The paper is titled “Learning and Memory Systems: Work in Progress” and reviews the phenomenon of memory as a psychological concept. The paper discusses memory, types of memory, memory storage in the brain and how memory and the brain relate to each other. There is further discussion about amnesia and insights that have emanated from studies on amnesiac patients that show how the structures of the brain relate to memory. The following discussion offers a critical view of the author’s assertions about memory and the link between brain structures and memory.
The history into the study of memory offers an important outlook into the evolution of the concept of memory. The introductory part of the paper explicitly gives a chronological account of memory studies, giving a sense of the new versus the older paradigms. The entire work presents a comparison between older views and newer ones with words like initially and recently, giving the paper a temporally comparative tone. The effect achieved is a contrast between earlier, simplistic views of memory and its structure and the more modern, complex views of memory.
The paper extensively discusses memory but fails to clarify exactly what aspect of memory it is discussing at different points in the paper; the structure of memory, how memory functions, memory formation and the biological basis of memory. The structure of memory is discussed under the subheadings of short term memory, working memory, and long term memory (including the classification of long term memory into declarative and procedural as well as the subdivision of declarative memory into semantic memory and episodic memory) (Eysenck and Keane, 2010). How memory functions is discussed under different models; the hierarchal network model, spreading activation network model and other network models. Memory formation is touched on in different sections of the paper with mentions of synaptic connections and serotonin (Byrne, 2000) while the biological basis of memory is discussed by attributing different types of memory to specific parts of the brain like the cortices, lobes, amygdala and the hippocampus (Zola-Morgan and Suire, 1993). The different aspects of memory being discussed are not explicitly clarified thus are lost in the literature. A clear link between the case studies of the amnesiac patients (Milner, Corkin, and Teuber, 1968) and the insight the studies brought into understanding the biological basis of memory should have been shown too, to vindicate the relevance of the discussion.
Most of the work done on memory is theoretical and has little and sparse evidential support. With the exception of evidence produced from studying patients suffering from amnesia, little empirical or statistical support is offered to sustain the theories on the structure of memory and how memory functions. Drawing attention to the difference between perception, intellect and memory by the author serves to delineate the discussion and avoid confusion among the three interrelated cognitive functions. However, having emphasized this difference, the author should have pointed out that the models and theories on memory lack clear evidence to support the claims they make. For example, terming the relationship among different brain systems as “indefinable” (Tulving, 1995) is vague.
The paper is quite detailed and offers plenty of information on what memory is how, it works and how it relates to the brain structures. It shows a clear evolution of theories and ideas about memory but fails to show how different epochs studied memory and what evidence they presented. Inasmuch as the paper provides a lot of information about memory and the brain, it omits the discussion of sensory memory which is the first structure of memory that begins the process of memory formation. Inclusion of the concept, and theories, of forgetting would have offered a useful understanding of memory and how it is lost.
Byrne, J. (2000). Learning and Memory. In Neuroscience Online: An Electronic Textbook for The Neurosciences. Web.
Eysenck, M, and Keane, M. (2010). Cognitive Psychology: A Student’s Handbook (6thEd). New York: Psychology Press.
Milner, B., Corkin, S. and Teuber, H. (1968). Further Analysis of the Hippocampal Amnesic Syndrome: 14-Year Follow-Up Study of HM. Neuropsychologia, 6, 201-234.
Tulving, E. (1995). Organization of Memory-Quo vadis? In Gazzaniga, M. (Ed.), The Cognitive Neurosciences (839-847). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Zola-Morgan, S. & Suire L. R. (1993). “Neuroanatomy of Memory”. Annual Reviews Neuroscience, 16, 547–563.