Memory

Like other social animals, humans need other humans for survival. The human species prides itself for its adaptability and ability to learn, although it shares these features with all forms of life, including micro-organisms.

While it is a popular view that the electrical network plays an essential role in learning and memory, this view fails to explain ‘learning and adapting’ in life forms without a nervous system. Humans need a brain to access and express memory. The memory location can easily be external, like in this case. You currently read a memory trace external to your own brain.

The distinction between procedural and episodic memory makes sense for functioning as a human being. After birth, humans learn the movement procedures essential to navigate through life: grasping and other forms of manipulation, sitting, standing and walking. Most likely, you will be unable to remember how you acquired these skills, as you have operated in a trance-like state before developing an idea of “you” as a separate being.

Procedural memory seems obviously connected to the body as it relates to motor skills. You might not be able to describe how exactly you ride a bicycle, but once you learned it, your body will remember how it’s done and prevent you most likely from getting hurt. Muscle memory alone provides evidence that humans store memory not only in the brain.

Episodic memory relates to your story, your idea about yourself. You have to exercise it every time you fill in a form, defining yourself as combination of name, date of birth and place of residence. You exercise it even more if you bring your attention to the last time you actually did it in real life. Did it happen online or on paper? In a familiar or new location? Were there any smells around? How did the space around you look like? Who wanted to know and why? How did it feel?

The emotional state determines how accessible episodic memory becomes. While you can learn to suppress obvious signs of emotional expression outwardly, it requires you to notice the bodily signals correlating to your emotional state to do so. Mammals signal emotions. Your experience consists of many levels of perception encoded together as memory: what you saw, what you heard, what you tasted, what you smelt, what you felt, how you felt, what you thought, etc.

If you want to operate your human body at maximum efficiency, give your brain a rest as creator, narrator and proprietor of memories. The brain has a hell of a job coordinating movement and balance, providing unsurpassed skills to produce sounds by synchronising throat, tongue and face muscles. It also generates your illusion of reality of existing in space-time, but it works as mere receiver/projector of information.

Memory involves the whole human being, as well as every single cell. It works holographic, each part containing the whole story. Cell membranes contain structures called microtubules which store the living memory of the cell and its ancestors. You don’t need to understand your internal memory storage system from the technical bottom-up level to improve it.

Attention and intention play an essential role in acquiring solid procedural memory, especially once you have learned the most basic movement skills mentioned before. Episodic memory thrives from the combination of multiple sensory impressions.

As an experiment, consider this idea: You learn and remember with your whole body, and your body remembers as good as everything “you” experienced.

Advertisements