesn’t seem to be the case. There is no one-size-fits-all method of learning. To learn and teach most effectively, we must know an individual’s preferred learning styles.

Learning is an important part of life.

Different Learning Styles?

It is often recognized that there are differences in the ways individuals learn. Even at a very young age, a child will prefer certain subjects and teachers over others. They may be excited at their performance on a math assignment, but spend their time in history class doodling. Alternatively, a child may be an enthusiastic art student under the guidance of one teacher, and then lose interest when that teacher is replaced. These are the consequences of a child’s unique learning style.

In the classroom, teachers will notice that students vary remarkably in the pace and manner by which they pick up new ideas and information. This same concept carries into the workplace, where employers notice that employees learn and perform better under different conditions. Conversely, each teacher has their own preferred method of teaching. Each teacher has their particular style and then so does each learner. Problems can occur when teachers and learners don’t match.

Models of Learning Styles

Since the 1970s, researchers have theorized models to describe individual differences in learning. Everyone has a mix of preferred learning styles. These preferences guide the way we learn. They determine the way an individual mentally represents and recalls information. Research shows that different learning styles involve different parts of the brain. Unfortunately, there is no universally accepted model of learning styles. Rather there are dozens of competing models. The most widely recognized model, “The Seven Learning Styles”, as well as David Kolb’s and Neil Fleming’s models are discussed below.

What are the different learning styles?

The Seven Learning Styles

Known simply as “The Seven Learning Styles”, this is the most commonly accepted model of learning styles. It is referenced by researchers and teachers alike. To find out which of the seven learning styles apply to you, fill out this questionnaire. This is an unofficial inventory of the Seven Learning Styles provided by Memletics (care for the pop-ups!). The Seven Learning styles are as follows:

Visual (Spatial)

Visual learners have an ability to perceive the visual. They prefer to learn through pictures and images and are good at spatial understanding (relating to a given space and the relationship of objects within it). They create vivid mental images to remember information and enjoy viewing pictures, videos, maps, and charts.

Skills:

  • Interpreting and manipulating images
  • Drawing and painting
  • Charting and graphing
  • Good sense of direction
  • Creating visual analogies and metaphors
  • Puzzle Building
  • Constructing
  • Designing and fixing objects

Tips:

  • Use images, pictures, and other visuals to learn
  • Pay attention to color, layout, and spatial organization
  • Make use of ‘visual words’ when speaking
  • Use ‘mind maps’ (diagrams used to visually organize information)

Aural (Auditory/Musical)

Aural learners prefer to learn through sounds and music and are able to produce and appreciate music. They tend to think in rhythms and patterns, and are particularly sensitive to sounds in the immediate environment.

Skills:

  • Singing and whistling
  • Playing musical instruments
  • Writing music
  • Recognizing melodies and tonal patterns
  • Understanding rhythm and structure of music

Tips:

  • Use mnemonics, rhyming, and rhythm to memorize new ideas
  • Ambient recordings can increase concentration
  • Music can inspire certain feelings and emotional states. Make use of music to anchor your emotions.

Verbal (Linguistic)

Verbal learners have an ability to use words and language. While many people think in pictures, these learners think in words. They tend to be elegant speakers, with highly developed auditory skills.

Skills:

  • Writing
  • Speaking
  • Explaining
  • Listening
  • Storytelling
  • Persuasion
  • Analyzing language

Tips:

  • Read content aloud, and try to make it dramatic and varied to aid recall
  • Verbal role-playing can aid in understanding concepts
  • Make use of techniques such as assertion and scripting
  • Record your scripts and listen back

Physical (Kinaesthetic)

Physical learners prefer learning with their body and sense of touch. They are adept art controlling their bodies and handling objects. Information is processed by interacting with the space around them. A good sense of balance and hand-eye coordination is common.

Skills:

  • Physical coordination
  • Working with hands
  • Using body language
  • Sports
  • Dancing
  • Acting

Learning tips:

  • Use hands-on activities to learn
  • Describe the physical sensations of an experience with verbs and adverbs
  • Use physical objects as much as possible, including flash cards and miniature models
  • Writing and drawing diagrams may help, as these are physical activities
The Seven Learning Styles is the most popular model. 

Logical (Mathematical)

Logical learners are able to use reason, logic, and numbers. They think in terms of systems, patterns, and concepts. These learners also seek to understand the reasoning or the “why” behind each new concept and like to experiment.

Skills:

  • Categorization
  • Problem solving
  • Complex mathematical calculations
  • Connecting concepts
  • Making logical conclusions from long chains of reasoning
  • Geometry
  • Experimentation

Learning tips:

  • Focus on exploring connections between ideas
  • Make lists of key concepts from material
  • Think in terms of procedures
  • Think in terms of systems
  • Thinking in terms of systems may help you understand the “big picture”
  • Create diagrams that outline entire systems

Social (Interpersonal)

Social learners have an ability to relate to and understand others. These learners are good at sensing the feelings, intentions, and motivations of others.  They are also able to see things from multiple perspectives. These learners are often good at encouraging cooperation, but sometimes their abilities enable them to manipulate others.

Skills:

  • Empathy
  • Listening
  • Communication, both verbal and non-verbal
  • Conflict resolution
  • Establishing relations with others
  • Building trust
  • Noticing the feelings, moods, intentions, and motivations of others

Learning tips:

  • Work with others as much as possible
  • Use one-on-one or group roleplaying
  • Share what you have learned with others, including associations and visualizations you have made
  • Learn from others’ practices, associations, and visualizations
  • Learn from others’ mistakes

Solitary (Intrapersonal)

These learners like to introspect and self-reflect. This gives them a keen awareness of their own inner state of being. They understand their own inner desires, motivations, feelings, strengths, and weaknesses.

Skills:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-analysis
  • Evaluating one’s own thoughts and emotions
  • Understanding one’s role in relationships with others

Learning tips:

  • Study in private
  • Try to invest yourself personally in your work
  • Adjust your goals to fit your personal values.  This maximizes motivation.
  • Keep a journal to record thoughts and observations
  • Focus on what you would be feeling or thinking about when you associate or visualize
  • Train your brain cognitively, with training programs such as CogniFit which is a leading company in cognitive brain training programs. You can register here.

David Kolb’s Model of Learning Styles

“Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience.” – David A. Kolb

David A. Kolb’s model is outlined his book “Experiential Learning”, published in 1984. In this book, Kolb speaks of a four-stage cycle of learning as well as four independent learning styles. According to Kolb, all four stages of the learning cycle will be engaged in a complete learning process. The four stages are described below.

  1. Concrete Experience – This occurs when a new experience, or a reinterpretation of an existing experience, is encountered.
  2. Reflective Observation – This occurs when the experience is reviewed or reflected upon, with the goal of achieving a consistent understanding.
  3. Abstract Conceptualization – This occurs when a new idea or concept arises from reflection.
  4. Active Experimentation – This occurs when new ideas are applied to the world and the results are observed.

David Kolb’s four learning styles are built upon this four-stage learning cycle.  An individual will naturally prefer one of these styles over the others. This preference is influenced by social and educational environments as well as cognitive structures. Although everyone will occasionally need the stimulus of all four of these learning styles, it is useful to know your personal orientation.

Learning Styles: Diverging

This style corresponds with the first two stages and involves watching and feeling. People who are oriented towards diverging are able to see things from many different perspectives. They gather information by watching rather than doing and use their imagination to solve problems. This means that they are good at brainstorming and other methods of generating ideas. Diverging thinkers tend to have an open mind and broad interests. They tend to be imaginative and emotional and can be talented in the arts.

Learning Styles: Assimilating

This style corresponds with the second and third stages. It involves watching and thinking. People who prefer assimilating have a concise, logical approach to processing information. To them, ideas and concepts are primary, while people and practical applications are secondary. Information should be organized in a clear logical format. Because of their preference for the abstract, these learners tend to prefer reading, lectures, and analyzing concepts.

Learning Styles: Converging

This styles corresponds with the last two stages and involves doing and thinking. These learners strive for practical, “hands-on” solutions. They excel at technical work, finding practical uses for ideas and theories, and are less concerned with the interpersonal. Problem-solving comes most naturally to these learners. They like to experiment with new ideas and find practical applications. This allows for great technical and specialist abilities.

Learning Styles: Accommodating

This style corresponds with the fourth and first stages. It involves doing and feeling. Much like converging learners, accommodating learners are “hands on”.  They rely on intuition rather than logic, and their strength lies in imaginative ability and discussion. “Gut” instinct is primary. They do not shy away from an interpersonal approach, often relying on others for information or analysis. New challenges and experiences excite these learners.

Neil Fleming’s Model of Learning Styles

Dr. Neil Fleming identified four learning styles in the 1980’s. These four styles came to be known as the “VARK” model of learning styles. This model describes the sensory preferences of learning. It is built on earlier notions of sensory processing, such the VAK model. This is perhaps the most straightforward of models. It is simple yet insightful.

  1. Visual – You learn best from images, pictures, symbols, charts, graphs, diagrams and other forms of spatial organization.
  2. Auditory – You learn best from sound, rhythm, music, speaking and listening.
  3. Reading and Writing – You learn best from reading and writing.
  4. Kinesthetic – You learn best from interacting with their physical surroundings, making use of your body and sense of touch.

Learning Styles: A myth?

There has been recent controversy regarding the subject of learning styles. Although the idea has a lot of intuitive appeals, many disagree with it altogether. There are some problems that can be easily identified.

The first is that there is no agreed-upon model for learning styles. Over 70 different models have been identified, including The Seven Learning Styles, David Kolb’s model, Neil Fleming’s model, “right” and “left” brain model, “holistic” vs. “serialist” model, and so on. All of these models have very little research that supports their validity over others — some are merely more popular than others.

The second and most important problem is that there is no research to support the effectiveness of teaching to an individual’s learning style. A major premise of the theory of learning styles is that individuals learn better when the material is matched to their learning style. Unfortunately, studies have shown either no evidence or weak evidence to support this. On the other hand, studies do show that individuals will learn better if they reflect on their own learning style. This alone lends credence to the theory of learning styles. While it may not be useful to teach to individual learning styles, it is useful to reflect on your own preferences.

Some argue that the lack of evidence means that learning styles don’t exist. Many agree that they do exist, but are simply difficult to measure. Regardless of the extent of their validity, it is always interesting to learn more about yourself.

Learning can be daunting. Knowing your preferences will help.

References

Cherry, Kendra. “Are You a Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing, or Tactile Learner?” Verywell, 15 June 2017.
“Learning Styles Explained.” Idpride.
“Learning-Styles-Online.com.” Overview of learning styles, Advanogy.Com, 2017
McLeod, Saul. “Saul McLeod.” Kolb’s Learning Styles and Experiential Learning Cycle | Simply Psychology, 2010.

Hippocampus: the orchestra director in the deepest part of our brain

Hippocampus. Have you ever gone blank and forgotten what you were going to say? Our brain is full of important data and information that we have stored over the years. Sometimes we have so much information that we force our brain to get rid and ignore some data. The part of the brain in charge of such important functions as memory and learning is the hippocampus. Without this brain structure, we would lose the ability to remember and feel the emotions associated with memories. You want to know more? Keep reading!

Hippocampus

What is the Hippocampus?

The hippocampus is named after the anatomist Giulio Cesare Aranzio who in the 16th century observed that this brain structure bears a great resemblance to a seahorse.

The word hippocampus comes from the Greek Hippos (horse) and Kampe (crooked). In his discovery, this part of the brain was related to the sense of smell and he advocated the explanation that the hippocampus’ main function was to process the olfactory stimuli.

This explanation was defended until in 1890 when Vladimir Béjterev demonstrated the actual function of the hippocampus in relation to memory and cognitive processes. It is one of the most important parts of the human brain because it is closely related to memory functioning and emotions. It is a small organ located within the temporal lobe (approximately behind each temple), which communicates with different areas of the cerebral cortex in what is known as the “hippocampus system.” It is a small organ with an elongated and curved shape. Inside our brain, we have two hippocampi, one in each hemisphere (left and right).

The hippocampus is known as the main structure in memory processing.

Where is the Hippocampus?

It is very well located, connected to different regions of the brain. It is located in the middle temporal lobe.

The hippocampus along with other brain structures such as the amygdala and hypothalamus form the limbic system and are responsible for managing the most primitive physiological responses. They belong to the most “ancient, deep and primitive” part of the brain, in a part of the brain known as “archicortex” (the oldest region of the human brain) that appeared millions of years ago in our ancestors to meet their most basic needs.

The blue part is the hippocampus

What does the Hippocampus do?

Among its main functions are the mental processes related to memory consolidation and the learning process. As well as, processes associated with the regulation and production of emotional states and spatial perception. How does the brain learn?

Some research has also linked it to behavioral inhibition, but this information is still in the research phase as it is fairly recent.

Hippocampus and Memory

The hippocampus is primarily related to emotional memory and declarative memory. It allows us to identify faces, to describe different things and to associate the positive or negative feelings that we feel with the memories of the lived events.

It intervenes in forming both episodic and autobiographical memories from the experiences we are living. The brain needs to “make room” to be able to store all the information over the years and for this, it transfers the temporal memories to other areas of the brain where memory storage takes place in the long term.

In this way, older memories take longer to disappear. If the hippocampus were damaged, we would lose the ability to learn and the ability to retain information in memory. In addition to allowing the information to pass into long-term memory, it links the contents of the memory with positive or negative emotions that correspond depending on whether the memories are associated with good or bad experiences.

There are many types of memory: semantic memory, visual memory, working memory, implicit memory, etc. In the case of the hippocampus, it intervenes specifically in declarative memory (it covers our personal experiences and the knowledge we have about the world), managing the contents that can be expressed verbally. The different types of memory are not governed solely by the hippocampus but are formed by other brain regions. It does not take care of all the processes related to memory loss but it covers a good part of them.

Hippocampus and Learning

It allows learning and retention of information since it is one of the few areas of the brain that have neurogenesis throughout life.

That is, it has the ability to generate new neurons and new connections between neurons throughout the life cycle. Learning is acquired gradually after many efforts and this is directly related to it. For new information to be consolidated in our brains, it is vitally important that new connections are formed between neurons. That is why the hippocampus has a fundamental role in learning.

Curiosity: Is it true that the hippocampus of London taxi drivers is bigger or more developed? Why? London taxi drivers must pass a hard memory test where they must memorize a myriad of streets and places to get the license. In the year 2000, Maguire studied London taxi drivers and observed that the posterior hippocampus was greater. He also noted that the size was directly proportional to the time the taxi drivers were working. This is because of the effect of training, learning and experience changes and shapes the brain.

Spatial perception and its relationship with the hippocampus

Another important function in which the hippocampus stands out is the spatial orientation, where it plays a very important role.

Spatial perception helps us to keep our mind and body in a three-dimensional space. It allows us to move and helps us interact with the world around us.

There have been different studies with mice where it is stated that it is an area of vital importance for orientation capacity and spatial memory.

Thanks to its correct functioning, we are capable of performing acts such as guiding us through cities we do not know, etc. However, the data concerning people are much more limited and more research is needed.

What happens when the hippocampus is disturbed?

An injury to the hippocampus can mean problems generating new memories. An brain injury can cause anterograde amnesia, affecting specific memories but leaving intact learning skills or abilities.

Lesions can cause anterograde or retrograde amnesia. Non-declarative memory would remain intact and uninjured. For example, a person with a hippocampal injury may learn to ride a bicycle after the injury, but he would not remember ever seeing a bicycle. That is, a person with the damaged hippocampus can continue to learn skills but not remember the process.

Anterograde amnesia is memory loss that affects events occurring after the injury. Retrograde amnesia, on the other hand, affects the forgetfulness generated before the injury.

At this point, you will wonder why the hippocampus is damaged when there are cases of amnesia. It is simple, this part of the brain acts as a gateway to brain patterns that sporadically retain events until they pass to the frontal lobe. One could say that the hippocampus is key to memory consolidation, transforming short-term memory into long-term memory. If this access door is damaged and you can’t save the information, it won’t be possible to produce longer-term memories. In addition to losing the ability to remember, when injuries or damage to the hippocampus occurs, you may lose the ability to feel the emotions associated with such memories, since you would not be able to relate the memories to the emotions that evoke it.

Why can the Hippocampus be damaged?

Most of the alterations that may occur in the hippocampus are produced as a result of aging and neurodegenerative diseases, stress, stroke, epilepsy, aneurysms, encephalitis, schizophrenia.

Aging and dementias

In aging in general and dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease in particular, the hippocampus is one of the areas that has previously been damaged, impairing the ability to form new memories or the ability to recall more or less recent autobiographical information. Memory problems, in this case, are associated with the death of hippocampal neurons.

Most of us know of someone who has suffered or suffers from some kind of dementia and has experienced memory loss. It is curious how the memories that remain are childhood memories or the oldest memories. You may wonder why this happens if the hippocampus is supposed to be damaged.

Well, although it is severely damaged (whether by dementia or any other type of illness), the most common memories are the oldest and they are also the most relevant to the life of the person. This is because over time these memories have been “becoming independent” of the hippocampus to be part of other structures related to long-term memory.

Hippocampus and stress

This region of the brain is very vulnerable to periods of stress because it inhibits and atrophies the neurons of this structure.

Have you noticed that when we are very stressed and we have a billion things to do sometimes we feel forgetful?

Stress and specifically cortisol (a type of hormone that is released in response to stressful moments) damage our brain structures sometimes causing neuronal death. That is why it is fundamental that we learn to remain calm and manage our emotions to get our hippocampus to remain strong and continue to exercise their functions optimally.

To know more watch the following video.

If you like this super interesting subject about memory, I recommend you watch the movie “Memento”. I’ll leave the trailer here so you can see what it’s about.

If you liked this post, leave your comment below. I will be happy to read it and answer your questions :).

This article is originally in Spanish written by Mairena Vázquez, translated by Alejandra Salazar.

Sensory Memory: The Motor Behind Your Hidden Abilities

Can you see with your eyes closed? Can you hear someone’s voice, even when you’re alone? Have you ever traveled in time with a smell that reminds you of a certain place? These are just some of the amazing powers of our sensory memory, which uses all five of our senses to capture and remember the world. Find out what sensory memory is, the different types of sensory memory, and how to improve it.

Sensory memory

“…taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest…” -Marcel Proust

What is sensory memory?

We have the unlimited ability to perceive, register, and store information about our environments, and sensory memory is what makes it possible. Our senses perceive and capture information about objects and ideas around us. The sensory memory system makes the exterior information that we perceive “last” longer, which makes it possible to be captured and understood by other memory systems.

The sensory information that we retain doesn’t only make it possible to recognize our environment (smell someone’s perfume and know who it is, recognize a person’s voice, etc.), it also makes it possible to make sense of the future. For example, when you eat a lemon and perceive the taste of the acidity, your body and brain will remember the sensation. Later, when you see a lemon being cut, your mouth will salivate due to the sensory memory of the flavor. We store sensory information that is linked to a degree of attraction or different sensations that are felt in the moment of their “recording”. The same stimulus that one person sees as an unpleasant experience, another may perceive as a pleasant one.

Sensory memory also plays a role in our other memory systems. It quickly and effectively tells the brain which stimuli should be attended to by short-term memory and saves particular parts of the original memory in long-term memory which can be recognized later on.

Types of sensory memory

Our five senses make up the five types of sensory memory. Each one makes it possible to recognize and remember perceived impressions, along with the value that it was given during perception.

1. Auditory or Echoic Sensory Memory

The main function of auditory sensory memory is to capture sounds and auditory experiences in order to prolong its presence and be captured by other response systems. This type of memory can prolong the presence of a sound for up to 10 seconds after it has ended.

You may find that sometimes you ask someone to repeat what they’ve said, but after they’ve started, you realize that you actually heard them the first time. You didn’t know that you were listening, but your ears did their work and captured the auditory information from the environment.

2. Visual or Iconic Sensory Memory

Visual or iconic memory plays an important role when recording visual sensory experiences. Our eyes work like a camera that is constantly taking pictures of our surroundings and makes it possible to make each bit of information last longer so that it can be linked to other images. While this ability to capture visual information from the environment makes the information “last” longer, it does not last quite as long as echoic (auditory) memory. If auditory sensory memory can last up to 10 seconds, iconic sensory memory can last up to a maximum of 250 milliseconds after being captured. This short amount of time keeps the system from being overloaded with information. We sometimes unintentionally store this visual information in superior memory systems accidentally.

Imagine that you’re riding the subway for 40 minutes. During this commute, you sit in front of someone who you seemingly pay no attention to. The next day, you run into the same person in the grocery store and you recognize them. The images that you remember from the subway were processed and sent to other memory systems.

3. Tactile Sensory Memory

Tactile sensory memory makes it possible to record information about the characteristics of the objects that we touch and feel. Bliss, Crane, Manfield, and Townsend (1966) found in their studies that this ability differs in people with congenital blindness, late onset blindness, and people with normal vision. These differences reflect the ability for improvement through the practice of the tactile memory system.

Suppose that you need to get something from your closet, but they lights went out in your room and you’re left in the dark. You’ll probably find that you’re able to recognize a good amount of your clothes just by touch, without having to see them visually. While you may have never stopped to intentionally take in this kind of information, your sense of touch did its work and processed the information correctly.

4. Olfactory Sensory Memory

Olfactory sensory memory records information about the smells that different stimuli emit. We have the ability to smell and distinguish between a large number of different scents that arrive at our senses every day. In fact, our olfactory skills are able to detect a wider variety of stimuli than any other sense. We are able to link smells to different stimuli and retain this information for quite a long time.

Imagine that you have dinner at your house with a few friends. The next day, you find a jacket in the hallway that someone must have left. You don’t know whose it is because they took the jacket off before coming in the house so you didn’t see anyone wearing it. Smelling the jacket is one of the best ways to figure out whose it is. It’s possible that although you didn’t realize it at the time, you were subconsciously smelling everyone at the dinner all night so you might recognize whose it is.

5. Gustatory Sensory Memory

Gustatory sensory memory captures flavors and later classifies then and retains them as a memory. The sensations that we experience the first few times that we receive a gustatory stimulus are remembered quite strongly. Gustatory sensory memory, like olfactory memory, tends to create strong ties to feelings and reception of stimuli and keep them in a lasting way. Often, eating a certain food will bring you back to another time or situation. Like tactile memory, gustatory memory also requires quite a bit of practice.

Imagine that you go to live in a different country for a while and get used to a certain type of food. After returning to your home country, you try the same food a few years later and find that you’re transported back to the old country with memories that may not have anything to do with the food itself.

Sensory memory- Brain

How can you improve your sensory memory?

Some people have excellent sensory skills that make it easy for them to perceive and distinguish between stimuli with their skills (or one sense in particular). However, anyone can improve their different types of memory and sensory skills by properly training them. If you are able to develop your senses, you will also be able to improve memory.

Before starting to train and improve your different senses, it’s important to know which are stronger and which are weaker. People with sensory deficits usually compensate their necessities by improving another skill.

Once you have a better idea about each of your sensory memory skills, you’ll know how to best combine them. Imagine that a friend bought a book that you’re interested in reading. You ask them the name of the book and go straight to the bookstore to buy it, but you forget it on the way. However, if you ask the name of the book and look at the cover, noticing what it looks like and the picture it has, you’ll have more sensory data available, thus having a better possibility of remembering the book when you go to the bookstore.

Lastly, in order to complete sensory memory processes, it’s important to develop attention. There are programs available that make it possible to take an online cognitive assessment to help you better understand if your attention and memory processes are working adequately. CogniFit is a professional tool that can help carefully measure attention and other cognitive processes. The program makes it possible to find out your cognitive score with different brain games and activities. CogniFit uses advanced algorithms to find out each user’s cognitive profile and adapt to each person’s cognitive needs. The tasks assigned to the user will be adjusted to their specific needs.

Poor attention affects perception, and without perception, there is no memory. We said earlier that our senses capture information subconsciously, but that’s not always the case. Many people with poor attention also have a poor memory. This is not usually a big problem and is usually caused by missing steps when a memory is perceived. It’s not the same to see passively or watch something, and hearing and listening are two different activities. Being intentional in your actions makes it possible to better manage your memory.

This article was originally written in Spanish and translated into English

References

Bliss, J. C., Crane, H. D., Mansfield, P. K., & Townsend, J. T. (1966). Information available in brief tactile presentations. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 1(4), 273-283.