Keywords: Remembering, forgetting, memory, encoding, short term memory, long term memory, retrieval, rehearsal, mnemonics, chunking, concentration, Nigeria.
Remembering, Forgetting, Memory Issues – Nigeria. What are the processes involved in forming memories? The factors that can improve memory formation. What factors bring about forgetfulness?
Children before the age of three years cannot remember what happened in their earlier years. This is due to the fact that the hippocampus which is the storage center for long term memory is not fully matured. But then, as one grows older, even with a fully matured hippocampus, some people still find it difficult to remember things. When this happens to students who cannot remember what they read before examinations, this negatively affects their grades. For many people, remembering is not a problem and there are factors that make it possible for this happen. These have necessitated the topic of Remembering, Forgetting, Memory Issues – Nigeria.
What are the processes involved in memory storage?
Memory comes about when a person can take in information, encode it, store it and recall it later. The formation of memory is in 3 main stages. These stages are encoding, storing and retrieval or recalling.
This is the first step in memory formation. Information for memory gets into the brain via any of the 5 senses. These 5 senses include the eyes for vision, the nose for smell and the mouth for taste. The others are the ears for hearing and the skin for touch sensations. When information gets to the brain via these senses, they go through various transformations. These transformations include processing and categorizing the information for storage. This transformation is called encoding.
There are 3 main memory storage types.
There is the sensory memory –
Information that are stored here cannot be controlled consciously and they include relevant and irrelevant information. The information is stored here for a very short time. They can last from milliseconds to five seconds and they are moved away to short term memory or disappear.
Short term memory –
This is also called immediate memory. Some people may also call it working memory, but there is a different between immediate memory and working memory. Some of the information from the sensory memory are transferred to short term memory. Simple things go into immediate memory, while more complex information go into working memory. The center can hold information for about 15 seconds to 30 seconds. And has the capacity of holding 5 – 9 items at a time. But more information can be kept here if the information are chunked or made into groups. Information from here go to long term memory or they get lost and forgotten.
Then the long term memory –
This is the final storage site and type. These are information moved from the short term memory via rehearsal. If someone gives you a phone number orally and you repeat the number orally as well as write it down. Once these are done, the phone number gets transferred to long term memory. The long term memory can handle uncountable amount of information from days to years and even a life time. This stores information one remembers unconsciously, and information one consciously remembers. These include theoretical and academic issues, life events, typing, riding a bicycle or driving, etc. The long term memory contains both old and new memories.
The retrieval or recall stage:
This process of retrieval requires that the person remembers the information stored at short term and the long term memory sites. So the brain pathways used to creating these memories are revisited by the brain itself. This is so that the information can be brought out to consciousness. And when this happens, the brain suppresses other stored information so that they do not interfere with the retrieved information.
The factors that can improve memory and retrieval or recall.
Certain factors help in the processes making, storing and retrieving memories at the short term and long term memories. These factors include –
Using the brain:
Learning new things on a regular basis ensures that the brain is being constantly challenged. The more one uses the brain, the stronger it gets when it comes to memory issues. Constantly challenging the brain can come from learning new skills. These skills include playing new musical instrument, playing new games like chess, scrabble, or learning a new dance or language.
Also when old people participate in traditional village meetings, it delays memory loss. This keeps them busy. Keeping oneself busy, but not stressed, increases one’s cognitive ability. The cognitive ability is mental ability that is involved in reasoning, planning, problem solving, thinking, etc.
Not all information that gets into the brain is stored. The distinctiveness of the information makes it more probable to get encoded and stored. For example, seeing people performing a cultural dance in the middle of the express way can get encoded and stored. This is unlike seeing a truck loaded with drinks travelling on the express way the brain may not encode this.
Also having an emotional component to information helps to get it encoded. For example, meeting a ghastly motor accident on the road, makes encoding easier. Even when one only hears the accident, this is easily encoded due to the emotional attachment. Also learning new things when happy improves encoding.
There are different forms of rehearsals that can help consolidate memory storage.
Maintenance rehearsal –
This is done via repeating the information obtained severally. This repetition can be done orally or in written forms. For example writing the information received up to 5 or more times consolidates memory storage at the short term memory. Even using the word to make a sentence also helps. The physical act of writing stimulates brain cells at the base of the brain. Teaching someone what one has learnt can improve memory.
Elaborative rehearsal –
It helps store information at the long term memory. There are different types of elaborative rehearsal.
Rephrasing the information.
In this, the person can rephrase the information into his or her own words. This helps make the information more meaningful.
These help in remembering. Mnemonics are things used to help one remember. It could be phrases, rhymes, associations.
In rhymes, one can use it to remember names of countries, rivers, etc. For example, to remember some great rivers in Africa, there is a primary school song in Nigeria for them. The song mentions these rivers, Nile, Niger, Congo, Benue, Orange, Limpopo, Zambezi.
Coming to using association, for example, hearing a strange name for the first time may be difficult to remember. But if that name is paired or associated with an already known name, it makes it easy to remember. Take for example meeting a man with the name Raymond for the first time. Pairing that new, Raymond, with a Raymond that is already well known, or Davidson with a known David will help.
Also under Mnemonics is the memory aid acronym. These are abbreviations where the first letters of other words. For example R. I. P. this represents Rest In Peace.
Grouping and chunking.
These are forms of elaborative rehearsals. An example of chunking is the way phone numbers are written in Nigeria. The phone number 08012345678, can easily be remember if written as 080-1234-5678.
Or in order not to forget things to pack when traveling, one can group the needed things. There could be the Toiletry group comprising of, soap, tooth paste, toilet paper, etc. Then the Makeup group will comprise of foundation, powder, lipstick, etc.
This is also a form of elaborative rehearsal. It is an effective way of improving memory. The brain finds it easier to store things as pictures than as words. For example the word egg can be visualized in the mind as a solid object. Or the name Douglas can be imagined and stored with a dog image.
Good sleep, nutrition and hydration.
Have a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time every day. Memory can get improved by getting 8 hours of sleep after learning something new.
Feed on good diet every day. Take more of natural foods, vegetables, beans, nuts and fish. Take less of sugars, processed foods (meat pies and cakes), butter and fried foods. Also reduce red meat.
Water acts as a buffer for the brain. One is to take 8 – 10 glasses of water per day.
Taking caffeine in moderation has been shown to improve memory. This can come from coffee, tea, chocolate beverages, etc.
Exercise improves cognition be increasing oxygen and nutrients supply to the brain. This in turn will increase the formation of new brain cells that will aid memory storage at the hippocampus. It does not require strenuous exercise, only walking or aerobic exercises. Even weight reduction can improve memory.
Learn to socialize.
Strong social ties increase brain health. Just 10 minutes of talking to someone can improve memory.
Focusing and concentrating.
Reducing distractions can increase encoding, storage and retrieval. So reduce distractions.
Treat health conditions.
Receiving treatment for physical or mental health conditions can help in memory. This will affect the three stages of memory.
What causes forgetfulness?
Any problem at any of the stages of encoding, storage and retrieval, can predispose to forgetting. It could be that information may not have been stored properly. Or that the information may not have moved from short term to long term memory. Forgetting means the loss of information. There are different types of forgetting. This topic on Remembering, Forgetting, Memory Issues – Nigeria, will concentrate on decay.
In decay, the memory fades away due to time lapse. This is because new information can displace stored information. It is also believed that brain cells die off as one ages. This loss of old brain cells affects mainly the short term memory. Long term memories are most often resistant to attacks on the brain cells.
Factors that increases the process of decay:
Poor concentration and focusing.
This can be brought about by multitasking, physical illness, mental illness such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, etc. Others include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), substance abuse like alcohol, cannabis, etc., medications, stress and poor sleep. The issues concerning substance abuse in Nigeria are presently on the increase.
Low blood sugar or hunger can lead to memory issues and so can heart, liver and kidney problems. In the present Nigeria, hunger is on the increase. Many children go to school hungry. Other physical illnesses such as low blood level (anemia), diabetes, migraine, Alzheimer, hypothyroidism, delirium, etc. can affect memory. Even being overweight can shrink the brain and reduce memory. Trauma or head injuries can lead to memory issues.
Stress apart from reducing concentration and focusing, it causes the releases of the chemical called cortisol. This chemical destroys brain cells including the cells used in storing information. And in the present Nigeria, too many stressors are abound ranging from financial to insecurity issues.
Hormonal, vitamin and medication issues.
When there is reduced estrogen and progesterone, in the females, they lead to reduced cognitive function. This actually what happens during menopause which brings about forgetfulness at this period in life.
Reduced level of vitamin B12 can lead to brain fog. Brain fog affects concentration and focusing negatively. Also the intake of certain medications like cancer medications can predispose one to poor concentration and memory.
Issues with age.
Both short term and long term memories get weakened with age. This is because of brain cell loss that happen as one ages. There is also problem with encoding.
Living in the present Nigerian environment can really negatively affect the topic of Remembering, Forgetting, Memory Issues – Nigeria. The issues of poverty, and insecurities are everyday stressors.
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