Memory and Retrieval

Memory and recall are critical to learning. Of equal importance is its role in furthering the development of the individual. One of the key themes in all our programs is the ability to use the full capacity of our memory.

Memory is used by our brain for various tasks. The most important task is cognition (our conscious thoughts). The next most important tasks are our abilities to learn, store and use information.

We often see many of our clients mislabeled with issues like ADD to Learning Disabilities due to poor working memory or short-term memory challenges.  At age 40 one begins to see certain functions within the brain begin to slow. It is a natural process. We can screen for short term memory loss and dementia.

Conducting a complete NeuroGeniSys Procedure will show whether memory loss is actually a physiological problem or if these issues might be medication driven or health related.

Types of Memory

Memory is divided into three major elements: Short term, intermediate and long term memory. Short term and intermediate memory are further divided or measured as auditory and visual memory.

Short-term memory refers to the amount or bits of information we can hold in our head at any given time and lasts between 1 second and 24 hours depending upon how much importance you put on the information. You would use this type of memory for phone numbers and zip codes. The portion of memory tends to be where your conscious thoughts are. When increasing digit span capacity we are actually working short term memory.

Intermediate memory
occurs once the information has been processed. It can be viewed as the part of memory which holds and mixes information from the different parts of memory. This will determine how we feel and what we will do about a given situation. It defines our ability to express actions. When we do reverse digit spans we are working intermediate memory.

Long-term memory is divided into three parts: Episodic, Semantic and Procedural memory. It resides in the deep unconscious and can be viewed as the “repository” of all our knowledge.

1. Episodic memory is experience based. This would include memories of events and experiences. It is enhanced by sensory input such as sights, sounds, music, smells and touch. Many times episodic memories are triggered by emotion.
2. Semantic memory would include remembering specific information such as text books information, math, names, facts and figures.
3. Procedural Memory is hands on learning. When we learn a skill such as riding a bike or playing a sport motor memory is necessary. These skills can only be learned by physically doing them. It is automatic memory.

Memory Deficits

Underdevelopment of memory results in speech delays, learning disabilities, distractibility, poor reading comprehension, memory loss, and loss of mental acuity.

Our cognitive thoughts are formed based upon information held and retrieved from past experiences. Our feelings and understanding of these memories are functions of our short-term memory. Thoughts are represented by our ability to create a conceptual and visual frame of reference. Conceptualization is our ability to understand abstract ideas, principles and values. It tends to develop as our understanding of language develops.

One’s ability to understand is directly proportional to the development of the auditory side of short-term memory.

Visualization develops with our eyesight and is how we begin to perceive reality. The ability to both visualize and conceptualize tends to define how we approach life, how we learn, how we stay on task, how we integrate information and most importantly how we communicate with others.

Researchers Find Link Between Improved Memory And The Use Of Neurofeedback
Date: 2003 — Source: Imperial College London at the Charing Cross

Results announced in the International Journal of Psychophysiology this month show a link between neurofeedback training and improved memory in a 40 person trial.

Dr David Vernon, from Imperial College London at the Charing Cross hospital says: “Previous research has indicated that neurofeedback can be used to help treat a number of conditions including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, epilepsy and alcoholism by training particular aspects of brain activity, but this is the first time we have shown a link between the use of neurofeedback, and improvements in memory.”

Neurofeedback is a learning procedure that has been involved in treatments enabling participants to normalize behaviour, stabilize mood and improve their cognitive performance. It works by allowing people to watch their brain activity, and through this, find a way to correct or improve it.

Neurofeedback monitors brain activity through sensors attached to the scalp with the key frequency components filtered out. These filtered brainwaves are then ‘fed back’ to the individual in the form of a video game displayed on screen, and the participant learns to control the game by altering particular aspects of their brain activity. This alteration in brain activity can influence cognitive performance.

For the trial, the volunteers completed a number of neurofeedback sessions requiring them to enhance one aspect of brain activity while simultaneously inhibiting others. Participants completed two tests, both before and after the neurofeedback training had been completed, to see if neurofeedback would influence working memory performance. Working memory refers to the type of memory used to hold and manipulate information during the performance of a task, such as maintaining a telephone number in mind in order to recall it later.

In both tests, the volunteers were presented with a series of words from different categories, and following this were tested on how well they were able to recall all the words from a specific category. Across both tests those receiving neurofeedback increased their recall from 70.6 percent to 81.6 percent, while recall in the control group only increased from 72.5 percent to 75.1 percent.

Professor John Gruzelier, from Imperial College London at Charing Cross hospital adds: “Neurofeedback has been proven to be effective in altering brain activity, but the extent to which such alterations can influence behaviour are still unknown. Further tests are needed to confirm this, but if neurofeedback can positively influence the cognitive performance of healthy individuals, as we have previously shown on attention and musical performance, it opens up the possibility that such treatment may be beneficial for those suffering from cognitive deficits”.

1. The effect of training distinct neurofeedback protocols on aspects of cognitive performance International Journal of Psychophysiology, Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 75-85.

2. Neurofeedback refers to a form of biofeedback, linked to a specific aspect of brain activity, such as frequency, location, amplitude or duration of specific EEG activity. 3. Consistently rated in the top three UK university institutions, Imperial College London is a world leading science-based university whose reputation for excellence in teaching and research attracts students (10,000) and staff (5,000) of the highest international quality. Innovative research at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and management and delivers practical solutions that enhance the quality of life and the environment – underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture.

4. Charing Cross Hospital is part of the Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust, which also includes the Hammersmith, Queen Charlottes and Ravens Court Park hospitals.

Brain Signal Predicts Working Memory Prowess

Date:2004-04-22  — Source: NIH/National Institute Of Mental Health

Some people are better than others at remembering what they have just seen — holding mental pictures in mind from moment to moment. An individual’s capacity for such visual working memory can be predicted by his or her brainwaves, researchers funded by the NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health have discovered.

Subjects’ memory capacity (diamonds) correlated with the increase in amplitude of a particular brain signal as the number of items to be held in working memory increased from 2 to 4. The amplitude increase leveled off earlier in subjects with lower capacity. (Source: Edward Vogel, Ph.D., University of Oregon, Department of Psychology)

A key brain electrical signal leveled off when the number of objects held in mind exceeded a subject’s capacity to accurately remember them, while it continued to soar in those with higher capacity, report University of Oregon psychologist Edward Vogel, Ph.D., and graduate student Maro Machizawa, in the April 15, 2004, Nature.

Analogous to a computer’s RAM, working memory is the ever-changing content of our consciousness. It’s been known for years that people have a limited capacity to hold things in mind that they’ve just seen, varying from 1.5 to 5 objects. “Our study identifies signals from brain areas that hold these visual representations and allows us to coarsely decode them, revealing how many objects are being held and their location in the visual field,” explained Vogel.

To find out if the amplitude of detectable signals reflects the number of object representions held in visual memory, the researchers presented 36 subjects with a series of trials containing an increasing number of objects. Subjects briefly viewed a picture containing colored squares, followed by a one-second delay, and then a test picture. They pressed buttons to indicate whether the test picture was identical to — or differed by one color — from the one seen earlier. The more squares a subject could correctly identify having just seen, the greater his/her visual working memory capacity. Subjects averaged 2.8 squares.

Electrodes on the scalp recorded neural activity during the one-second delay to pinpoint signals reflecting activity of brain areas involved in holding the images in working memory. Asking subjects to remember just one of two sets of colored squares that appeared on the left and right sides of the screen revealed signals near the opposite rear side of the head as emanating from the brain area involved.

The researchers found that the more squares a subject correctly identified, the higher the spike of corresponding brain activity — up to a point. Amplitude of the signal for correct trials was much higher than incorrect ones, suggesting that the delay activity specifically reflects the maintenance of successful representations in visual memory. Neural activity of subjects with poorer working memory scores leveled off early, showing little or no increase when the number of squares to remember increased from 2 to 4, while those with high capacity, who correctly remembered more squares, showed large increases.

Using a similar task with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), a research team at Vanderbilt University reports in the same issue of Nature that the posterior parietal cortex, an area at the top rear part of the brain, is the brain area responsible for holding representations in visual working memory — and likely source of the signal in the Oregon study.

“Simply by measuring the amplitude increase across memory array sizes, we can accurately predict an individual’s memory capacity,” said Vogel.

Since working memory capacity is strongly predictive of performance on a broad array of of cognitive abilities — reasoning, language, flexible problem solving — Vogel foresees the physiological measure as finding applications in assessing individuals who are behaviorally or verbally impaired, such as in cases of stroke or paralysis. The technique has also been used to study development of cognitive abilities in pre-verbal children.

NIMH is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Federal Government’s primary agency for biomedical and behavioral research. NIH is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.