Dr. Zimmer discusses short and long term memory

Dr. Zimmer discusses short and long term memory

Published: October 1, 2009.

Dr. Erin Zimmer, assistant professor of biology at Lewis University, presented “The Biological Foundations of Short and Long Term Memory” as part of the Art of Memory series Sept. 24 on the Romeoville main campus. Zimmer began her presentation by stating, “One cannot learn without memory.” She went on to explain the processes of encoding, storage, and retrieval and that the amount of attention given to a piece of information is essential to remembering.

To illustrate her points, Zimmer showed the audience lists of words and numbers, requesting that they remember as many as possible. Most people could remember about seven items. However, when Dr. Zimmer taught the “chunking” technique, it was much easier to remember more information, evidenced by the increase in items remembered. The “chunking” technique refers to grouping letters and numbers in a meaningful way, creating less individual pieces of information to remember. Among the tips for enhancing memory were rehearsal, short sessions of studying, organizing material, minimizing interference, and using mnemonics. An example of a mnemonic device is “HOMES” to help remember the names of the Great Lakes.

Zimmer explained possible reasons why people forget, such as ineffective encoding, decay or fading of memory, as well as retrieval failure. Zimmer also shared an exciting new scientific study that suggests memories are formed when new proteins are made at the synapse. Although the biology professor talked at length about forming memory and retaining information, she also discussed memory loss and emphasized keeping the brain active in order to reduce the risk of getting dementia. Having a higher education and living a healthy lifestyle are two factors that help in reducing the risk of dementia, and specifically Alzheimer’s disease.

The series is presented by the Lewis University History Center: Urban, Cultural and Catholic History of the Upper Midwest, which supports a biannual symposium. It is also a part of Lewis University’s Arts & Ideas Program, providing cultural and educational programming for students and the community. These events are free of charge and open to the public. For further information, please contact Ewa Bacon at (815) 836-5568.

A Catholic university sponsored by the De La Salle Christian Brothers, Lewis offers nearly 80 undergraduate majors and programs of study, accelerated degree completion options for working adults, various aviation programs and 22 graduate programs in nine fields. The 10th largest private, not-for-profit university in Illinois is being honored for the sixth consecutive year by The Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report.

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