Discussion: memory, cognition, and cognitive neuroscience



During the late 1960s and early 1970s, cognitive psychology researchers conducted studies that offered new information about how memory is stored and processed. Findings suggested that memory is first encoded based on sensory data from the environment (sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell), moved to short-term memory, where it can be easily retrieved, and, when rehearsed (i.e., repeated thinking about the memory), moved to long-term memory, where it is stored and can be retrieved at a later date (Atkinson & Shiffrin, 1968; Craik & Lockhart, 1972).

The basic structural information about memory that arose from these early studies, along with the emergence of brain imaging technology, has led to major advancements in our understanding of cognition and cognitive neuroscience. For example, there is a body of literature on the association between PTSD and memory dysfunction. Traumatic memories are thought to be encoded differently than other memories, which helps explain symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, and anxiety. In addition, experiencing a traumatic event and then consistently reliving it through flashbacks and nightmares can damage the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for memory encoding, leading to deficits in short-term memory (Hays, VanElzakker, & Shin, 2012; MacIntosh & Whiffen, 2005). Fortunately, exciting new research on neuroplasticity suggests that the brain is malleable and that it is possible to reverse the damage to certain parts of the brain (Kays, Hurley, & Taber, 2012).

In this discussion, you will examine other studies on memory and consider how the findings contribute to our understanding of cognition and cognitive neuroscience.

Atkinson, R. C., & Shiffrin, R. M. (1968). Human memory: A proposed system and its control processes. In K. Spence & J.T. Spence (Eds.), Psychology of learning and motivation (Vol. 2, pp. 89–195). Cambridge, MA: Academic Press.

Craik, F. I., & Lockhart, R. S. (1972). Levels of processing: A framework for memory research. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 11(6), 671–684.

Hayes, J. P., VanElzakker, M. B., & Shin, L. M. (2012). Emotion and cognition interactions in PTSD: A review of neurocognitive and neuroimaging studies. Frontiers in integrative neuroscience, 6(89), 1–14.

Kays, J. L., Hurley, R. A., & Taber, K. H. (2012). The dynamic brain: Neuroplasticity and mental health. The Journal of neuropsychiatry and clinical neurosciences, 24(2), 118–124.

MacIntosh, H. B., & Whiffen, V. E. (2005). Twenty years of progress in the study of trauma. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 20(4), 488–492.

To prepare

  • Review this week’s Learning Resources on cognitive evolution, memory, and cognitive neuroscience.
  • Locate a peer-reviewed journal article on memory related to one of the following topics:
    • Improving memory
    • Aging
    • Amnesia
    • Cognitive mapping
  • Consider how the article you selected relates to cognition and cognitive neuroscience.

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