Encoding is the initial process of perceiving and recognizing a stimulus or piece of information, converting it into a format that can be stored in the brain.
– Areas involved: Prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, amygdala (for emotional memories) and specific sensory areas (e.g. visual cortex for visual information).
Example: Let’s consider a memory of a dog running in a park. First, you perceive the dog and the surrounding environment through your senses. This information is processed in specific cortical areas, such as the visual cortex.
After the initial encoding, memories go through the process of consolidation, becoming more stable and transferring from short-term to long-term storage.
– Areas involved: Hippocampus, entorhinal cortex and other areas of the neocortex.
Example: Continuing with the dog, after the initial recognition, the memory is processed and strengthened, mainly by the hippocampus. Over time, the memory is consolidated and distributed across various areas of the brain.
Once consolidated, memories are stored in specific areas of the brain, depending on the type of memory.
– Areas involved: Neocortex (for semantic and factual memories), amygdala (emotional memories), cerebellum and basal ganglia (procedural or motor memories).
When we want to remember something, the brain searches for stored information and brings it to consciousness.
– Areas involved: Prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, neocortex and other specific areas, depending on the type of memory.
Example: If you try to remember the dog running, your brain activates the network of areas associated with that memory, allowing you to “see” the image again in your mind.
Genes involved in memory:
Several genes are associated with memory formation and retrieval. Some of them include:
– BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor): It is related to neuroplasticity and is vital for the survival and growth of neurons.
– CREB (cAMP response element-binding protein): Plays a role in the gene transcription necessary for the consolidation of long-term memory.
– ARC (Activity-regulated cytoskeleton-associated protein): Involved in memory consolidation in the hippocampus.
– NR2B (NMDA receptor subunit): Plays a role in synaptic plasticity and memory formation.
There are many other genes and proteins involved, and research in this area is constantly evolving.
Finally, it is essential to understand that memory is a complex and dynamic process, with several areas of the brain working together. Changes in any stage or component of this system can affect the ability to remember and retrieve information.