The hippocampus is part of the medial temporal lobe, along with the amygdala. The hippocampus is responsible for combining senses in a way that is convenient for memory. Our recollection of individual events is made up of multiple parts of the brain working in tandem. When you are experiencing something, different senses activate different parts of your brain.

  • anal. Imagine a cellist giving a performance. There are many different senses that are active at any given moment. The sound of the cello (auditory cortext), the feel of the fingers on the strings (postcentral gyrus), the look on an audience member’s face (fusiform gyrus), the feel of stage fright (amygdala)... All of these things are joined together by the hippocampus to give a more solidified memory of the experience.
  • this shows that memories are not stored in one place of the brain. This is why there are people who have suffered brain damage to an extent that they can't form new memories, yet they can still go to the store and do their shopping. This is because the muscle memory of doing your shopping takes place in a different part of your brain than the memory of what you ate for breakfast.
  • because the hippocampus is what ties these different memories together to form complete ones, our "life's story" is limited by what the hippocampus is able to combine among shards of memories that exist in different parts of the brain.

Memory doesn't work like a video recorder

This understanding of the brain helps illustrate why memory is not analogous to a recording device. Recalling events is not like a video player, where we just load in a memory. Instead, recall has more to do with retrieving these fragments of memory, and combining them with the hippcampus. This all happens in the moment as we are recalling an event.

  • If we had to shoehorn how memory works into the analogy of a recording device, the recording device would work in a bit of a different way. Instead of reading a file and then playing it, the recording device would have to assemble different pieces of related memory from different places of the storage drive. It would then have to reassemble those pieces of memory, filling in the holes that inevitably arise from missing information. This AI does its best to guess how the empty holes should be filled in, but it invariably makes mistakes along the way. In the end, the played-back version of the recording certainly resembles the original, but some information is either wrong, or completely omitted (do you really consider the billboard advertisement when recalling a memory that took place in the train station?)

The amygdala is the "emotional" component to the brain. It sits next to the hippocampus, and enhances the hippocampus' memory creating functionality. This means that when the amgydala is active, our capacity to make memories is enhanced. This helps explain why we remember milestone days, like wedding, birth of child etc.

  • ex. when flashed a group of faces, we tend to remember the faces that show some sort of emotion (eg. anger, happiness).

Mnemonic anchors that involve imagery are strongest when they are vivid, peculiar, and exaggerated in size or quantity.

Peak–end rule

we tend to remember flagship moments: the peaks, the pits, and the transitions.

  • The peak–end rule is a specific form of the more general extension neglect and duration neglect.

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