Memory, in relation to the human brain, is a super complex subject to tackle and it is not easy to understand, not in the least. There are many aspects which go into how the brain works in relation to memories, forming new ones, remembering old ones, and so on and so forth.
Today, we are here to talk about what part of the brain controls memory. Now, what can be said here is that there are actually multiple parts of the human brain which control memory, and these include the amygdala, the cerebellum, the hippocampus, and the prefrontal cortex, as well as neurotransmitters too. Let’s take a closer look at each one right now.
One of the areas of the brain which has a function in controlling the brain is known as the amygdala. Now, the main function of the amygdala is to control emotions, one such as fear, joy, sadness, and whatever else have you. However, the fact of the matter is that the amygdala also plays a role in the way in which memories are stored, which is because emotions and stress hormones directly affect the way in which memories are stored.
As an example, if something happens to you which causes fear, chances are than when you experience fear the next time, you may remember that specific event. The reverse is also possible, or in other words, every time that event takes place, you will automatically be fearful.
The amygdala plays a role in transferring new memories into long term memories, specifically in relation to emotions. Another way to put this is that the amygdala plays a role in encoding memories in the brain in a deeper level when they are linked to a specific emotion.
Another part of the brain which has to do with controlling memory is the hippocampus. It is shown that the hippocampus is involved with specific types of memory, mainly normal recognition memory and spatial memory. In other words, the hippocampus is thought to be the part of the brain which controls memory in relation to recognizing various objects, people, and for remembering things like directions as well.
Something else which the hippocampus is known for, is for projecting various memories to the cortical regions of the brain. In other words, it projects memories to other regions of the brain that give those memories real meaning and connects various memories with other memories. Yet another function of the hippocampus is to transfer new learning or new materials into long term memory, which is of course very important no doubt.
Studies have shown that injuries to the hippocampus result in the inability to process new declarative memories and to transfer them into long term memories. In other words, people who suffer injuries to this area of the brain may be able to remember old memories, but not to form new ones past that traumatic event which caused the injury.
The cerebellum and the prefrontal cortex are linked together in some way, and both also seem to be parts of the brain which help control memories.
Now, whereas the hippocampus is responsible for the creation and remembering of explicit memories, the cerebellum and the prefrontal cortex appear to play a large role in forming and keeping implicit memories, things such as procedural memory, motor learning, and classical conditioning. It is also thought that both of these parts of the brain play a big role in the way in which memories are recalled.
Another thing or things which are a part of the way memory functions in the brain are neurotransmitters. Now, what needs to be said here is that it is unclear exactly which neurotransmitters are responsible for what functions. Certain neurotransmitters, such as epinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, glutamate, and acetylcholine are all shown to play various roles when it comes to the brain and memories.
Although it is not known what the exact functions of each are, something that is known is that the communication between neurons from these neurotransmitters does play a role in the developing of new memories, as well as the consolidation of those memories.
For example, when humans are stressed or fearful, it causes the glutamate neurotransmitter to work overtime, which then strengthens the memory of that specific event, also in relation to emotions.
To help you understand what exactly each part of the brain does in relation to memories, it is also important to understand what the different types of memories are. Let’s take a look at each type of memory involved in the human brain.
Short Term Memory – Short term is closely related to working memory, and it usually involves being able to remember recent events that happened up to 1 minute ago, give or take.
Sensory Memory – Sensory memory is a very short-term type of memory, one related to our senses, and this type of memory is usually only a few seconds in nature.
Long Term Memory – Generally speaking, long term memory is the ability for our brain to store, manage, and retrieve memories from the past. There are various forms of long-term memory.
Explicit Memory – One type of long-term memory is explicit memory, which involves conscious memory, such as declarative memory, which can then be broken down into further categories. Declarative memory can take the form of episodic memory, which is related to events and experiences, as well as semantic memory, which is related to facts and concepts.
Implicit Memory – Implicit memory is another form of long-term memory, but an unconscious kind of memory, mainly procedural memory, which has to do with skills and tasks, like motor skills.
The fact of the matter is that there are many different kinds of memory as well as many parts of the human brain which control memory, and each function in a different way. Yes, it’s all quite complicated and we hope that we did not confuse you too much!