For short-term memory to be converted into long-term memory that can be recalled weeks or years later, it must become "consolidated." That is, the short-term memory if activated repeatedly will initiate chemical, physical, and anatomical changes in the synapses that are responsible for the long-term type of memory. This process requires 5 to 10 minutes for minimal consolidation and 1 hour or more for strong consolidation. For instance, if a strong sensory impression is made on the brain but is then followed within a minute or so by an electrically induced brain convulsion, the sensory experience will not be remembered. Likewise, brain concussion, sudden application of deep general anesthesia, or any other effect that temporarily blocks the dynamic function of the brain can prevent consolidation.
Consolidation and the time required for it to occur can probably be explained by the phenomenon of rehearsal of the short-term memory as follows.
Rehearsal Enhances the Transference of Short-Term Memory into Long-Term Memory. Psychological studies have shown that rehearsal of the same information again and again in the mind accelerates and potentiates the degree of transfer of short-term memory into long-term memory and therefore accelerates and enhances consolidation. The brain has a natural tendency to rehearse newfound information, especially newfound information that catches the mind's attention. Therefore, over a period of time, the important features of sensory experiences become progressively more and more fixed in the memory stores. This explains why a person can remember small amounts of information studied in depth far better than large amounts of information studied only superficially. It also explains why a person who is wide awake can consolidate memories far better than a person who is in a state of mental fatigue.
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This ebook provides an introductory explanation of the workings of the human body, with an effort to draw connections between the body systems and explain their interdependencies. A framework for the book is homeostasis and how the body maintains balance within each system. This is intended as a first introduction to physiology for a college-level course.