Remember those anti-drug commercials in the 1980s? “This is your brain, this is your brain on drugs. Any Questions?” Chances are just by hearing that slogan you automatically hear and egg cracking and sizzling in your imagination. This can give us great insight into how memory works and how it can be exploited.
Your brain is highly oriented toward the visual. In fact, the most vivid memories involve a visual component for most people. Seeing a visual representation of of frying egg while being told this is what drugs can do to your brain cemented that message for a whole generation. It was really a brilliant and effective public service announcement, especially since most people still remember it very well.
Memory is a vital function of your humanity rather than just a place in the brain where memories are stored. Making a memory involves numerous parts of the brain all working in tandem. One of the more quirky things about your brain is that it doesn’t often differentiate between input and imagination, leaving your memories open to manipulation or error. Your visual centers, olfactory centers, emotions, and intellect all work together to form and store memories. An interruption in one can mean an opportunity for error or manipulation.
Your cerebrum manages your higher level thinking. This includes everything from sensory input to problem solving and intellect. It is divided into two regions- your right brain and your left brain. Your left brain controls the right side of your body as well as your ability for logical thought. Your right brain controls the left side of your body as well as creativity.
The cerebellum is only about 10% of your brain’s mass, but it controls all the crucial systems in your body and possesses about half of your neurons. This is the part of your brain that controls balance and motor coordination.
Finally, your brainstem is the part of your brain that controls the flow of information to and from your body. This is where your sleeping, heartbeat, and respiration are all regulated.
So how do all these parts of the brain work together to form memories? Your personal experiences can be broken down into three main categories: sensory input, short term or working memory, and long term memory. Sensory input combines to form short term memories, and repetition commits those to your long term memory.
This is where things get a little complicated. Your brain can’t actually tell the difference between imagination and reality in some circumstances, so your memories can be altered. It can be as benign as confusing the way you wanted a situation to be with the way it actually turned out, or it can be as nefarious as someone implanting false memories in your mind to make you doubt yourself. Your brain is a sophisticated supercomputer, but like any supercomputer it can also be hacked, and you might be surprised just how easy it is to do. Learn more about how your brain stores memories from this infographic!