Categories
Psychology

A Mini-Course on Long-Term Memory

Overview of the Course

As a staff member who firmly supports the initiative of the Pegasus Publishing Company related to continuing education for company success, this Mini-Course “Long-Term Memory: An Editor’s Best Friend” is composed of the following elements:

  • A basic discussion on the cognitive/physiological nature of long-term memory. As described by Luke Mastin, LTM “involves a process of physical changes in the structure of neurons” in the human brain, also referred to as LTM potentiation. In basic terms, when a person learns something, “circuits of neurons known as neural networks are created, altered or strengthened” and communicate with one another “through special junctions called synapses.” Thus, in conjunction with “the creation of new proteins within the body of neurons and the electrochemical transfer of neurotransmitters across synapse gaps to receptors,” the communicative potential of the neurons are reinforced. In this way, memory is created when synapse connections are increased which facilitates “the passage of nerve impulses along particular neural circuits” (2010). (See Figure 1).
  • The two basic sub-divisions of LTM–the declarative memory system which is “responsible for managing and storing information about facts and events” and the non-declarative memory system or procedural memory which refers to the way people “remember how things get done and is used to acquire, retain, and employ perceptual, cognitive, and motor skills” (Online Lecture Notes). (See Figure 2).
  • The cognitive properties of LTM. This would be comprised of seven specific areas–prospective memory or remembering to perform intended actions; autobiographical memory or recollecting events from one’s past; the “reminiscence bump” or the ability to recall events and experiences that occurred before the age of thirty; the cultural life script hypothesis which “distinguishes between a person’s life story. . . and a cultural life script” or the events that usually occur in a specific culture; “flashbulb memories” or those that refer to “circumstances surrounding how a person heard about an event and not memory for the event itself;” the constructive nature of memory or how memories are constructed by an individual based on what actually happened plus factors like knowledge, experiences, and expectations; and false memories or recalling something that actually never occurred (Goldstein, 2008).

Course Objectives

For editors that work for the Pegasus Publishing Company, the declarative memory system is undoubtedly the most important, due to the fact that it comprises the ability to store information and data about facts, such as how to edit a page of text and how to rearrange words into complete and coherent sentences and paragraphs. Therefore, after taking this Mini-Course on long-term memory, employees should know that 1), the human brain is not infallible and can make mistakes; 2), that long-term memory is increased and/or strengthened by repetition, meaning that the more one does something, the more one can retain for future use; 3), that long-term memory is both conscious and unconscious, such as when an editor suddenly recalls how to do a certain task but has no recollection on how he/she acquired the ability; 4), that long-term memory is closely linked to images via a “network of information units or associations” that allow a person to place in order old and new images that makes remembering easier (Some Facts About Long-Term Memory, 2012); 5), that a person’s experiences, both past and present, affect how brain neuron networks are altered, thus affecting long-term memory capacity; 6), that behavioral problems related to alcoholism, depression, fatigue, and sleep deprivation can negatively affect long-term memory, so much so that certain memories can be wiped out entirely which for an editor can be devastating (Some Facts About Long-Term Memory, 2012).

Two Important Aspects of LTM

            Although long-term memory is an important aspect of the human brain and is imperative related to specific types of jobs and positions, such as being an editor, a mathematician, a teacher, or the CEO of a business organization, there are two areas regarding long-term memory that most professionals (and most people) are not fully aware of. The first area is related to human genetics, for as discussed in the web article “Neuroscientists Discover New Molecular Mechanism for Long-Term Memory Formation,” a team of researchers at the University of California at Irvine have uncovered the role of a gene known as Baf53b in the formation of LTM. In this gene, certain types of proteins sometimes become mutated which “have been linked to several intellectual disorders like Coffin-Siris syndrome, Nicolaides-Baraitser syndrome and sporadic autism” (2013). Of course, this gene and many similar genes are responsible for LTM and when they fail to work properly or become mutated, LTM is severely affected. As is the case with most functions related to the brain, certain chemicals play major roles in determining how this gene functions and why some people have better LTM than others. As Dr. Marcelo Wood puts it, the results of this discovery “reveal a powerful new mechanism that increases our understanding of how genes are regulated for LTM formation” (2013). Obviously for editors, having “good genes” related to LTM abilities can make their jobs much easier and impact how well they perform under pressure.

The second area is related to mood and emotion which can affect how memories are encoded in the brain and subsequently retrieved. For example, if an editor for Pegasus Publishing Company comes to work feeling moody and depressed, his/her LTM abilities become limited. This is especially true if the editor is experiencing some type of emotional turmoil related to his/her life in the present or is overly focused upon an event from his/her past. Of course, much like the Baf53b gene mentioned above, certain chemicals in the brain (i.e., serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine) cause certain types of mood disorders which in turn negatively affect LTM. (See Figure 3).

Self-Assessment Quiz

  1. Have you experienced any problems with your own long-term memory abilities?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Sometimes
  • Never
  1. In your job as an editor, would you like to increase your own LTM abilities?
  • Yes
  • Somewhat
  • Not at all

3. Have you ever experienced any problems with your own autobiographical memory?

  • Yes
  • Sometimes
  • Never
  1. If you are over the age of 30, can you instantly recall events from childhood?
  • Yes
  • Sometimes
  • Never
  1. Do you think that your “flashbulb memories” are reliable and accurate?
  • Yes
  • Sometimes
  • Never
  1. Do you feel that your overall long-term memories are reliable and accurate?
  • Always
  • Sometimes
  • Not at all
  1. Have you ever found yourself confused over where you obtained certain skills or abilities?
  • Yes
  • Sometimes
  • Never
  1. Have you ever showed up for work after too much drinking or a lack of sleep?
  • Yes
  • Sometimes
  • Never
  1. Were you aware of the links between genetics and LTM before taking this Mini-Course?
  • Yes
  • Somewhat
  • Not at all
  1. Do you feel that you work better when your mood is good?
  • Yes
  • Sometimes
  • Not at all

 Figure 1: The Chemical Process of LTM

 Figure 2: The Process of LTM

 

Figure 3: Serotonin, Dopamine, Norepinephrine and Mood

References

Deplin [Digital image]. (2013). Retrieved May 31, 2013, from www.macsmagazine.com/tag/serotonin-syndrome.

Goldstein, E.B. (2008). Cognitive psychology: Connecting mind, research, and everyday     experience. Australia: Thomson Wadsworth.

Mastin, Luke. (2010). Long-term memory. Retrieved from http://www.human-    memory.net/types_long.html

Nature publishing group. [Digital image]. (2013). Retrieved May 31, 2013, from             http://www.nature.com/nrn/journal/v12/n1/fig_tab/nrn2949_F1.html.

Neuroscientists discover new molecular mechanism for long-term memory formation. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.sci-news.com/biology/article00969.html

Online Lecture Notes. Week 3: Overview. Cognitive Psychology. Sehnert, J. (2013). [Digital image]. Retrieved May 31, 2013, from http://memory-psy333.wikispaces.com.

Some Facts About Long-Term Memory. (2012). Retrieved from http://memory6. blogspot.com/2012/05/some-facts-about-long-term-memory.html