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Definition of Memory

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Memory: 1. The ability to recover information about past events or knowledge. 2. The process of recovering information about past events or knowledge. 3. Cognitive reconstruction. The brain engages in a remarkable reshuffling process in an attempt to extract what is general and what is particular about each passing moment.

Memory may be divided into short-term (also known as working or recent memory) and long-term memory. Short-term memory recovers memories of recent events, while long-term memory is concerned with recalling the more distant past.

Some disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, damage the cognitive systems that control memory. Usually long-term memory is retained while short-term memory is lost; conversely, memories may become jumbled, leading to mistakes in recognizing people or places that should be familiar.

See also: Explicit memory; Implicit memory.

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Reviewed on 12/27/2018

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