08. Neuroscience

How Memories are Formed in the Brain: Insights and Helpful Habits

September 30, 2023

Memory has fascinated scientists and scholars for centuries. But how do we actually remember information and our past experiences? Here we will highlight the intricate pathways of memory formation in the brain, as well as cover three lifestyle habits that can help improve our memory skills.

Understanding Memory Formation

The process of memory formation does not involve storing information in one specific region, instead memories are distributed across various brain regions, each serving its unique purpose. For example when it comes to memorization of language, recent research has revealed that different types of words are distributed throughout the neocortex. Here is a fascinating overview by Nature.

The are three processes involved memory formation and access of memories.

Encoding: The journey of a memory begins with encoding. During this phase, sensory information from our environment is transformed into a format that the brain can store. The hippocampus, a seahorse-shaped structure deep within the brain, plays a vital role in this process. It consolidates information from different sensory modalities, creating a cohesive memory.

Storage: Once encoded, memories are stored in different parts of the brain depending on their type. Short-term memories reside in the prefrontal cortex, while long-term memories find their home in the cortex's various regions. These memories are stored as neural connections and synapses, forming a complex network that can be strengthened or weakened over time.

Retrieval: The final phase of memory is retrieval. When we need to access a memory, the brain actively reconstructs it by reactivating the neural pathways associated with that memory. This is when our brain connects the dots between different pieces of information to create a coherent memory.

The key point is that the synaptic connections between neurons are key to the vast amount information our brains can manage, and these connections gravitate towards spanning vast and complex networks (known as 'diffusive flow'). Neuroplasticity is the driving force behind the growth of new connections, which plays a critical role in our memory abilities throughout our lives.

Lifestyle Habits to Enhance Memory

Lifestyle choices can have a profound impact on memory formation and preservation. Here are three key habits that can significantly improve memory.

Regular Physical Activity: Engaging in regular physical exercise not only benefits the body but also the brain. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, promoting the growth of new neurons and the release of neurotransmitters that enhance memory. Studies have shown that aerobic exercises like running or swimming can boost cognitive function, memory recall and enlarge the size of our hippocampus.

Mental Stimulation: Just as physical exercise benefits the body, mental exercise is crucial for the brain. Engaging in activities that challenge your mind, such as puzzles, chess, or learning a new language, can stimulate the growth of new neural pathways and strengthen existing ones. These activities keep your brain sharp and improve memory retention. It is also essential for boosting neuroplasticity.

A Balanced Diet: The food we consume plays a vital role in brain health and memory. A diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids can protect brain cells from damage and enhance cognitive function. Foods like blueberries, fatty fish, and leafy greens are also known for their brain-boosting properties.


Memory formation is a complex process driven by neuroplasticity and involves encoding, storage and retrieval. Incorporating lifestyle habits such as regular physical activity, mental stimulation, and a balanced diet can significantly improve memory and overall brain health.

Understanding how memories are formed in the brain can shed light on the ways we can enhance our cognitive abilities. That said, as neuroscience continues to explore the intricacies of the human brain, it is clear there is still much to discover in terms of how we can unlock its full potential and preserve the memories that define our lives.

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