Long-Term Memory

A long-term memory is anything you remember that happened more than a few minutes ago. Long-term memories can last for just a few days, or for many years.

Long-term memories aren't all of equal strength. Stronger memories enable you to recall an event, procedure, or fact on demand—for example, that Paris is the capital of France. Weaker memories often come to mind only through prompting or reminding.

Long-term memory isn't static, either. You do not imprint a memory and leave it as if untouched. Instead, you often revise the memory over time—perhaps by merging it with another memory or incorporating what others tell you about the memory. As a result, your memories are not strictly constant, and are not always reliable.

There are many different forms of long-term memories. These memories aren't formed and retained in a single part of the brain; instead, the process of creating and storing long-term memories is spread throughout multiple regions. The two major subdivisions are explicit memory and implicit memory. Explicit memories are those that you consciously remember, such as an event in your life or a particular fact. Implicit memories are those that you do without thinking about, like riding a bike—you once learned how, and you remembered how, but now do it without conscious thought. Although understanding these differences in the type of memory we carry for the long-term is helpful, the divisions are fluid: different forms of memory often mix and mingle. To learn more about the different types of long-term memory, view our explicit (declarative) memory and implicit (nondeclarative) memory pages.

How well you remember something depends, in part, on how quickly and clearly your senses take in the experience as it happens. If your brain records what you see, hear, feel, taste, and smell with perfect precision, it can recall them better later. In many people with poorer memory, the fundamental problem lies in the brain’s ability to record sensory information clearly—not its ability to “remember.”

That’s why when it comes to improving memory, it’s essential to speed up and sharpen the brain’s ability to process what you take in through your senses. Vision and listening are most important, since in many memories what you see and hear makes up most of the memory. Several of the exercises in BrainHQ are explicitly designed to improve auditory and visual processing so that your brain can take in what you see and hear with the speed and accuracy it needs to form a strong memory. If you’d like to improve your memory by improving your brain processing, try BrainHQ.