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How does our memory work?

How does our memory work?
Isaac Wahnon from Hertfordshire (Age 5-14)

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One Response

  1. Isaac, this is a very complex area, not yet fully understood. I am not going to go into any detail, but will just give you a flavour.

    When you see or hear something, or are actually trying to learn something, in all these situations you have various sets of brain cells being active. It will be a different combination of cells for different things, but as you have hundreds of billions of cells you are not going to run out things you can recognise or remember!

    How do the cells become active? Well, they are connected to each other so when one becomes active another one can too. The connections are in a sense not very good, so it is likely to take the connections from several cells to get another one to join in the activity. Imagine you saw something tasty cooking – as well as seeing it you might hear it frying and also get the mouth-watering smell. Nerves running from your eyes, ears and nose would all contribute to getting brain cells to be active.

    When something like the above has happened it makes the connections between cells more effective, so cells can become active without all the information actually being there. You might see something cooking through the window and, although the window is shut, still think you can smell it. Your cells are responding because you have learned what to expect – it is a memory.

    So, a memory is stored by changing how well brain cells are connected together.

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