Posts tagged: episodic memory

Thanks for the Memories

Business Logo for Psychological and Neuropsychological IssuesThanks for the Memories.  This was a song made famous by “Les Brown and his Band of Renown.”  In the 1960’s and 70’s I recall Bob Hope specials on television with Les Brown conducting his signature song.  I was of course a neonate at the time, so my recollection depends upon the generosity of my elders.  Unfortunately, truth be told, I recall these TV specials from childhood and early adolescence.  I was indifferent to his music at the time,  yet I still recall Les Brown’s name and can hum his tune.  What purpose could there be in retaining this trivial information?

Consider memory as a storage house of our five senses.  Smell is strangely the most powerful initiator of old memories, with hearing, touch, taste and vision not far behind.  The greater the interconnection of the senses, the greater the chance of the memory being retained and recalled.  For example, reading about building a model airplane is easily forgotten.  Reading then watching someone else build the plane solidifies the memory.  Actually assisting someone else build the plane after reading and watching further enhances recall and subsequent successful performance.  The auditory memory channel was strengthened by the visual, and locked into place by the motor/tactile.  Each sensory channel leading into the storehouse is strengthened by repetition.  It appears that repetition across days is better at storage than repetition across minutes, or even hours.  Consolidation of memory during sleep may be a factor, but this has yet to be proven.  Two hours of effort-full practice a day over ten years typically leads to mastering nearly any skill.  Like a road or river, the greater flow produces a larger pathway.

“Les Brown & his Band of Renown” were televised every six months to a year; deepening this auditory and verbal memory pathway.  These TV specials were viewed by the whole family, associating other auditory, tactile and visual information with the events.  Not only did the TV specials reflect my personal history, but the unique time in history that served as a backdrop for these specials.  The war in Vietnam took center stage at the time.  Episodic memory refers to the storage and recall of personal events-laughing with the family.  Semantic recall refers to the storage and recall of events that are outside of oneself-the Vietnam war.  Writing an autobiography requires precise episodic recall, whereas playing Jeopardy requires excellent semantic recall.  There is obviously some blurring between these two categories, yet people who suffer with deficits strictly in the episodic or semantic mode are well known.  It is likely that my  recall of the TV specials was enhanced by interconnected personal and historical memories of the events.

Perhaps retaining the memory of “Les Brown and his Band of Renown” was not so trivial after all.  In order to commit any type of information to memory, the use of multiple senses over several days will increase the amount and strength of memory storage.  Linking personal with extra-personal events further solidifies memories into long-term storage.  Memories that remain strong over many years expose their importance.  Many people want to forget strong memories.  Perhaps listening to their call across the years is wiser than ignoring their pleas.  Please leave comments in the space provided below.

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