I am not a neurologist or psychologist or any kind of brain specialist. I have not done any real research for this article lest I come across better than I am. This is just trying to explain things to myself, in my own way, while allowing others to observe what creaking cogs are going round in my mind. So if anyone is looking for definitive answers for their homework you have probably come to the wrong place. If, on the other hand, you need to fill a dissertation with random ramblings help yourself, just do the right thing where credit is due.
The standard given for memory is a three tier model. The first layer is an instantaneous there and gone, lasts for less than a second, unless needed for short term holding. The second is a short term memory, to deal with an immediate item, which can last for a second to a few minutes, but I am not aware of a time on this. The third layer is long term memory, this is the one that lasts for years if not life. The first layer takes in everything we sense, sight, sound, touch, hear, taste. As it does this it discards what we do not need. The second layer, short term takes selected pieces of information that mean something of use in our lives until that moment has passed, should that be sometime in the future it will transfer the information to the long term memory for recall later. Since I have come back from an Acquired Brain Injury (ABI), namely Encephalitis, I see things in a slightly different way to before. When we talk of memory I get the impression we are really talking of recall. This then presents to me an alternative picture of what I thought I knew.
|The Labyrinthine library from the film 'The name of the rose.|
Then one day there is a catastrophe, a fire, a collapse, a bomb, who knows but the building is damaged. No longer can the familiar routes be relied upon. Some staircases have gone, some floors are unobtainable. As we search for information stored within we find some right where it always was, other bits require that we take different routes around the damage to try access what we are looking for. In taking or travelling these alternative routes I find older cards from years ago, things I had long since not required but trigger a recognition. Sometimes I find the odd card but not the complete picture, other times several cards from different pictures are lying next to each other but you know they do not go together, it's a false memory, a confabulation. There are two cases that tend to defeat me, I can no longer access that area of the library where the information I am certain is stored and the new information seems to fall through the destruction on its way to storage.
It is all so frustrating, especially when I try to explain to people why I cannot recall some-things I was told two minutes ago, yet can be seen talking and living a memory from three or four decades ago.