3rd April 2006 – How Memory Works

Dr Lee Wickham from Manchester University helped us explore.

How does the memory manage to store such prodigious amounts of information, most of which we will not consciously use again? Why does the brain bother? Is that word “consciously” significant. If all this stuff is in there why is it sometimes (always?) difficult to remember or recall things? Does it (as it seems to do) get worse as we get older, and if so why? Is it possible to improve your memory and if so how… and why does it work? Why does “sleeping on it” or “thinking about something else” help you remember? What’s going on in abnormal cases of, say, people with prodigious memory or those who can’t remember anything more than a minute ago? Why can old people sometimes have vivid memories of long ago and none of last week?

Memory is a very powerful function but it does seem to have its own little idiosyncrasies.

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