Part 2: Memory Mechanisms
Memory – a Domain of Paradoxes
The principles of memory are very simple. Misunderstanding its mechanisms is connected with a lack of understanding what our brain views as information.
I have scrutinized numerous books on psychology and brain neurophysiology. What surprises me most is that no one has managed to locate where information resides in their brain. No one can simply and clearly explain how and where the information is stored there. By following simple logic, I came to the conclusion that, if no one manages to find the storage area, then the information is simply not stored in the brain!
This is the principal memory secret. The brain does not ever memorize what we usually call "information." The brain actually memorizes something we usually fail to recognize it as doing so.
Let us clarify different types of information:
A Result of Brain Activity
There exists information which is a result of brain functioning. Such information is created by the brain and does not exist in nature. It does not exist without men. What is this information? First of all, it is words. The brain can create words; you can write these words down on a slip of paper, combine them as books, files, and records.
The brain is also able to create images. You can set images created by the brain down on paper, with a pen or paint. Then, future generations will be able to see the results of your brain functioning.
Some brains are capable of creating music. To save music, one can write it down using notation (music print) or record it directly onto a tape or a compact disc.
What we normally refer to as information for learning also belongs in this category… contents of study books, notebooks, etc. Someone came up with texts, dates, and formulas; all of this information is a result of many brains functioning together.
The above information is not fixed in the brain. It does not exist in your brain in any form – not in words or images nor in a form of electric impulses.
Objects of the Surrounding World
Another type of information consists of objects in the surrounding world. Such objects radiate physical and chemical SIGNALS into space which effect our brains through other perception channels (eyes, ears, etc.).
This kind of information is not memorized by the brain either. When you look at an object, you see (reflect) it, but the object itself is not perceived by the brain.
I understand that this may sound paradoxical and may cause skepticism or even outrage. You can close your eyes and remember countless images! My statements contradict your experience. This is what is called a domain of a paradox. Remember the title of this article. My goal is to provoke a true revolution in your head with this short article. The memory phenomenon is indeed very paradoxical in the way that it contradicts what you feel and what you were taught during school or even in a psychology class. In order to examine and grasp memory concepts and GMS®, you will need to break down this psychological barrier of misunderstanding.
Please do not make any conclusions yet, and continue reading.
Connections, Connections, and Nothing but Connections...
There is also a third type of information that people tend to forget. When ancient wizards (scientists were once referred to this way) would say that information exists everywhere, always and about everything, they were not referring to words, images, phone numbers, and dates - nor did they mean objects that our brains reflect. What they meant by the term "information" was in fact "CONNECTIONS."
Thus, the third information type is connections: the connections formed between objects, phenomena, and surrounding world events. Indeed, such information exists everywhere, always, and about everything one can ever possibly imagine, regardless of what philosophers or psychologists think about it.
Leaves grow on tree branches; the sun is always in the sky; fish swim in the sea. When there is lightning, expect thunder. If it rains, your clothes will become wet. Speech construction "if... then…" reflects the analyzed information type – connections. "If branch, then leaves." "If sugar, then sweet." "If fire, then smoke."
This kind of information is very important for us since our brain memorizes only this particular type of information. Your brain memorizes the connections. When you see a vase with a rose in it on a table, your brain remembers the connection between "vase," "rose," and "table". The brain does not memorize the images by themselves.
Where does our brain get memories from? Do we still remember words or images?
We encounter simple examples of memory principles everyday in a kitchen. Why do you remove your hand from a hot kettle? What a silly question, you might say. This reaction does not just happen – it is the heat acting upon our skin receptors resulting in a CONNECTION that causes us to pull our hand away automatically. Image reproduction works the same way. When you see a vase, it acts upon your eyes, then a CONNECTION results, and your brain outputs the "rose" and the "table" images. When you hear "cat," it acts upon your ears, then a CONNECTION results, and you see a cat in your mind.
The brain is not the information warehouse we think it is. The brain can only generate CONNECTIONS. With respect to any other type of information (words, images, music, phone numbers, etc.), the brain is only a generator of information. A "generator of information" sounds peculiar, but it is exactly the kind of device we have in our heads.
Analogically, no one will ever possibly try to find electricity in an electric generator. We all know that a generator CREATES electric energy. An attempt to find images, words, or phone numbers in the brain is hilarious – they are not in your mind; your brain generates them.
For the electric generator to create electric energy, it needs to be rotated. For the brain to begin creating images and words, it needs to receive signals (stimuli). Very diverse stimuli go to the brain and agitate previously created connections according to what the brain creates (generates) as information: images, words, or movements.
The most primitive type of connection, a reflex, is familiar to all of us. For a reflex to work, a stimulus is necessary. Human memory works according to "Stimulus-Reaction" (S-R) principle.
From this simple example, you can see that an attempt to memorize phone numbers and historical dates in their common appearance is an absolutely senseless thing to do. The brain is not capable of doing that in vast quantities. It is necessary to learn to memorize the connections that exist in phone numbers and historical dates. Using these connections, our brain will generate necessary data.
The described information types – objects of the surrounding world (like phone numbers) are results of brain functioning using such connections. An apple, a phone number, and a historical date have these connections in them. What is primary – an object or the connections in it? This is a difficult philosophical question, so we will have to leave it for another time. What is essential to know is that brain only fixes and retains connections. The rest is of no importance for memorization.
We can make a conclusion based on the fact that the brain is only capable of fixing connections: if there is no incoming stimulating signal, then a brain will not generate information – thereby, making anamnesis process impossible. The reflex of pulling your hand away will not work unless you touch something hot. You will not sneeze unless you have a speck of dust near your nose. You may have no idea of the innate genetic reaction programs you have unless you encounter a certain stimulating situation.
We will describe two brain connection fixation mechanisms in detail later. Yet, even now, it is important to note that stimulations coming from human body and its internal organs have a very strong effect on connections. These stimuli are a background frequency with which any other incoming stimulating signals mingle. Theoretically, this means that any change in body’s sensitivity will make generating information, using connections created under normal circumstances, inadequate. If a body’s sensitivity is drastically changed, then a person suffers from a loss of memory.
If one does not control the amount of alcohol consumed at a party, the feelings and perceptions of his body will change dramatically. When he sobers up, he will probably not be able to recall much that was happening at the party. Connections are reactions to stimuli. However, a person cannot get the same stimuli sober as he had while under influence of alcohol. Connections cannot react without stimuli. The person suffers from basic amnesia, a blackout. To remember the forgotten information, it is imperative to get the body into the same condition – or in this example - to get drunk again.
The most interesting thing about amnesia is that almost everyone is subject to this occasional loss of memory. However, we fail to notice when it happens since we cannot remember the actual forgetting itself.
The core of the Stanislavski system is based upon the connection between memory and body feelings. He called it the "method of physical action." In order to get rid of a useless behavior and replace it with a new one, or to change an aspect of one’s identity, Stanislavski recommends engaging in relevant physical activities because they lead to a quick change in body’s sensitivity. Then, the body starts to send signals to the brain. Due to the change of stimuli, other connections begin to occur in reaction, and previously blocked memory layers are activated. Other layers, now not needed, are blocked in turn.
To change your temper, habits, and attitude towards other people, it is quite enough to do some jogging, physical exercises, and strength training. The changes will be so considerable that people around you will notice; consequently, your relationships with other people will change as well.
Understanding what CONNECTIONS are all about - and that the brain memorizes nothing but connections, - is a key to the right memorization technique and also explains temporary and permanent losses of memory, drastic personality changes, and principles of memory illnesses.
A facet of "memory" is the key concept of psychology. Understanding brain’s connection fixation and information generation under the effect of stimuli mechanisms give offers an opportunity to understand other processes that occur in your brain as well, e.g. personality forming and mental activities.
Not only is "memory" a key concept of psychology, but also a universal principle that guides all processes in our physical world. Not only does the all-encompassing nature of memory extend to both our physical and psychological processes, it is, in fact, their guiding principle – the importance of which should never be underestimated.
Frequently, you may find an acknowledgement of the fact that psychology does cover memory mechanisms. Indeed, pure psychology neglects this matter. Memory can only be understood with the help of the neighbouring sciences: neurophysiology, neuropharmacology, physics, and mathematics.
We can now summarize this in a table.
What is remembered by the brain?
|Information as a result of the brain’s activity (words, dates, phone numbers)
||Does not remember, generates.
|The surrounding world objects (images)
||Does not remember, generates.
|Connections between events, phenomena
||Remembers in two ways.
- The brain can only remember connections
- The process of creating connections is "memory"
- The brain is an information generator. The generation process (anamnesis) happens by means of fixed connections after an appropriate stimulus
- Without stimulation, a brain cannot create information. The isolation of senses (sensory deprivation) leads to memory suspension and brain activity disorder