Memory is used by our brain to complete various tasks. The most important task is cognition (conscious thoughts). Memory is also necessary to learn, store and use information received. Poor memory function in children is often mistaken for developmental and learning issues like ADD or LD. For adults it is often mistaken for dementia. In many cases the actual root cause for these issues is poor working memory or short-term memory challenges.
At age 40 certain functions within the brain begin to slow. It is a natural process. Cognitive assessments and neuro-imaging assessment will show whether memory loss is actually a physiological problem or other health related issues.
For children, memory and recall are critical to learning. Of equal importance is its role in furthering the development of the individual. Without memory function at full capacity the individual will often find studying, homework, or recalling the days events difficult at best. At worst, the child may not remember how to do their homework based on what was taught during the day, or even worse that homework is required for the next day.
Types of Memory
Memory is divided into six major elements with short term and intermediate memory further divided or measured as auditory and visual memory.
Short-term memory – refers to the amount or bits of information we can hold in our head at any given time and lasts between 1 second and 24 hours depending upon how much importance you put on the information. You would use this type of memory for phone numbers and zip codes. The portion of memory tends to be where your conscious thoughts are. When increasing digit span capacity we are actually working short term memory.
Intermediate memory – sometimes called working memory, occurs once the information has been processed. It can be viewed as the part of memory which holds and mixes information from the different parts of memory. This will determine how we feel and what we will do about a given situation. It defines our ability to express actions. When we do reverse digit spans we are working intermediate memory.
Long-term memory – is divided into three parts: Episodic, Semantic and Procedural memory. It resides in the deep unconscious and can be viewed as the “repository” of all our knowledge.
Episodic memory – is experience based. This would include memories of events and experiences. It is enhanced by sensory input such as sights, sounds, music, smells and touch. Many times episodic memories are triggered by emotion.
Semantic memory – would include remembering specific information such as text books information, math, names, facts and figures.
Procedural memory – is hands on learning. When we learn a skill such as riding a bike or playing a sport motor memory is necessary. These skills can only be learned by physically doing them. It is automatic memory.
Underdeveloped memory systems can result in speech delays, learning disabilities, distractibility, poor reading comprehension, memory loss, and loss of mental acuity.
Cognitive thoughts are formed based upon information held and retrieved from past experiences. Feelings and understanding of these memories are functions of short-term memory.
Thoughts are represented by the ability to create a conceptual and visual frame of reference. Conceptualization is the ability to understand abstract ideas, principles and values. It tends to develop as our understanding of language develops.
The ability to understand is directly proportional to the development of the auditory side of short-term memory. Visualization develops with eyesight and results in perceived reality. The ability to visualize and conceptualize tends to define how we approach life, how we learn, how we stay on task, how we integrate information and most importantly, how we communicate with others.