How does the brain store information? To understand better how the brain works, think about it as a computer. You must remember though, that it is a computer with a sentient heart; and with several options: the option to think for itself, (yes, it can decide on various involuntary processes) the option to be creative, and the option to be rational.
The brain is a simple and complex organ simultaneously. This is because it is composed simply of neurons (brain cells) in the cerebrum, cerebellum, brain stem (also called the midbrain), pons, hypothalamus, the thalamus and the medulla and yet could be responsible for directing the various biochemical processes in vitro.
All of these parts perform their functions (i.e. stimuli recognition, balance, involuntary and voluntary reflexes, etc), in congruence with each other and with the body’s needs.
The brain is the organ that “directs” the entire body and coordinates all the processes to make sure that every cell, tissue and organ is functioning as they should.
Without the brain recognizing the stimuli, we feel nothing, see nothing, hear nothing, cannot breathe properly and cannot remember anything.
The specific part of the brain responsible for memory storage is the hippocampus. It is an integral part of the temporal lobes of the brain. There are two hippocampi which draw memories from the cerebral cortex.
The right hippocampus is responsible for a person’s spatial cognition. This is the ability to recognize, create and manipulate things around you so they could attain meaning. This is the creative side of our brain. The left, on the other hand, is responsible for simple memory recall, like names of places, persons, etc.
Damage to these organs would result to memory loss, like Alzheimer’s disease. If you have watched the movie, ” The Notebook”, a heartbreaking but beautiful love story, wherein the wife only had snatches of her precious memories; you would know how painful and difficult it would be to lose your memory.
It is the vital function of the brain to store information and see to it that you would be able to recall this vital information specifically through these hippocampi.
WHAT ARE THE PROCESSES THAT OCCUR DURING INFORMATION STORAGE?
When an event happens, this memory is stored in your brain temporarily, just like when you are typing in the computer, it saves the file momentarily. After you have typed it, if you want to retain this file, then you have to save it before you log out.
The same is true with the memories in your brain. After the event, your brain, through the hippocampi, will automatically save this memory. The accompanying audio-visual “experience” that you had in the event will be stored depending on how it had affected you.
If the event had no significant effect on you senses, then the event would be easily deleted from your memory. We call this the principle of association.
If you want to remember that particular event then you have to make a conscious effort to “save” the memorable sensations in your brain before the memory fades away.
How do you save this memory in your brain? You have to associate it with things that you could remember, based on your 5 senses: the sense of touch, smell, sight, auditory, and taste. The emotions generated by the event based on these senses will help the brain store that information.
The memory could be stored in your brain through the sense of sight because your eyes were delighted in what they have seen, or through your sense of taste, because what you have eaten was delicious, and so forth.
When those particular sensations are felt by you in the future, it would trigger a memory recall of the event because of the sensations associated with it.
There are instances however, that you would like to forget an event but could not. You make a conscious effort to forget it but still the memories come back. This is again because of association. When we feel the same audio-visual sensations we have previously felt, we cannot help but remember, because it has been a previous experience.
Emotions are powerful memory triggers; that is why we find it hard to forget people we have loved the most, people who have hurt us the most, etc. When we want to forget a memory, we are often advised to do away with anything that has to do with the memory because of this “association” factor in our brains. The brain associates the senses that we felt to that particular event and we remember, even if we do not want to.
It is also for this reason that when we want to store several information in our brain, like when studying for school; it would be easier to retain the memory by utilizing both hippocampi, the right, creative side by associating the information with the senses and by creating scenarios; and the left, recall side, by retaining the nomenclature of the information. When both are utilized, the information could be retained in the brain for long periods of time.
In conclusion, the brain is a good information storage system if we know how to utilize it properly to our own advantage and well being. To be able to do this is to provide the brain with a healthy environment; enough sleep, right food, exercise and good health practices (no drugs, alcohol or cigarettes) are in order. And of course you have to exercise those brain cells too. Just like with any exercise, you strengthen the cells when you exercise them; so get your pens ready for that game of scrabble, work your brains out with that crossword puzzle, and read, read and read!