Essay: Memory

Memory plays an important role in cognition. The knowledge that we have is based on memory. From the stimuli we see to the things we hear affects our memory (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). When there is a stimulus, the brain will process that information and retrieve memories that we already have that relate to that stimuli in any way (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). The brain will then generate emotion related to that stimuli and store it in short-term memory (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). The more repetitious that stimuli or anything relatable occurs, the brain will then develop a long-term memory regarding it (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). This all occurs via a network of synaptic connections and neurotransmitters (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014; Rasch & Born, 2013). Without these structural and chemical components, memory would not be possible.
Memory can be affected by age and exercise (Erikson, Voss, Prakash, Basak, Szabo, Chaddock, Kim, Heo, Alves, White, Wojcicki, Malley, Vieira, Martin, Pence, Woods, McAuley, Kramer, 2011). When we have progressed into late adulthood, the hippocampus shrinks, which is a loss of volume (Erikson et al., 2011). This loss of volume is what impairs memory as well as increases the risk for developing dementia (Erikson et al., 2011). One study has shown that aerobic exercise training reverses this volume loss, which would improve memory (Erikson et al., 2011). Another factor that plays a role in memory is sleep.
When we are awake, our brain encodes information (Rasch & Born, 2013). When we are sleeping, particularly during slow-wave sleep (SWS), the brain in a sense reboots the encoded information from earlier and begins to consolidate it (Rasch & Born, 2013). Rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep strengthens the synaptic connections regarding the encoded information and reorganizes it accordingly (Rasch & Born, 2013). This goes to show how important sleep is in the formation of memories and college students really shouldn’t pull an ‘all-nighter’ the day before the test (Rasch & Born, 2013).
One type of memory is prospective memory (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). This is when you are recalling something you have to do later on or in the future (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). The memory in our brain acts much like a computer (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). We create a document or file similar to creating a memory and we save it to the hard drive or our brain. When we need that file/memory, we retrieve it. Then once again it gets saved into storage. Storage can be impacted by interference (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). One example of interference is attention or awareness (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). If you happen to be studying for a test and all of a sudden someone flips on the television, the television may pull your attention away from studying and onto the television. You may not remember what you just read or where you were at with studying because you got distracted.
Memory can be a powerful thing. Memories help us to define ourselves and how we perceive things. Though our perceptions can also define our memories. Maybe our memories are all wrong. These would be called false memories (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). False memories are the memories we have of something that did not happen (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). This can occur when someone suggest something, such as an incident or event, to you (Loftus, 1997). If someone tells you about something that you experienced, you may believe that it actually did because you think you have a memory of it happening (Loftus, 1997). False memories can also be a result of misinformation and how much it is accepted (Loftus, 1997). How many of our memories are false if all it takes is a mere suggestion to implant a false memory?
Even language is based on memory (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). There are many things that make up psycholinguistics, which is the studying of how we learn language and how we use it to communicate to others (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). It is said that we begin to learn language in utero (Altmann, 2001). As we age we are taught syllables that our brains encode and store (Altmann, 2001). This can be through individuals talking to us slowly and more emphasized or while in conversation with others (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). We are constantly listening and learning.
We also begin to pick up gesturing that is done while communicating (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). Eventually, we begin to utilize the sounds and syllables that we have learned to create words (Altmann, 2001). As we start to learn meanings of these words we can then properly use them in a sentence for communication. As we get older, we retain the meanings in our memory and continue to add new words and meanings into storage (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). This learning process involves the help of the brain. Different areas of the brain play different roles in learning language. The left hemisphere of the brain is associated with processing the minor details of language, whereas, the right side is associated with processing the ‘big picture’ (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). The left side looks at the context of words in sentences and the right looks at the relatedness of words (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014).
Broca’s area is what helps us to perceive the information being heard (Watkins & Paus, 2004). It also aids in speech production (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). Some individuals with issues within this area of the brain will have difficulty producing speech, which is called Broca’s aphasia (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). This area is toward the back of the frontal lobe (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). There is also Wernicke’s aphasia, which where the individual has difficulty comprehending language (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). The damaged area that causes Wernicke’s aphasia is the left-hemisphere called Wernicke’s area (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). This area is in the back of the left temporal lobe (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). There are many other types of aphasia that someone may encounter (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014).
Though the left-hemisphere has an important in the processing of language, the right hemisphere is also important in linguistics (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). The right hemisphere has a role in comprehension and production (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). Mirror neurons help us to replicate the sound that we heard (Watkins & Paus, 2004). By observing the face of the individual producing the sound and hearing it at the same time helps us to learn language better. Eventually, language becomes automatic and doesn’t require much thought to produce it.
Linguistics differs from psycholinguistics. Linguistics is the characteristics that make up language, such as structure, function, and form. We rely on word order to distinguish what is trying to be communicated. Letter order within a word matters in a sense (Rayner, White, Johnson, Liversedge, 2006). One study has shown that letters that are jumbled can still be read as long as the first and last letter remained the same/in place (Rayner, White, Johnson, Liversedge, 2006). If letters are substituted, the words become more difficult for our brain to decipher (Rayner, White, Johnson, Liversedge, 2006). This shows how important letters play a role in interpreting language. It is also important because it aids in the understanding of the meaning behind what is trying to be communicated.
As stated earlier, we start to learn language a young age. We rely on syntax or word order to determine the meaning of words. It can be compared to context clues, which helps us to figure out a meaning of a word that we may not know. We analyze sounds, word order, and grammar to help us learn the meaning of words and sentences. We develop a mental lexicon to help us build up our knowledge of language. As we continue to learn how to interpret language, we are learning to produce language.
There are times when language does not come out of our mouths or is produced the way we intended (Fromkin, 1984). This is called speech errors (Fromkin, 1984). This can occur when we anticipate saying something and as we think about saying something, certain words, syllables, or sounds get changed (Fromkin, 1984). This can either be by adding, deleting, transposing or even false starts (Fromkin, 1984). Speech errors occur rapidly due to an error in the neurolinguistics of speech production (Fromkin, 1984). Everyone probably has experienced a speech error, which some call a slip of the tongue (Fromkin, 1984).
As we age into older adults, the speed at which we process language and our memory capacity begins to decrease (Kemper, Herman, Lian, 2003). Our language is more simplified grammatically and substantially when multitasking as older adults (Kemper, Herman, Lian, 2003). Older adults tend to talk more slowly, which causes speech to be more fluent when multitasking compared to young adults (Kemper, Herman, Lian, 2003). Young adults speak more rapidly, but typically when they are multitasking they tend to shorten their sentences and reduce the use of grammar (Kemper, Herman, Lian, 2003). By doing this, they may be making more resources available for their working memory (Kemper, Herman, Lian, 2003). If tasks are unfamiliar to us, the content and complexity of our speech may be impacted (Kemper, Herman, Lian, 2003).
As stated before, linguistics is the study of language that we use to communicate with one another by using sounds to create words to create sentences (Anderson, 2015). Linguists study word meaning, sentence production, comprehension, semantics, and structure of grammar (Anderson, 2015). Psycholinguistics looks more at meaning behind production and how we produce language through cognitively and neurologically (Anderson, 2015). Psycholinguists look at how language is processed within the brain and how we are able to structure our sentences to communicate with others (Anderson, 2015). Language would not be possible without cognition.
Cognition includes all the processes that occur within the brain that help us to perceive, recall, think, comprehend, and act upon information or stimuli (Tibbetts, 2014). Another way of defining cognition is the processes that includes memory, thoughts, awareness, language, attention, and our emotions (Mesulam, 1998). Cognition is the reason we are able to learn and expand our knowledge (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). Perception and sensation is what aids in our learning, which wouldn’t be possible without cognition to process those experiences (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). Many our short-term and long-term memories are based on perception and sensation (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). Those memories would not be stored without cognition (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014).
Even recognition is dependent on cognition because recognition is based on memory and memory is based on cognition (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). It can be seen that many other processes or activities rely on cognition (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). Many things also rely on attention as well. The more attention we have towards something the more we may gain from that experience (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). Have you ever let your mind wander during class or a meeting before? You probably don’t recall very much of what was occurring during the time you were ‘daydreaming’. Attention can be controlled through cognition, which translates to awareness (Tibbetts, 2014).
There are times that cognition may fail us due to interference or problems with neural processes (Radvanksy & Ashcraft, 2014). One way cognition may fail us is with false memories (Radvanksy & Ashcraft, 2014). If we are provided with inaccurate information or sleep deprived, that can make us more susceptible to false memories (Straube, 2012). Forgotten memories can occur because of interference, causing information to not be stored or processed correctly (Radvanksy & Ashcraft, 2014). Cognition and memory also aid in our learning of language.
Cognition allows us to not only perceive language when also produce it as well (Radvanksy & Ashcraft, 2014). When we hear language we process what we hear and start to analyze its meaning based on our previous knowledge or context clues (Radvanksy & Ashcraft, 2014). During this learning process, we make mental notes of the grammar and structuring that is being used by the talker (Radvanksy & Ashcraft, 2014). We store these communication rules in our memory to be utilized in the future when we are producing language (Radvanksy & Ashcraft, 2014). As we perceive language and produce language, neural systems are working (Radvanksy & Ashcraft, 2014).
Neural processes are needed for not only memory, but language as well (Radvanksy & Ashcraft, 2014). Many areas of the brain are involved with processing language, producing language, storing memories, linking emotion to memories, and much more (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). It has been said that we recall memories better when we have an emotional connection to them (Van Bergen, Wall, Salmon, 2014). Emotions are produced through neural connections within the brain (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014).
It has been discussed how many things rely on cognition, but what does cognition rely on? One thing that cognition relies on is nutrition. Leptin, which is a protein hormone, regulates the intake of food and body weight (Morrison, 2009). Leptin receptors are found throughout the brain, even areas that play a role in learning and memory (Morrison, 2009). So how does nutrition affect cognition? Well, depending on our intake of food. If we are in starvation mode, our behavior will change in order for survival (Morrison, 2009). This behavior tends to be motivation and desire for food (Morrison, 2009). If we are obese, it tends to cause a decrease in the function of cognition (Morrison, 2009). When we eat it can stimulate dopamine receptors, which gives us this pleasurable feeling (Morrison, 2009).
One example of a pleasurable feeling obtained from food is think of the time when you were out in the cold and came inside to drink hot chocolate. It made you feel warm and happy. When you think of cold days, you tend to associate that with hot chocolate or maybe even soup. There can also be negative experiences with food. One example is when a certain food caused you to get sick. Typically, you don’t want to eat that food for quite some time. This is because we have associated our emotion with that experience and when we are presented with that stimuli we experienced again, we think of how we felt.
Nutrition is what helps the brain to develop and without a brain, cognition would not be known (Bhate, Joshi, Ladkat, Deshmukh, Lumbree, Katre, Bhat, Rush, Yajnik, 2012). Not only does development of the brain occur inside the womb due to nutrition, but also to continue the development after birth (Bhate et al., 2012). A deficiency in folate during pregnancy can cause learning disabilities and brain abnormalities to occur to the fetus (Bhate et al., 2012). A deficiency in B12 during pregnancy can cause issues with brain development too (Bhate et al., 2012). One thing that has been shown to improve cognition is breakfast (Cooper, Bandelow, Nevill, 2011). It has showed that individuals had more energy when they consumed breakfast (Cooper, Bandelow, Nevill, 2011). This is because glucose levels were increased (Cooper, Bandelow, Nevill, 2011). With more energy comes more attention towards stimuli, which can impact memory.
The various branches of aphasia is one way to show the connection between psycholinguistics and cognition. Broca’s aphasia occurs within Broca’s area of the brain and results in issues with speech production (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). Broca’s area is within the left hemisphere of the brain and associates words we see or hear with their meanings (Mesulam, 1998). This area focuses on articulation, processing of words and their function, grammar, word order (Mesulam, 1998). Wernicke’s aphasia occurs within Wernicke’s area of the brain and results in issues with comprehension (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). Wernicke’s area is found in the left hemisphere of the brain (Mersulam, 1998). It is believed that this area may be where our ‘mental dictionary’ is stored (Mersulam, 1998).
Lesions can impact Wernicke’s area (Mersulam, 1998). Lesions can cause issues in seeing or hearing due to damage of Wernicke’s area (Mersulam, 1998). When there are issues with seeing or hearing, production may be affected negatively (Mersulam, 1998). Lesions don’t always impact Wernicke’s area (Mersulam, 1998). Sometimes it impacts the neural connections that can cause issues with comprehension and communicating our thoughts (Mersulam, 1998). Anomia is another disorder that causes issues with retrieval of words (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). These are all disorders within the brain that can disrupt language. This goes to show how important cognition is for language to be effective and efficient.
Brain damage can also impact memory. If someone experiences amnesia, which is when memories are lost or the ability of remembering is lost is caused by brain damage or disease (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). Alcoholics can experience amnesia as well as poor attention due to brain damage caused by excessive consumption of alcohol (Oscar-Berman, 2012). Damage occurs to the diencephalic and limbic areas of the brain (Oscar-Berman, 2012). Some areas of the brain are able to compensate for other areas that may be lacking in processing (Oscar-Berman, 2012). Sometimes the brain is unable to compensate due to the extent of what is lost (Oscar-Berman, 2012). Injury doesn’t only impacts old memories, but can also cause new memories to not form (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). This shows a good example as to how cognition can impact memory formation or recall. This emphasizes the importance cognition and the brain.
Explicit memory is one way that links cognition with memory (Mesulam, 1998). This type of memory has a role in sensation (Mesulam, 1998). When we experience sensation, this memory stores the information regarding the experience based on the significance it has to us (Mesulam, 1998). Our memory as well as recognition is processes much like language (Mesulam, 1998). Many different aspects of cognition may be different in the roles that they perform, but may be processed very similar (Mesulam, 1998).
As we progress into older adulthood, cognition may not be a good as it once was. Many older individuals have mentioned they can’t find the word they were looking for even though it is a common word (Burke & Shafto, 2004). This does occur in individuals of various ages, but as we get older, it becomes more frequent (Burke & Shafto, 2004). One thing that does not change as we get older is comprehending language (Burke & Shafto, 2004). As we age, we do either expand our vocabulary or it stays the same (Burke & Shafto, 2004). It is just the production, whether it be verbal or written, that typically declines (Burke & Shafto, 2004). This can result in many errors (Burke & Shafto, 2004). This occurs as we age because neural connections become weak and that results in a decline in excitation of neurons (Burke & Shafto, 2004). This decline will cause the threshold to not be reached that is required for production (Burke & Shafto, 2004).
Neurons and synaptic connections plays a big role for the processes that occur within the brain (Mersulam, 1998). Based on which sense is stimulated, synaptic connections will be activated in order to transmit the information to the appropriate area of the brain (Pins, 2003). When we see words being produced, our occipital lobe is given the information of what we are seeing (Pins, 2003). The information will then be compared against our memories of similar things in order to group them alike (Pins, 2003). This is how our senses can impact how we perceive information and store it as memories as well all through neural connections (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). When we want to communication to someone, it is much similar. We take information from our memory and send it to the appropriate area in order to communicate it accordingly to how we want (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014).
Lastly, emotions are an important component in cognition (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). Emotion can be communicated through language (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). Examples can include raising your voice to emphasize anger or enthusiasm in your voice to show joy. Emotions are also linked to memories (Strange, Hurlemann, Dolan, 2003). When we experience something positive, our brain will associate those two things together (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014). Negative experiences may end up being repressed memories if the experience was traumatic enough to the individual (Radvansky & Ashcraft, 2014).
We can conclude from all this that the brain has many processes in order to function effectively and efficiently. Many things affect the brain and vice versa. Psycholinguistics is the processing of linguistics within the brain and use to retrieve memories and knowledge that corresponds to what is being said. Once our brain encodes the information being said and makes its connections with previous knowledge, we can act or behave accordingly as we see fit. Everything plays a role in function, but not without one another.

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