• Jul 26, 2021
click fraud protection
Where memories are stored

Memory is one of the most important cognitive processes for the human being. Memory allows us to store the knowledge that we acquire throughout our lives, remember events important parts of our biography or even perform such everyday tasks as cooking, driving a car or riding a bike. Without memory we would be condemned to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.

Where are all these memories found? There is scientific literature that has been extensively devoted to memory, resulting in various theories and approaches that try to answer this and other questions. In the following Psychology-Online article, we explain where memories are stored, but we also review how memories are formed and the types of memory that exist.

You may also like: Sensory memory: what it is, types and examples


  1. How memories are formed and stored in the brain
  2. What types of memory exist
  3. Where short-term memories are stored
  4. Where long-term memories are stored

How memories are formed and stored in the brain.

Remember means to retrieve information that has been stored in the system. Remember what your friend told you five minutes ago, remember which is the capital of France, what means the word kindness or even remembering the day your child was born or the day you you graduated. Remembering it implies having previously stored all this information in our memory.

So how are memories formed and stored in the brain? Memory works with different types of content, whose acquisition is different. For example, some learning processes, such as the practice of certain procedures, make us acquire skills that are stored in the procedural memory, a system very different from the one that records our knowledge about mammals or the one that records a certain event. Discover the types of human memory that exist.

In addition, to acquire and store information, it has to reach our cognitive system. The memory processes that allow memories to be recorded and retrieve them later make the information that reaches our system be:

  • Encoded: it is transformed into mental representations.
  • Stored: mental representations have to be stored in memory to be able to be manipulated and / or retrieved later.

Memory is not just about registering memories in the system. These should be able to be recalled later. This process is known as recovery. And how can all this be accomplished? It is important to cite the concept of brain plasticity. The brain is plastic, that is, synaptic connections can be modified. This phenomenon allows the human being to learn and generate memories.

What types of memory exist.

There are various classifications of memory types. While it is true that traditionally have been classified according to the duration of the memory, that is, if it lasts a long time we speak of long-term memory and if it lasts a short time we speak of short-term memory.

Sensory memory

Sensory memory also appears in Atkinson and Shiffrin's structural model, a very brief and specific type of memory for each of the sensory systems. The types of sensory memory are:

  • Iconic memory: typical of the visual modality.
  • Memory echoic: typical of the auditory modality.
  • Haptic memory: typical of touch mode.

Memory systems

From sensory memory, the information would already pass to short-term memory and, later, to long-term memory. Schacter and Tulving (1994) propose five memory systems:

  • Short term memory: Also known as working memory, of limited duration and capacity.
  • Episodic memory: in which are facts and memories linked to space and time.
  • Semantic memory: where the knowledge of the world is stored, detached from time and space.
  • Procedural memory: stores knowledge that cannot be brought to consciousness.
  • Perceptual representation system: of non-declarative content, that is, it cannot be brought to consciousness either.

We cite, to finish this section, a third classification of memory systems, in this case proposed by Squire for the long term memory. It distinguishes declarative memory and non-declarative memory that we explain in the last section of this article.

Where short-term memories are stored.

Short-term memories are encoded acoustically, visually, and semantically in a short-term system that has a limited capacity and duration. Limited capacity refers to the fact that the number of elements it supports are limited.

By storing a limited number of items, information retrieval can be total. For example, if we have memorized a phone number to save it on our mobile, we will be able to remember the nine digits.

If you're wondering where short-term memories are stored, then we'll take a look at the brain regions involved in short-term memory:

  • The dorsolateral regions of the frontal lobes.
  • The left parietal cortex.
  • The drill area.
  • Motor and premotor areas of the left hemisphere. In this article you will see the characteristics, functions and differences of the right and left cerebral hemispheres.
  • The right parieto-occipital cortex.

What is the cause of short-term memory loss?

What could kill short-term memories? The following phenomena:

  • Displacement- Old information is moved to make room for new memories.
  • Interference: they speak to you when you go to point the mobile phone and that information interferes with your memory.
  • Decline: the memory fades over time.

In this article, you will find information about how to improve short term memory.

Where long-term memories are stored.

The long term memory It is perhaps the best known type of memory and the one that we refer to the most when we talk about memory. Its capacity is much greater than that of short-term memory and its duration can be very long, even forever. Failure to remember may be due to organic disorders, such as dementias, that is, inappropriate signals that allow recovery or interference.

Squire proposes a classification of long-term memory that he distinguishes between declarative memory and non-declarative memory. Let's see where in the brain the memory is.

Declarative memory

Declarative memory is one that can be declared, that is, its content can be brought to consciousness. It is divided into two types:

  • Semantic memory: it is that memory in which knowledge is accumulated. Mainly related brain regions would be the left prefrontal cortex, the medial temporal lobe, and the diencephalon.
  • Episodic memory: it is the one in which memories linked to time and space accumulate, that is, all anecdotes and biographical memories. The brain regions mainly involved in this type of memory are the left and / or right prefrontal cortex, medial temporal lobe and diencephalon.

Non-declarative memory

The content of non-declarative memory, on the contrary, cannot be brought to consciousness. An example of this type of memory can be the ability to ride a bicycle. According to Squire's classification, within non-declarative memory we find:

  • Simple classical conditioning: the amygdala and cerebellum participate in it.
  • Priming effect and perceptual learning: in which the neocortex is involved.
  • Skills and habits: in which the striatum participates.
  • Other non-associative learning: in which the reflex pathways are compromised.

This article is merely informative, in Psychology-Online we do not have the power to make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment. We invite you to go to a psychologist to treat your particular case.

If you want to read more articles similar to Where memories are stored, we recommend that you enter our category of Neuropsychology.


  • Ballesteros, S. (2012). Memory psychology. Structures, Processes, Systems. Madrid: Universitas, S.A.
  • Ruiz-Vargas, J.M. (2010). Introduction: What is memory?. In Ruiz-Vargas, J.M. (2010). Memory psychology manual. (pp 19-40) Madrid: Synthesis.
instagram viewer