Don’t you hate it when you have to learn something quickly and just when you need to use it…it is gone from your memory? This is usually known as short term memory loss. You could be astonished at how much your life could be improved when you improve your bank of memories. Let’s discuss how memories are created and just what short term memory is. It may provide you with a greater understanding of why you are able to remember some things and forget others.
What is short term memory? Short term memory, also called your active memory or primary memory, is a small portion of your brain that stores information in an active state. You can think of it as a small notepad. You process a few items that you need right at that moment and then you throw the notepad away or you commit the items on the notepad to your long term memory. Having a good active memory is very important because it is the gateway into processing memories that will last.
Are there exercises I can do to help increase my short term memory? Yes, there are exercises you can do to help increase your short term memory. One great way to increase the storage capacity of your short term memories is through “chunking.” Chunking is when you group items together when they are presented. The more you can create chunking lists, the more items you are able to remember. Researchers believe that active memory banks can hold around 9 things but believe that with memory tests and the ability to chunk information together into clusters, you could potentially store more. You do have to keep in mind that your short term memory is not designed to hold a lot of information. So there is a limit to how much you can expand it. And there is no way to decide what stays in your active memory and what goes into your long term memory. There are ways to make information stick with you but you cannot automatically switch information over.
How does short term memory become converted into long term memory? Short term memory is the initial stage of converting something to long term memory. Without your active memory you would not be able to retain any information. You would see something and then instantly forget it. The process of converting from active (short term) to long term is through memorization or repetition. You train your brain over time to assimilate information and store it. You may not be able to instantly recite back someone’s new phone number but you probably could recite your parents’ phone number from childhood. The mind is still a huge mystery to scientists and researchers. No one really knows what it is capable of and why it acts the way it does. Some believe that it is our other senses that help short term memories make the transition to long term.
Can brain injuries affect short term memory? Damage to the frontal lobe can definitely affect your short term memory. Your frontal lobe in your brain is responsible for your attention span. If you have damaged that area then your attention becomes fractured. And you need to be able to process information as you get it. If you cannot remain attentive to receive that information then you cannot store it, even temporarily, in your memory banks.