Educators educating Educators

Sep 23

Memory Recall

Consolidation:  Recall of an old memory results in the formation of a new memory due to a chemical change called consolidation


Every time a memory is recalled, reconfigured, and restored, a chemical process called consolidation is taking place.

When previously consolidated memories are recalled, they must be reprocessed if they are to remain in durable form because they revert to their prior unstable and liable nature. Not only are retrieved memories changed due to the existence of new information, they are also altered by interaction with other long-term memories. The brain is constantly receiving new information, evaluating the new information by connecting the new information to previously encountered and stored information, and then restoring the information.

In addition to his research detailed above, Ebbinghaus was the first to demonstrate the existence of two types of memory systems, a short form, and a long form. He further demonstrated that repetition could convert one into the other under certain conditions. The process of converting short-term memory traces to longer, sturdier forms is called consolidation.

At first, a memory is flexible, labile, subject to amendment, and at great risk for extinction. Most of the inputs we encounter in a given day fall into this category. But some memories stick, strengthen with time and become persistent, and eventually reach a state called long-term memory, which are retrievable and resistant to amendment.

When the brain is exposed to new information, the grand central station of memory (the hippocampus) searches its exciting database (in the cortex) for related information. It retrieves this information, and compares the new information with the existing information by looking for patterns (similarities and differences) between the two information sources. The new information results the previously existing information. The brain then sends the recreated information as a whole back for new storage as a new memory because the stored, recreated information is chemically different from the prior recalled information.

John Medina, author of Brain Rules, explains long-term memory formation (9:19)


In collaboration with David Glanzman and Craig Bailey, Eric Kandel (see Nobel Prize tab) identified a protein involved in long-term memory storage. Thus, short-term memory had been linked to functional changes in existing synapses, while long-term memory was associated with a change in the number of synaptic connections.

An example of how the mind examines similarities and differences between sources of information is with schemas. A schema is a cognitive framework that guide memory, aide in the interpretation of events, and influence how we retrieve stored memories. The following video illustrates the usefulness of schemas.




Welcome back to another school year. I hope your summer was relaxing and invigorating and you are looking forward to the approaching school year and the opportunity to stimulate and challenge your students’ minds.

This summer I was able to study Sir Ken Robinson, a British author, speaker and international advisor on education to governments, non-profits, and education organizations

I, like many people, find his writings and Ted Talks not only witty and inspiring but also thought-provoking and challenging. Much of his work deals with the diversity of intelligence, the power of imagination and creativity, and the importance of commitment to our own capabilities. He posits that the noticeable lack of them in our schools negatively affect students’ learning and teachers’ productivity and the absence of them is triggered by the demands of standardized testing.

I hope you find Sir Ken Robinson’s words inspiriting and challenging as I do and be mindful of them as you plan for the new year. Here is to a great 2017-2018 school year!