All of us want to store good memories in our minds. But what is memory?
Memory is the process by which information is being processed, stored and retrieved later on. One we receive information through our brain and nerves, the information get encoded. After encoding, information needs to be stored so that we will keep this information for a long time. The final process is the retrieval of information that was stored. Information is received and returned to our consciousness so that we may experience the memory. However, there may be instances when there is loss of memory. This is termed as amnesia.
There are many types of memory. Sensory memory is a type of memory related to sensory information. It only holds memory for a short period of time i.e. for a few seconds or even less than that. This is the type of memory at work when we look at objects and remember it. Sensory memory is also of three types: iconic memory or memory which briefly stores an image being perceived for a short duration; echoic memory which is a type of auditory memory that briefly stores sounds, and haptic memory which is a type of memory for touch stimuli.
Another type of memory is short-term memory. Short term memory is the type of memory involved with the recall of things for several seconds to minutes Past experiments have shown that the storage of short-term memory was 7±2 items. However, memory capacity in short-term memory can be increased through chunking into short pieces of information, like chunking telephone numbers into three digits. Short term memory is also said to rely mostly on an acoustic code for storing information and lesser on a visual code.
Long-term memory, on the other hand, can store larger quantities of information for an unlimited duration. It has an interestingly immeasurable capacity for storing memories. Long-term memory is of two types: declarative and procedural. Declarative memory includes memories which are available in consciousness and can be divided into episodic (specific events) memory and semantic memory (knowledge about the world around us). Procedural memory is involved with memories of body movement and how to use objects in the environment such as how to drive a car etc.
Memory and Schizophrenia
There are many conditions which can give rise to deficits in memory, including psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. In a recent study, Basel scientists have identified genes that can control important functions of neurons such as brain activity, memory and schizophrenia development. In this study researchers analyzed the genetic basis of memory in 2800 healthy people. Their studies revealed that the group of voltage-gated ion channels regulate electric excitability of neurons. The researchers also studies brain activity in 700 healthy participants via functional imaging while these people were solving working tasks. The genes of the ion channels correlated with the activities of the cerebrum and the cerebellum. In previous studies, it had been found out that these two regions of the brain are important for good functioning of memory. These brain regions, when malfunctioned, can also lead to the development of schizophrenia. Indeed, there is a link between memory problems and schizophrenia, and perhaps there are also links to other psychiatric disorders.
The researchers think that the results of this study are a good starting point in discovering new drugs for memory and psychiatric disorders. Drugs being developed for schizophrenia should also aim to treat memory problems because these two disorders have the same root causes. Can disorders of memory predispose to schizophrenia? We are not sure.
If you want to learn more about schizophrenia and other mental disorders, you may read our other articles on this site.