Science Snippet: Neuroscience of Memory

Much remains to be learned about the neuroscience of memory, but scientists are learning more about what happens in the brain when we remember a specific event. At present, many scientists believe we remember an event in the following way. At the event, the brain recorded the sights, sounds, smells and other sensations that were part of the event. For long-term storage, all this information is broken into pieces, and these pieces are shuttled to specific parts of the brain. To recall the event, the brain must reactivate and consolidate all the pieces of the memory. When it has done that, we are able to remember the hot summer day at the riding stable where we had problems mounting our horse before riding off into the countryside and enjoying all the beautiful spring wildflowers. Our brain brings forth the memory in a fraction of a second, and we recall the heat of the day, the odor of the stable, the touch of the horse, and the pleasure we felt when we gazed at all the colorful wildflowers. (“How are Memories Retrieved?” in Science, Oct. 5, 2012)

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