Tonight I was thinking about this question, How is it exactly that we store information in our brains? In this case simple information, say a phone number. Intrigued by this I asked around and found out that most adults remember the phone numbers they had when they were children and I wondered, where and how is that phone number stored. I went to the Wikipedia but the results were poor. The Wikipedia article article on memory basically says that we don’t know how information is stored in our brain. Concerned about this I started googling my own guesses of how memory is stored in our brains which is namely that that there must be a molecular biology of memory. My thinking here was that we are now, with our understanding of memory where we were with our understanding of genetics before Watson Crick. That we can describe the phenomenom but not how it really takes place but that the answer could be similar to that of genetics in the sense that there could be a molecular biology of memory. Interestingly when I googled that exact phrase, the “Molecular Biology of Memory” to see if anybody had found a DNA type compound that accounted for our ability to memorize I found an article that is commented by different web sites called just that Molecular Biology of Memory. I was also glad to see that it was written by a Nobel prize winner scientist Eric R Kandel . Reading about Eric R Kandel I found intriguing that he had started his career doing psychology work and then evolved towards molecular biology. Most scientists seem to go the other way as they get older. Eric R Kandel instead started figuring out how is it that we can actually store concrete pieces of information. But his is not the only theory.

There seems to be two theories about memory, one involves synaptic patterns the other molecular biology. Personally I just can’t see how synaptic patterns could be the answer. I can imagine how synapsis are crucial to send experiences into storage but the long term storage (of the kind of the childhood phone number) should be something that is altered at the molecular level and stays like that. Recently my step dad was in a coma and came out of it with his memory intact. I find it hard to believe that his synapsis were active while he was in coma. Long term memory must be something pretty stable if it can survive a 10 day coma. My guess, and this is a wild guess, is that the answer could lie into some molecules that are reshaped when experiences take place in a way that after they change the same way until we die or until we run out of storage space in which case we either find other places with available chemicals to reshape or we simply forget. Now how could this exactly take place? What is the DNA, makes RNA, makes protein of memory? I don’t know but whoever finds out will certainly get another nobel prize. The opportunities of repairing and expanding memory sound sci fi now but so did the mapping of the human genome as little as 20 years ago. Personally I would be interested to fund research in this area out of my foundation or even fund a company that works on this. It’s been a while since I started Medicorp Sciences of Montreal together with Claudio Cuello and other scientists at McGill University and the quest for the biochemicals of memory could be a good come back into the field.

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Antoin O Lachtnain on August 5, 2006  · 

Not a lot is certain about memory, but one thing is: there is a complex mechanism to memory, rather than just a ‘locus’ where facts are stored. Retrieval, indexing and Storage are just as important as the actual ‘repository’ where the memory is stored. You can’t really understand memory in terms of the repository alone. Things like facts seem to start in short term memory and make their way to long-term memory. Things like physical skills seem to be stored in a different way to things that happen to us (‘episodic memory’). Facial recognition is tied to particular areas of the brain. There are probably a lot of different mechanisms involved, even though we call the whole thing ‘memory’ as if it was a unitary phenomenon.

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Oliver Thylmann on August 5, 2006  · 

I suggest you read the book On Intelligence ( by Jeff Hawkins among others. He was one of the founders of Palm and Handspring. He has now founded Numenta ( to get deeper into the ideas behind his book.

The general idea is that we form things in our brain based on experience (call it synapsis, whatever) and our brain is constantly in prediction mode. The more experience we gain, the sooner the brain can make an accurate prediction. If you grab a bottle, you will only really “think” if there is something that happens where the prediction your brain takes is different from what your senses tell you.

Ok, very simplistic now. But reading the book was great and I think there is some very good potential in the ideas he presents.

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Juanma Schvartman on August 6, 2006  · 

I somehow stumbled upon your blog partly via looking for an article by a crazy Uruguayan you may know. In any case, I could not agree more about the state at which the study of memory is at today. I suggest you have a look (and listen) at the BBC Reith Lecture Series of 2003, given by Vilayanur Ramachandran, who studies cognitive neurobiology in San Diego. His talks are enjoyable, deep and laugh out loud funny. He was very much in touch with Crick before he died and has explored a number of psychological dilemas from the point of view of the biologist. Here is the link:

Crick also has a book that deals with how to study the brain from the point of view of molecular biology and neuroscience: The Astonishing Hypothesis.

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Wilbert van den Boom on August 17, 2006  · 

I’m a psychologist in labour ( I don’t know if that’s the correct translation) and I’m doing research in the aspect of Human Resources Theory (Ideology). It’s a Management theory with it’s basics the idea that perfomance can be increased by guiding behavior through incentives . Totally ridiculous, but most organizations are build up by this idea. To make a long story short…I’m sorting out the origins of behavior and came to the point when or which behavior should be remembered to deal with the environment……in short…how exactly does that memory function.
As far as I can see know it’s likely the strenght and number of synapses. It’s just like the grow of a muscle……to grow it needs proteÏn, so it has much more to do with the cAMP/PKA system (?)within the neuron. So short term memory is more likely the cells with little cAAMP/PKA system and long term meomory with advanced cAMP/PKA (?)…which I’m still sorting out.
The prediction as mentioned above is based on what’s memorized. When actual outcome differs from the predicted outcome, the result is a prediction error. This prediction error signal can be used to learn correct predictions and also to learn appropriate actions and also adjust our meaning (Sinn) of complexity. The brain is a pattern-matching machine, The more associations (matches) you have for a particular memory, the more protection you have against losing it, and the more ways you will have to remember it later, the more complexity can be handled.
And I absolutely don’t think there is a plesure sytem in the brains through which behavior is ‘guided’ more likely the meaning/need which is created by the prediction (error). Only pleasure would restrict the the human adaption to the ever developing environment. If environment gets complex the inner has to be as much complex (Ashbey’s law) ……adaptation to the environment is only possible when mankind expands meaning, expands neurological possiblities, expands memory, expands neurons.

by he way the url is of my site as a bagpiper, but interesting though

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3abboud of rak on August 20, 2006  · 

Kandel has done some good basic research into some pretty rudimentary memory-related behavior. but it gets much more interesting with the Drosophila memory research. You can search for articles on research on the Drosophila genes…. radish, rutabaga, dunce, amnesiac mutant genes.

very fascinating stuff. also fascinating that flies can ‘black out’ or just plain forget stuff.

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