Long-Term Memory: Explanations And 10 Exercises To Improve It.

Memory is essential to cognitive processes and learning. Our brain has two distinct types of memory: short-term memory or working memory, and long-term memory which we will present in this article. 

It is this second memory mechanism that allows us to encode and preserve our memories over time, sometimes over many years, as shown by certain childhood memories that we retain as adults.

Can you develop long-term memory and boost your brain? What are the problems that the process can encounter? How can we remedy the loss of information? This is what we propose to see together in our tutorial.

Definition Of Long-Term Memory.

Long-term memory can be defined as a brain process that allows us to encode and retain an almost infinite amount of information over a long period of time. 

Long-Term Memory: Principles And Functioning.

Long-term memory is an essential process for building memories, learning, and for the correct execution of daily tasks. This form of memory refers to the brain’s ability to store information, knowledge, concepts, or skills and recall them later. Long-term memory is based on complex processes that involve many parts of the brain. For this reason, it is very susceptible to brain damage. Fortunately, cognitive training and exercises can improve it and allow the recovery of cognitive abilities.

If we consider the time during which the information remains in the memory system, we can distinguish the following forms of memory: 

  • Sensory Memory (ultra-short-term memory). 
  • Working Memory (short-term memory). 
  • and Long-Term Memory, for memories that last for a long time. 

The functions and processes of long-term memory

Long-term memory, in turn, can be divided into several functions. The different memories are:

  • Declarative memory: stores information that we can reproduce verbally. The parts of the brain associated with this form of memory are the medial temporal lobe, the diencephalon, and the neocortex. Declarative memory consists of two subcategories: 
  • Semantic memory: refers to the collection of information we have about the world. It gathers our vocabulary, our academic knowledge, and what we know about each concept. For example, we know that an apple is an edible fruit that can have different colors and grow on an apple tree. However, we probably don’t remember when we learned this information.
  • Episodic memory: contains memories of concrete events that we have experienced. For example, we remember what we ate yesterday, where the car was parked, when we last visited a new city, who was at the birthday party last year, or when we met a person.
  • Non-declarative memory: is information stored in memory that we cannot verbalize. This information is usually acquired through implicit learning (we may not be aware of this learning process) or emotions. This form of memory is much more resistant to brain damage and is, therefore, less frequently damaged. non-declarative memory involves various areas of the brain, such as the neocortex, amygdala, cerebellum, and basal ganglia. In particular, it includes procedural memory, i.e. all the information on the muscular movements that we have automated thanks to exercise, as well as habits and skills, which affects productivity. For example, riding a bike, driving a car, throwing a ball, or using a computer mouse.

Use Of The Different Forms Of Long-Term Memory.

Our brains are able, through memory, to perform a simplified search for information when a particular concept has been activated in our brain. For example, it takes us less time to remember the word “crow” if we have already talked about “birds”, “seagulls” and “swallows”.

Most of the knowledge we acquire in academia is stored in our semantic memory. So when we learn or remember the geography of our country, anatomy, chemistry, mathematics, or any other subject, we put our long-term memory into motion.

When we work in a restaurant and we need to remember which dish was ordered by which person at that table, we use our episodic memory. The same is true when we identify regular customers.

When we learn to ride a bike, it is very difficult at first to maintain our balance. Children often need extra wheels. This is because we don’t yet know exactly how to move our muscles to establish balance. Once we have practiced enough, our procedural memory is responsible for the motor skills we have automated. This allows us to simply ride a bike without thinking. A similar process occurs when we learn to drive a car.

To remember where our car is, where the cell phone charger is, what the capital of Germany is, or any other information we need, we use long-term memory.

As we have seen above, some memory processes are conscious, others unconscious or automatic. We can then talk about explicit or implicit memory.

Instructions For Developing Your Long-Term Memory.

What Are The Problems With Long-Term Memory?

Forgetting is not a memory problem. In fact, the memory gets rid of the information we use the least, especially as we age, which is a normal process. 

But there is also pathological forgetting: 

  • The inability to generate new memories (anterograde amnesia). 
  • The inability to retrieve memories from the past (retrograde amnesia). 

On the other hand, there is hypermnesia, an involuntary recall of very detailed and vivid memories, as is sometimes the case with post-traumatic stress disorder. It is also worth mentioning that in some disorders, the content of the memory may be altered, as in Korsakov’s syndrome, in which the affected person involuntarily invents memories because he or she is unable to remember the real ones.

One of the best-known memory disorders is related to Alzheimer’s disease: episodic memory is most often affected. Memory problems can also be observed in other forms of dementia or in Parkinson’s disease in which procedural memory is affected. 

Memory problems also occur in head trauma or brain damage due to a stroke. Finally, the use of drugs or certain medications can cause difficulties in retrieving memories. This phenomenon is generally temporary and therefore reversible.

How Do You Train?

Names, phone numbers, login data, sales figures, and appointments – often you simply feel overwhelmed by the wealth of information you have to keep in mind. What many people don’t know: mental performance can be improved with specific exercises. We show you how.

The important thing is to be consistent in your exercises. Sustained practice helps to develop learning processes and maintain cognitive abilities. So you can train your memory! You will quickly notice that you not only memorize better but also that you can access your memories more easily.

It can take as little as three minutes a day to see an improvement.

Researchers and neuroscientists consider that memory works in three processes, as we have seen above: short-term memory, working memory, and long-term memory.

Short-term memory stores information for only a few seconds. Whether the information is transferred to other areas of the memory or lost depends mainly on factors such as attention and motivation.

When the brain is in working memory mode, the information is processed, i.e. analyzed and evaluated. It is then stored for a few minutes or even days.

The more intensively information is processed in working memory, the more successfully it is anchored in long-term memory. Researchers now assume that the storage capacity of the long-term memory is unlimited and that forgetting is simply due to the fact that the information sought cannot be found among the multitude of stored information.

Memory training refers mainly to the working memory, which also increases the capacity of long-term memory. Here are ten psychologically proven tips to increase information retention.

10 Tips To Stimulate Your Long-Term Memory.

  • 1- Verbalize information perceived by the eyes. And vice versa: visualize verbal information. Learning and memorization are all the easier when the senses are involved in the processing of information.
  • 2- You can retain information better by organizing it according to your own logic. What is well structured stays longer in your memory.
  • 3- Reading or reciting aloud increases the likelihood that the information will be remembered by the brain, for example when learning lessons.
  • 4- If you want to remember the information you get from a book, don’t read too slowly. If you read quickly, you can remember more because you don’t have time to wander away from the subject and let your thoughts wander.
  • 5- If the reading is important or complicated, pause briefly after each paragraph and think about what you have read. You can try to remember it in your own words.
  • 6- Practice active listening. Don’t just follow the speaker’s words, but also pay attention to body language. Paraphrase the information you have mentally obtained and evaluate it.
  • 7- Take notes. Write down what you want to remember. 
  • 8- Repetition is very important in memorization. In order to avoid losing information, you need to recall it regularly and consciously by repeating or rereading it. Repetition makes the synaptic connections in the brain more stable. It allows faster access to stored information.
  • 9- Sleep plays a central role in memory encoding. It is even the prerequisite for the consolidation of memory content. 15 minutes after falling asleep, information from the working memory is transferred to the long-term memory.
  • 10- Physical activity is beneficial to memory. During regular exercise, proteins are released that help forms new blood vessels in the brain and improve the interconnection of neurons.

The COGITO study is unique in the world. It was conducted by the Max Planck Institute and showed in 2013 that mental performance can be trained at any age. The memory performance of older participants was more reliable than that of younger ones as soon as these people had trained intensively.

Food Supplements For The Brain And Memory.

Food supplements for the brain are designed to optimize memory and mental performance. Memory decreases especially with age, for example, because the production of neurotransmitters decreases. However, there are other reasons that can lead to memory lapses: 

  • Stress.
  • Sleep Deprivation.
  • Poor Eating Habits.
  • Smoking.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids. 

As an omega-3 fatty acid, EPA + DHA are often used in dietary supplements for the brain and help in learning a course or concepts. According to recent studies, this fatty acid can have a positive effect on your mental performance. Your brain will especially benefit if the fatty acid is consumed frequently, for example in fish or flaxseed. It helps your brain work better. 

American researchers at the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in Portland were able to prove in experiments with monkeys that the brain network develops particularly well after frequent consumption of omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, the neurons in your brain are mainly made up of omega-3 fatty acids.

Other studies have shown that fatty acids protect the brain from shrinking. The omega-3 fatty acid EPA is obtained from krill oil or flaxseed.

Guarana Extract: For An Alert Brain.

Guarana, a plant extract, is an energy supplier. The benefits for the brain are almost immediate: you are more alert and mentally focused. The main benefit of guarana is the slow release of caffeine into the bloodstream. This has the advantage of allowing you to stay awake and focused for a long time. Guarana should therefore always be preferred to other caffeine products, at least if the objective is to be alert, for example, to learn a course or for an important task.

Ginkgo Extract.

Ginkgo promotes and supports mental performance. The interaction of flavonoids and terpenes is probably responsible for the positive effect of this natural plant on the brain. In laboratory tests, many positive effects could be attributed to this mixture of substances: 

  • Protection of the nerve cells from harmful influences.  
  • Support the function of certain messenger substances in the brain, which have a lasting effect on memory. 
  • In addition, the circulation properties of the blood and thus the supply of micronutrients are significantly improved.

Vitamin B Complex.

B vitamins help maintain a healthy nervous system. The essential B vitamins ensure the maintenance of mental capacities. They are mainly vitamin B1, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12. All are of great importance for our cognitive faculties.

Conclusion.

Did you know the different types of memory? Did you know what the functions of long-term memory are? We hope that this article has helped you to apply processes that allow you to remember things for a long time. Dietary supplements help us to recover our cognitive faculties. 

Do you have any other tips to share? Feel free to share them below. 

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