Iii) Long-Term Memory

. Initially memories are flexible, labile, subject to amendment and a great risk of extinction. Sometimes memories stick, strengthen with time, become remarkably persistent, ie consolidation. Eventually they are infinitely retrievable and resistant to amendment.

. On the other hand, every time the story is retrieved has to re-start the consolidation.

. The way it is retrieved depends upon the type of information being sought and the length of time that has passed since the initial memory formed and/or was last retrieved.

. The retrieval system involves several parts of the brain, ie

i. cortex (which is linked with the medial temporal lobe)

ii. medial temporal lobe (includes the hippocampus ‐ part of the limbic response and helps shape the long-term character of many types of memories)

"...Neurons spring from the cortex and snake their way over to the lobe, allowing the hippocampus to listen in on what the cortex is receiving .Wires also erupt from the lobe and wriggle their way back to the cortex, returning the eavesdropping favour. This loop allows the hippocampus to issue orders to previously stimulated cortical regions while simultaneously gleaning information from them. It also allows us to form memories, and it plays a large role......to recount......stories..."

John Medina, 2009

. The relationship between these areas is characterized by sensory information coming into the hippocampus from the cortex and memories form in the cortex by way of the reverse connections. The activity between these 2 continues long after the initial communications. While the cortex and hippocampus are actively engaged, any memory is labile and can be amended. After a while the hippocampus ends its connection with the cortex based on the memory being fully consolidated in the cortex. This is a complex re-organisation of the brain's regions. This could take years and the final resting place is also the region that started the process.

. It is thought that over time the retrieval systems gradual switch from specific and detailed recall to more general and abstract recall.

. With new information, the brain tries to match it with already stored information. This allows for re-creation and can change the story. Thus newly encoded information can re-shape and change existing traces. This is most likely to occur when learning is given in consecutive, uninterrupted slabs. It is best to deliver information in deliberately spaced repetition cycles so that there is more chance to fix memory. This is a way of adding to the knowledge base rather than replacing or modifying it. The left inferior prefrontal cortex is the area of the brain that becomes most active during retrieval.

"...Memory may not be fixed at the moment of learning, but repetition, doled out in specific timed internals, is the fixative.....Learning occurs best when new information is incorporated gradually into the memory store rather than when it is jammed in all at once..."

John Medina, 2009


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