Differences between Short-Term and Long-Term Memory Loss

Memory degeneration with the passing of time is normal. However, some people may remember the name of their best friend back in grade 1 from 70 years ago, but may forget where they kept their car keys a minute ago. This highlights the difference between short term and long-term memory and helps us understand the memory loss complications related to them.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, with age your body reduces the production of certain chemicals that help in recalling memories. This may not affect your short-term memory, but can severely influence your long-term memory.

If the information processing is not immediate, then the memory will not be recorded and fade away. However, long-term memory is permanently recorded and can be retrieved upon certain stimulation, which triggers your brain to remember certain things. The stimulation can be anything from food to music. Your brain manages your short-term memory and long-term memories in different regions. The frontal lobe of the brain manages the short-term memory, whereas your brain’s hippocampus and cerebral cortex are responsible for the permanent retention of memories.

Short-term memory is responsible for ‘trace dependent forgetting’ whereas long term memory is distinguished by ‘cue dependent forgetting’. Short-term memory stores information such as what we see, taste and hear, whereas long-term memories are stored in terms of the experience we have and its meaning. Short-term memory occurs for a short period while long-term memory is infinite.  The more your short-term memory reiterates information, the more it starts to become a long term memory.

Short-term memory declines rapidly with age. According to psychologists short term memory does not lead to any enduring changes in the brain. Your short-term memory primarily depends on trace forgetting. While your long-term memory can store information for a longer period of time and has an everlasting impression on the brain. The traces are everlasting in the case of long-term memory.

Short-term memory enables a person to recall anything within the next few moments. According to the University of Southern California, a person may employ short-term memory to remember the details of the person he just met whereas long-term memory helps him to speak and exchange pleasantries. Long-term memory organizes and monitors daily activities of the human brain whereas a short-term memory helps a person to recall an immediate memory.

Since short term, memory is usable only in the moment and is recalled for less time, the human brain has less storage space for short-term memory. According to a 2008 study by the University of Missouri, short-term memory region in the brain is able to hold approximately 5 to 9 memories and the long-term memories have more capacity as it is recalled often and are easier to remember.

Short-term memory may help a person cramming through exams, but these memories cannot help the person to retain them and the person will forget them as soon as the test is over. However, if the student reviews and understand the concepts, he might be able to retain memories for long term. A phone number you just dialed may be forgettable once the conversation starts, but if it is dialed every day, it may eventually enter the long-term memory.

However, one should keep in mind that short term and long-term memories have no distinction. However, in the case of a disease it sometimes may affect only one memory keeping the other intact. For example, in the case of a severe blow to the head, your short-term memory may be impaired, while the long term memory may remain undamaged.