most important features of consolidation is that new memories are codified into different classes of information. During this process, similar types of information are pulled from the memory storage bins and used to help process the new information. The new and old are compared for similarities and differences, and part of the storage process is to store the information about these similarities and differences, rather than to store the new information unprocessed. Thus, during consolidation, the new memories are not stored randomly in the brain but are stored in direct association with other memories of the same type. This is necessary if one is to be able to "search" the memory store at a later date to find the required information.
Role of Specific Parts of the Brain in the Memory Process
Hippocampus Promotes Storage of Memories—Anterograde Amnesia After Hippocampal Lesions. The hippocampus is the most medial portion of the temporal lobe cortex, where it folds first medially underneath the brain and then upward into the lower, inside surface of the lateral ventricle. The two hippocampi have been removed for the treatment of epilepsy in a few patients. This procedure does not seriously affect the person's memory for information stored in the brain before removal of the hippocampi. However, after removal, these people have virtually no capability thereafter for storing verbal and symbolic types of memories (declarative types of memory) in long-term memory, or even in intermediate memory lasting longer than a few minutes. Therefore, these people are unable to establish new long-term memories of those types of information that are the basis of intelligence. This is called anterograde amnesia.
But why are the hippocampi so important in helping the brain to store new memories? The probable answer is that the hippocampi are among the most important output pathways from the "reward" and "punishment" areas of the limbic system, as explained in Chapter 58. Sensory stimuli or thoughts that cause pain or aversion excite the limbic punishment centers, and stimuli that cause pleasure, happiness, or sense of reward excite the limbic reward centers. All these together provide the background mood and motivations of the person. Among these motivations is the drive in the brain to remember those experiences and thoughts that are either pleasant or unpleasant. The hippocampi especially and to a lesser degree the dorsal medial nuclei of the thalamus, another limbic structure, have proved especially important in making the decision about which of our thoughts are important enough on a basis of reward or punishment to be worthy of memory.
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