Health Blog

How Are Memories Made? & On a related note, can you summarize how memories form and are preserved?

Dr De Brigard: This is actually a difficult question, for which we only have the general shape of an answer, because many of its details are still unknown or unclear. Moreover, as it happens in neuroscience—and in all of biology, to be precise—these sorts of explanations involve many levels of description.

In the case of memory, we are talking abut changes that occur at the molecular level, the synaptic level, the cellular level, and even at the level of neural assembly and networks. That being said, when talking about memory formation and preservation, scientists usually separate three different stages: encoding, consolidation, and retrieval.

"Encoding" refers to the process in which information that is experienced becomes suitable to be stored in memory. For the case of episodic memories—ie, memories about particular personal events, the spatiotemporal contexts of which we can remember—this process requires one to rehearse in working memory the information to be stored.

October 9, 2009 — A new National Football League (NFL) study has identified a higher rate of dementia among retired players than in the general population. The preliminary study demonstrates more cognitive impairment among not just elderly retirees but also those younger than 50 years.

The study, commissioned by the NFL Player Care Foundation, has not been peer reviewed, and investigators are quick to point to its limitations. In the survey of more than 1000 retired players, researchers collected information by telephone interview and explored a range of issues on the health and well-being of professional athletes.
Linebacker Lofa Tatupu is donating his brain for research.

"The league wanted to learn more about retired football players," said lead investigator David Weir, PhD, from the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor during an interview. "This will help the organization respond to the needs of retired players," he added.

Last week, the NFL players association announced it is launching a concussion and traumatic brain injury committee. The group will explore the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of concussions and traumatic brain injury in active players and will evaluate the long-term cumulative effects of injuries.