Sunday, July 10, 2011

Memory Activated!

This weekend, while researching the brain and learning, I came across the website for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. See This is a weekly collection of articles, reports and commentaries on social, physical and biological sciences. In this week’s collection, I found an article regarding memory. Manning, Polyn, Baltuch, Litt &Kahana studied the electrical signals recorded from the human brain during a free recall exercise. The individuals participating in the experiment free recalled the lists verbally following a brief delay of time. The research supported past scholarly articles that detailed when recalling information, individuals tend to remember that event also features of events surrounding it. Manning et. al were able to measure the neural signatures of the memories of the original word in the list, and then similar patterns in the brain were recorded during the recall of neighboring list items. These findings show that when an individual recalls a past event, the patterns from the memory are carried over to the memory of other related events (Manning, Polyn, Baltuch, Litt & Kahana, 2011).

This article interests me as an instructional designer because it reminds me of the importance of organizing information for learners. Ormond et. al advise that organization of knowledge occurs when an individual breaks information into parts and divides that information into sections that are related. Organizing information can encourage effective retrieval by linking relevant information. When the individual needs to retrieve information, organization makes the location of the information easier to access. This process will help spread the memory activation process throughout information networks (Ormond, Schunk & Gredler, 2009).

While doing more research on memories, I ran across a Live Science article on the findings of a study on emotionally charged memories. The article provided an overview of a study on the link between a sense and a memory. The study suggests that a sense may help activate memories in the future (Rettner, 2010). I found the study on the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) website. The authors researched relating sensed information to memories in rats. The study determined that memories of an emotional situation are associated with various senses (visual, auditory and sense of smell). The study reviewed the storage of information for the rats (Sacco & Sacchetti, 2010) . The research needs to be applied to human brains. However, there are some implications that can be made in instructional design. Using emotional stories could help learners tie the emotion to a memory of information learned. I think that explaining new knowledge and linking it with an emotional example would help students remember the information later.


Manning, J. R, Polyn, S. M, Baltuch, G. H, Litt, B., Kahana, M. J. (2011, July 7). Oscillatory patterns in temporal lobe reveal context reinstatement during memory search. PNAS 2011. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1015174108.  Retrieved from

Ormrod, J., Schunk, D., & Gredler, M. (2009). Learning theories and instruction (Laureate custom edition). New York: Pearson

Rettner, R. (2010, August 5). Brain's Link Between Sounds, Smells and Memory Revealed. Live Science. Retrieved from

Sacco, T & Sacchetti, B. Rose of Secondary Sensory Cortices in Emotional Memory Storage and Retrieval in Rats. Science 6 August 2010. Vol. 329 no. 5992 pp. 649-656 DOI: 10.1126/science.1183165. Retrieved from

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