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What is Memory?

Can we build or rebuild memory skills?

Memory refers to our brain’s ability to encode and retain information. Memory is foundational to our cognitive health. Without it, we would be unable to utilize other cognitive functions such as visual-spatial skills, language, and executive functions

Types of memory

There are several types of memory, and the different types can sometimes overlap.


Long term memory

  • Episodic Memory
  • Semantic Memory
  • Prospective Memory
  • Procedural Memory
  • Explicit memory
  • Implicit memory


Short-Term Memory

  • Working Memory
  • Sensory Memory

Long-term memory

Long-term memory is the brain’s ability to encode information that can be recalled for a long period of time. This includes memories that we can recall from days or many years ago. There are multiple subtypes of long term memory.

Episodic memory

Episodic memory refers to the ability to recall specific events or experiences. For example, remembering some specific details of a fun day in your childhood, or the details of what was discussed at a work meeting a few days ago. Episodic memory is needed to recall experiences from a few days ago, or many years in the past.

Semantic memory

Semantic memory refers to recalling factual information, such as dates and times, definitions of words, or meanings of concepts. Information that you remember learning in school is probably stored via semantic memory. 


While episodic memory may help you recall the feeling or experience you had on a particular day, semantic memory can help you remember the facts surrounding that day, like what time a party began or what day of the week it was.

Procedural memory

Procedural memory is similar to a common term: muscle memory. It refers to remembering processes, such as how to tie your shoes or ride a bike. It can refer to processes that are both physical and mental. For example, when sitting to work on a computer, procedural memory helps you recall how to physically use the computer, but also the mental processes used to type and complete computer tasks.

Explicit memory

Explicit memory refers to information that we purposefully memorized and have stored in our long-term memory. An example of this is memorizing a friend’s phone number, or memorizing information while studying for a test.

Implicit memory

Unintentional recalling of information is known as implicit memory. Our implicit memory recalls information that is familiar or that we experience many times. An example of this could be how to tie your shoes, or a random fun fact that you heard long ago and still remember.

Prospective memory

When we use our memories to think forwards into the future, we are using prospective memory. This can include remembering intentions for future actions, for example, remembering to text someone back or remembering to pay bills on time.

Short-term memory

Short-term memory refers to memory that is stored for a short period of time. For example, remembering what just happened in a book you’re reading, or remembering what time it is right after looking at the clock. 

Our brains can get distracted from short-term memory easily, as new information may displace the information we just received. For example, if you were introduced to a group of people, you may not be able to remember all of their names because the information was too much for your short-term memory. Or if you met someone in a crowded, loud room, the other stimulus may be too distracting to recall the information for longer than a few seconds.

Working memory

Short term memory is sometimes needed to temporarily recall and manipulate information in order to complete tasks. This is known as working memory. An example of working memory is when you need to recall a phone number until you write it down, or need to recall the temperature that a recipe says to set the oven when baking. These pieces of information only need to be remembered for a moment, and then our brain forgets them when we no longer need the information.

Sensory memory

Sensory memory can be short or long-term, and refers to recalling sensory information such as smells, sights, and sounds. 


An example of short-term sensory memory is recalling the taste of a meal you just ate. An example of long-term sensory memory is recalling how your house looks while you’re away on vacation.

Where does memory occur in the brain?

Memory is controlled by several areas of the brain, and different types of memory correspond with different areas.


Long-term memory is largely handled by the hippocampus and the amygdala. The hippocampus helps to encode memories, while the amygdala stores emotions associated with memories.


The prefrontal cortex handles short-term memory, including working memory. Implicit memories such as procedural (muscle) memory are stored in the basal ganglia and cerebellum

How memory becomes impaired

Memory may become impaired through many means, including a brain injury, stroke, brain tumor, brain infection, or multiple sclerosis.  It can also be impaired by a neurodegenerative condition, such as dementia. Mental illness can cause memory loss as well, such as bipolar disorder or PTSD. 


Different types of memory impairment are possible. An individual could experience short-term memory loss or impairments to their long-term memory, or both. Memory impairments can be temporary or permanent.

Can memory be improved through cognitive therapy?

All cognitive skills, including memory, can be trained and may experience improvement. Check out a few of our exercises that may improve your memory abilities. 


Visual & Verbal Working Memory

Shapes and Colors 

Visual Memory 

Words, Where Are You? 

Verbal & Spatial Memory

Neuroplasticity is the foundation of how cognitive therapy is conducted.  Neuroplasticity is the theory that the brain and its neural connections are malleable. The concept is that the neurons in the brain can be strengthened by challenging and engaging them. Just like going to the gym to get physically strong, the brain’s memory abilities may become stronger by frequently training the memory. 


HappyNeuron was founded by neuroscience experts who wanted to create a better way to deliver personalized cognitive therapy.  Our tool aims to help clinicians revolutionize how they conduct cognitive rehabilitation or remediation sessions. With our adaptable memory exercises, you can customize each exercise to meet the memory deficits your patient is exhibiting.  The program then stores all of the information for you. This way, you can track and see your patient’s progress.


The key to improving cognitive skill is adequate and consistent training. HappyNeuron‘s training tools may help both individuals and professionals optimize this function.

Quick summary

  • Memory refers to our brain’s ability to store and retrieve information.
  • Memory is foundational to our other cognitive functions.
  • There are multiple types of memory, including short-term and long-term.
  • Memory may become impaired due to a brain injury, stroke, or neurodegenerative condition.
  • Memory skills can be exercised through cognitive therapy and cognitive tools.

Interested in trying our digital tools?

Pulling from our decades of experience in Cognitive Therapeutics, we aim to help you enrich your practice through the use of digital and paper tools.