Where are your Memories stored?


Hey parents, trust your narrator here and I’m super excited to tell you about a brand new podcast from the creators of Who’s Smarted called Mysteries About True Histories. It’s full of adventure, riddles, jokes.

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And now it’s time for Who’s Smarted. Psst, hey, smarty pants, question. Have you ever thought about something you experienced in the past and found that you can recall all or most of the details about it?

Me too. In fact, I do it all the time. There’s a word for those types of thoughts. Do you know what it is? Did you say memories? You’re right. And conjuring up memories, otherwise known as remembering, is a super useful ability that nearly all humans share.

To learn more about memory, I’ve decided to visit a large university where all kinds of interesting memory -related tests and studies take place. Now, if I could just remember the code to get in the security door.

That’s not it. Nope, not that either. Got it. Okay, I admit, I cheated. I had the code in my phone, which is a good lesson. You should always write important things down, smarty pants. rather than just relying on your memory.

Ah. That being said, your memory is a remarkable asset, and I can’t wait to learn more about it from my scientist friend, Clara. Clara specializes in the field of memory, and she invited me to her research lab.

Hmm, if I could only remember what room she’s in. And I forgot to write that down. Oh, well, I can’t always text her. Trusty? Oh, so close. I’m so excited. You could visit my cognitive psychology lab.

Cognitive psychology, huh? Smarty Pants, do you know what cognitive means or what cognitive psychology studies? Clara, maybe you could explain. I, um, forgot. The words cognitive or cognition have to do with thinking or thought.

Cognitive psychology is a scientific study of mental processes such as attention, language use, perception, problem -solving, creativity, reasoning, and… Memory! Nice! You remembered. Well, it is why I’m here.

I’m hoping you can help answer some basic memory questions, such as, what exactly are memories? Why are most people able to remember certain events from the past, but others not so much? Huh? And is it true that your memories can begin before you’re even born?

Great! Let’s get started! It’s time for another whiff of science and history on… Who’s smarted? Who’s smarted? Who’s smart? Is it you? Is it me? Is it science or history? Listen up! Everyone, we make smarting lots of fun on who’s smarted!

All right, Clara. Where should we start? Ooh, let’s start with a simple memory test, Trusty. I’m going to say five words, and I just want you to repeat them back to me in order. Got it? Sounds easy enough.

Smarty pants, play along, too. Okay, here we go. Mouse… Car… Flower… Balloon… And a skateboard. Okay, now repeat them all back to me in that order. Um, mouse… Car… Flower… Balloon… And…

Skateboard. Perfect! How’d you do, smarty pants? Did you get them all? Nice job if you did. I gotta say, Clara, you got a lot of cool -looking gadgets in your lab, like these VR or virtual reality headsets.

Some smarty pants may remember we did an episode of who’s smarted on virtual reality. Anyway, why all the headsets, Clara? I could tell you! Or you can see for yourself, put on a headset while I pull up a program on my laptop.

Okay, all set. Great. Just a few seconds more. Okay, go ahead. Tell me what you see. Wow, there’s a lot going on in here. It looks like a game of laser tag. Great description. But guess what? You’re not in a futuristic fantasy land.

You’re actually getting a look inside a part of your body. Really? All this is happening inside me? Yep. Smarty pants. Any idea what part of my body I’m looking at? Is it my heart, my brain, or my stomach?

If you said my brain, you’re right. Okay, one last adjustment. What do you see now? I see lights flashing on and off. They kind of look like lightning. Uh -huh. Most scientists have concluded your memories are held within different groups of neurons, which are specialized cells designed to transmit information.

Ah, so is that what these lightning strikes are? Precisely. Any guesses how many neurons there can be in a human brain? Uh, let’s all take a stab at this, smarty pants. Is it A, 1000? B, 1 million. C, 1 billion.

Or D, nearly 100 billion. Hmm, I’m thinking a million sounds like a lot, but probably not enough. A billion is a huge number of neurons, but I bet that isn’t enough. So I’m gonna go with D, nearly 100 billion.

What do you think, smarty pants? Do you agree? Well, if you agreed with trusty, you’re… Right! Yes! But also… Whoa. Smarty pants, can you believe all that’s going on inside your brain? Amazing! Yep!

And there are hundreds of types of neurons, each performing different functions. Okay, hang on trusty, I just need to pop something into the microwave for a few seconds. Ooh, are you getting hungry too?

A little, but that’s not why I’m doing this. Ah, it’s done already. Okay trusty, while you’re still looking at your brain with the VR headset, I’m going to wave something under your nose, take a big whiff and describe what you see.

Hey, is that what I think it is? Wow, look at all those lights flashing. The smell is familiar, it reminds me of something my grandma likes to cook. Who wants meat cake? That’s it? It smells like my grandma’s famous meat cake.

Yep! In fact, I… baked a meat cake using your grandma’s famous family recipe. I can’t believe she shared her recipe. Oh, I would never deprive someone from enjoying meat cake. Anyway, the recipe isn’t the important part.

What is important is for you to see how interconnected nerve cells fire up as a group when presented with a specific stimuli, in this case, the smell of meat cake. Nom, nom, nom, nom, nom. And the more familiar the stimuli, the stronger the response that gets triggered.

Ah, so basically, you used my sense of smell to form a connection to a previous life experience, which triggered a memory that my brain then recalled. Exactly, trusty. That’s what’s known as associative memory, and it’s stored in a region of your brain known as the hippocampus.

Not the hippopotamus, the hippocampus. Sorry, losing the hippo sound. Question is there a specific place within your brain that holds all your memories like the way a computer’s hard drive stores all its files Good question.

What do you think smarty pants true or false are all your memories stored in one specific place inside your brain? if you said false You’re right Wow, so memories are stored in more than just one part of your brain Yep, different areas of your brain create and store different types of memories here.

Let’s do another experiment to demonstrate What do you see now trusty? Oh, it looks like we’ve moved to a different part of the brain I see a nice sandy beach the ocean looks calm Pretty relaxing, right?

Oh, yeah. How about now? Where that zombie come from I gotta get out of here. I gotta get out of here Here comes another zombie Yep, everything is lining up like fireworks Bingo you’re now in a region of your brain known as the amygdala When you or I or anyone experiences anxiety stress or fear the amygdala Secretes hormones that prepares your body to either fight the threat or flee the scene Both the hippocampus and the amygdala are structures in an area called the temporal lobe that make up what’s known as your Limbic system Okay, a little complicated but nonetheless amazing.

I guess the same thing happens when you’re nervous about an upcoming test in school Or if you’re about to go on stage to play with the school band Or being chased by zombies What can I say they look so real and all of those neurons in my brain were popping like crazy.

No doubt, those were the synapses firing up. Synapses? Yep, the place where neurons connect and communicate with each other are called synapses. There are hundreds if not thousands of synaptic connections flashing on and off depending on the stimuli or motivating factors.

Ah, so there’s sort of the circuitry or wiring that runs through your brain linking things up. What do you think, smarty pants? Is trusty right? Of course he is. Great job, T .N. Thanks. So why are some memories forgotten pretty quickly while other memories are more long -term?

Does it have anything to do with synapses? It sure does. What happens is coming up right after this short break. Hi, trusty here with a special message for all the parents and guardians listening. I know how important it is for your child to excel in every way possible, especially when it comes to education.

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I also put the link in the show notes. Happy summer, happy Father’s Day and happy eating. Now back to who’s smarted. Here let’s take off that VR headset. I want to show you what’s going on with the synapses as it applies to memory.

Okay do you recall earlier I asked you to repeat five different words in order? Do you still remember them? Um oh boy I think so. What about you smarty pants? Can you remember the five words in order from earlier?

Ready? Mouse. Car. Flower. Balloon. Yeah one more. Oof, I’m having trouble remembering the last word. Smarty pants, a little help? Ah, that’s right, skateboard. Thanks, Smarties. That little experiment is an example of what happens inside your brain when it comes to short -term memory.

When presented with simple, rather mundane or ordinary stimuli, your neurons haven’t had a chance to gain any strength through repetition. It’s all too new. I see. Memories are created by the reactivation of certain groups of neurons that are formed by the repetition within your synaptic connections.

Aha, is that why your long -term memory is often better? Because your neurons and their synapses have repeated the process more times? Indeed, the more that a group of neurons fire up as a unit in response to a specific stimulus, the stronger those interconnections get.

Oof. OK, Clara, I have to ask. Is it possible for humans to create memories before they’re even born? It sounds crazy, but researchers in Europe have done experiments placing speakers on the bellies of pregnant mothers and playing various stimuli like random sounds.

Ribbit, ribbit. Or music. Believe it or not, the unborn fetus recognizes those sounds and knows they aren’t a threat. Really? Even certain voices, like a parent reading a story to an unborn child. Good night, moon.

Appear to be recognized very early on. Ah. Speaking of random sounds, I forgot to eat lunch. I have plenty of meat cake. Um, forget it. A big, long time in the making shout -out to Astrid in Santa Clara, California, who has been waiting for a shout -out since we chatted at Sea Camp.

You said you didn’t want Sea Camp to end. And I said, you can’t stay under the ocean forever. And you said you wanted to. And I said, like Aquaman? and you said, yes! See? I remembered! I was just waiting for the Memories episode to thank you for smarting with us, smarty pants!

This episode Memories was written by Dave Davis, and voiced by Jina Hoban and Jerry Kolber. Technical direction and sound design by Josh Han. Who Smarted is recorded and mixed at the Relic Room Studios.

Our associate producer is Max Kamaski. The theme song is by Brian Suarez, with lyrics written and performed by Adam Tex Davis. Who Smarted was created and produced by Adam Tex Davis and Jerry Kolber.

This has been an Atomic Entertainment production.