Memory's Physiological Basis

Engram is the key concept in all discussions on physiological basis of memory. Engram is a memory trace, a steady interaction of nervous cells, which reflects an event or information received from the outside. Regarding their content, there are 2 types of engrams: imagery engrams, which represent the structures of perceived objects in their own structure, and engram models of actions, which represent action programs in their structure. All types of engrams can establish strong associative links.

Principal Memorizer


The memorizing process involves various brain structures that are not only responsible for information storage, but are also specializing in various aspects related to conscience, language skills, perception of environment and other tasks. The hippocampus (seahorse in Latin) is the key element for memory. In case of its damage the person loses the ability to adopt information. Even if the person will retain his or her ability to remember their past or use their skills, they won’t be able to learn anything new.

Brain structures involved in memory processes are linked to special channels that transmit information. These channels are called neuronal circuits. During memorization the information enters the hippocampus where it is analyzed and codified. After that, it is distributed over the brain areas that recall the information on their own accord without the hippocampus’ participation. At the final stage, the information reaches the cerebral cortex as nerve impulses where it is eventually stored.

Memory Filter


Memory is also a kind of information filter, because it handles and stores a trifling part of all irritants affecting your brain. Without filtration and repression you would figuratively drown in the endless flow of incoming irritants. The results would be as disastrous as a learning or memorization disability.

Stages of Engram Formation


Today, memory trace consolidation is considered to have 3 stages:

  1. Sensory trace (visual, aural, tactile, etc.) is formed in your instant memory basing on the analyzer’s operation. These traces make the sensory memory content.
  2. Sensory information is sent to the higher brain areas. The signals are analyzed, sorted and processed in order to derive new information. The hippocampus is a selective incoming filter. It classifies all signals and dismisses the random ones, thus optimizing the distribution of sensory traces in the long-term memory. It also participates in the process of extracting the traces from the long-term memory. The temporal lobe is responsible for establishing the links between memory trace storage in other parts of the brain — first of all, in the cerebral cortex. Thus, the nervous connections are reorganized in the process of learning. Emotions and motivations that accompany your memories are also codified at this stage.
  3. Trace processes turn into stable structures of the long-term memory. Short-term information is converted into long-term information when you’re awake and asleep.

You Are What You Eat or Memory Diet

Your diet has a drastic influence on your biochemical processes. The human brain consumes more energy than any other organ and its functions heavily depend on the microelements and vitamins you get from food. Dietitians give the following recommendations that can be helpful in maintaining the health of your brain and memory functions:

  • Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables
  • Replace the products containing refined white flour with whole grain (e.g., wheat) products
  • Eat less red meat such as lamb and beef
  • Sparingly eat foods high in cholesterol such as egg yolks, butter, and margarine.
  • Reduce your salt consumption
  • Drink skim milk and eat lean cheese instead of whole milk and full-fat cheese;
  • Diversify your diet with products containing protein and complex carbohydrates
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Always eat a well-balanced breakfast

Sleep and Exercise

During sleep, the human brain restores all its biochemical processes and, in particular, releases the nutrients for nervous cells. Lack of proper sleep leads to atrophy and malfunction of nervous cells. The brain’s working capacity is mainly restored at night, so it’s better to sleep during the dark hours. Physical exercise improve oxygen and blood circulation in your brain, which can help you keep your nervous system healthy. Besides, muscle work releases certain hormones that are necessary for your memory. Training in a gym 2-3 times a week, attending dancing classes and walking in the fresh air will improve your cerebration and keep your memory healthy.