Long-term memory

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Long-term memory (LTM) is memory that can last as little as a few days or as long as decades. It differs structurally and functionally from working memory or short-term memory, which ostensibly stores items for only around 20–30 seconds (changingminds.org). Biologically, short-term memory is a temporary potentiation of neural connections that can become long-term memory through the process of rehearsal and meaningful association. Much is not known about the underlying biological mechanisms of long-term memory, but the process of long-term potentiation, which involves a physical change in the structure of neurons, has been proposed as the mechanism by which short-term memories move into long-term storage. The time scale involved at each level of memory processing remains under investigation. As long-term memory is subject to fading in the natural forgetting process, several recalls/retrievals of memory may be needed for long-term memories to last for years, dependent also on the depth of processing. Individual retrievals can take place in increasing intervals in accordance with the principle of spaced repetition. This can happen quite naturally through reflection or deliberate recall (also known as recapitulation), often dependent on the perceived importance of the material.

Contents

Encoding of information

Long term memory encodes information semantically for storage, as researched by Baddeley.[1]

Sleep

Some theories consider sleep to be an important factor in establishing well-organized long-term memories. (See also sleep and learning.)

According to Tarnow's theory, long term memories are stored in dream format (reminiscent of the Penfield & Rasmussen’s findings that electrical excitations of cortex give rise to experiences similar to dreams). During waking life an executive function interprets long term memory consistent with reality checking (Tarnow 2003).

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