Memory is a brain function that is not found in one specific area of our brain, but a brain function that scientists have proven to encompass many different brain structures.
Brain Structures that Aid in the Storage of Memories:
Hippocampus: a structure that resembles a sea horse, is the most important brain structure responsible for storing our memories. It is responsible for creating the mental maps in our head (taxi drivers were found to have larger hippocampus’s than ordinary individuals). It is also responsible in transforming our short term memories into long term ones.
A damaged hippocampus will result in anterogade amnesia, meaning the person will be incapable of forming new memories.
Cerebellum: the cerebellum is a structure that looks like a small brain, it is located in the posterior aspect of the brain near the spinal chord. The cerebellum is responsible for encoding all our procedural memories. Meaning that how to drive your car, play the trumpet, and swim are all stored in the cerebellum.
Amygdala: is found near the hippocampus and is responsible in storing emotional memories. For example aspects like a person’s fear of dogs due to a memory is due to the amygdala. Research has also shown that amygdala like the hippocampus aids in transforming our short term memories into long term ones, but the amygdala focuses on the emotional based memories. If a person has a memory that is very emotionally arousing the more likely it will be stored in our long term memory due to the amygdala’s role in emotionally based memory storage.
Basal Ganglia: have been found to assist in memory storage too. The caudate nucleus supposedly is the part in the brain that reminds us to wash our hands before we eat, or lock the door before we leave. That is why obsessive compulsive disorder has been associated with the cuadate nucleus of the basal ganglia.
Temporal Lobe: is associated with what is called autobiographical memory. Meaning that your 11th birthday party, wedding, graduation, and events that make up your life story are all stored there. That is why damage to your temporal lobe results in some long term memory loss. Another memory function the temporal lobe is responsible for is recognition. It holds the memory that Bob for example is your friend from tennis practice.
Frontal Lobe: is like a secretary working for the brain’s memories. It takes the memories and organizes them in ways we can use them productively. Like for example you want to get somewhere you haven’t been to before the frontal lobe will gather everything it knows about that place from conversations with friends to things you read about the place to maps you’ve seen, to aid you to getting to your desired location. It also organizes your memories in a way to tell you what you need to do in the future.
Parietal Lobe: is the lobe responsible for verbal short term memory. People with damage in the parietal lobe will find some difficulty in naming things.
Occipital Lobe: is the lobe responsible for telling you “what” you are seeing in regard to memory.