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Memory glossary
Category: Health and Medicine > memory
Date & country: 07/10/2007, UK
Words: 273

Abstract Idea
For general memory theory purposes, an abstract idea is the same thing as a concept [but if you want to see the extended philosophical definition, click here].

At the heart of cognition there is really only one fundamental ability, namely that of abstraction. This is the ability to take the essentials out of something, as when spotting perceptual common factors such as pitch and volume (sound) or colour and shape (vision), or the common attributes which id

Action Potential
[See firstly resting potential.] Having grasped the principles of the neural resting potential, the next question is what would happen should the metabolic pumps in the neural cell membrane stop working momentarily? The answer is that it would drastically disturb the equilibrium which produced that

Action Potential Threshold
The minimum stimulus needed to produce an action potential is known as the 'threshold' stimulus (or simply the 'threshold'). It is the potential at which voltage-dependant gating turns off the sodium pumps in the neural cell membrane.

Action Schema
One of the proposals of the Norman-Shallice Model of Supervisory Attentional Function. This model regards the basic unit of action as the action schema, a 'sensori-motor knowledge structure' (Norman, 1981, p3) 'that can control a specific overlearned action or skill such as [.....] doing long divisi

See Activities of Daily Living Test.

Adrenergic Transmitter
A class of neurotransmitters, including adrenaline, noradrenaline, and dopamine. Unlike cholinergic transmitters, they are not broken down during the recovery phase of synaptic transmission. Instead, they are metabolised back into the pre-synaptic membrane for re-use.

A negatively charged ion.

Antidromic Conduction
The propagation of a neural impulse in the 'backwards' direction, that is to say, from a point of stimulation on the axon back towards the cell body. The opposite of orthodromic conduction.

Articulatory Loop
[See firstly Working Memory Theory.] This is Baddeley and Hitch's (1974) first proposed slave system [the other being the visuo-spatial sketchpad]. It is the hypothetical structure which allows you to rehearse a short list by saying it to yourself over and over again. The use of the word articulator

Articulatory Suppression Effect
[See firstly Working Memory Theory.] Reductions in the capacity of the phonological loop when the cognitive system is required to carry out a simultaneous articulatory interference task. Thus Baddeley, Lewis, and Vallar (1984) found a reduction in digit span from seven to five digits when subjects s

The linking of two concepts within semantic memory, usually by contiguity. The fact that association occurs so readily probably indicates that the power to associate by contiguity is another basic neural process, second only to abstraction in importance, and allowing yet more regularities in the ext

A philosophical doctrine usually attributed to the works of David Hartley (1705-1757), and predicated upon the assertion that higher states of consciousness emerge from prolonged experience with simpler mental phenomena such as sensations, emotions, and fragmentary memories. Anticipating Hebb's Rule

Follower of Associationism as a philosophical school and set of explanatory principles.

The process of abstraction is at the heart of our ability to make representations of the world, but to do the process proper justice we must firstly consider the difference between a thing, and the 'attributes' of that thing. Attributes are thus the properties, features, or parts of an object, and m

Auditory Input Lexicon
Term popularised by Ellis and Young (1988) for the mental storehouse for whole heard word forms. [For further details see the longer entry under the same heading in our Psycholinguistics Glossary.]

Autobiographical Memory
Memory which is related to the self. When autobiographical memory relates to events in one's personal past, this will involve the appropriate episodic memory resources, and when it relates to the identities, meanings, and attributes of our own self and/or the things and other people around us, this

Bachman Diagram
A graphic representation of the set relationships between owner and member record types used to analyse and document a database design [source]. A less abstract representation of system data than that set down in the entity-relationship diagram, specifically one which contains physical implementatio

See Behavioural Assessment of the Dysexecutive Syndrome Test.

Bartlett (1932)
Sir Frederick C. Bartlett's 1932 classic monograph 'Remembering', in which research with both the method of repeated production and the method of serial reproduction was described in detail, and various suggestions made as to the nature of memory for gist.

Bender Visual Motor Gestalt Test
This test is grounded theoretically in the Gestalt laws of perception, and stimulus sets consist of simple line drawings designed to probe such early visual abilities as the law of continuity and resolving figure-ground. The test was devised by Bender (1938), and Anastasi (1990) mentions that it was

Binding Site
Sites on the post-synaptic membrane where neurotransmitters act to induce either an EPSP or an IPSP.

Bloom's Six Levels of Knowledge
In the period 1949-1953, the American educationalist Benjamin Bloom chaired an influential 'think tank' looking into the role of cognition in education. By a process of painstaking analysis, Bloom's team identified and ranked many different types of learning, memory, and thinking, setting them out f

Brown-Peterson Technique
A memory experiment in which subjects listen to a list of items and then free recall as many as they can remember in any order either immediately or after a delay. In the delayed recall condition, an interpolated activity may be used. This is a distractor task inserted between the final stimulus ite

Bubble Lexicon
Term coined by Liu (2003/2003 online) to describe a lexico-semantic network structure capable of representing (as most such networks do not) nuance and context effects. [For a definition of context, and onward links on that topic, see this entry in our Psycholinguistics Glossary.]

Calcium Switch
See protein kinase studies.

The ability of a structure - biological or otherwise - to hold an electrical charge.

Two or more concepts having one or more attributes or relationships held in common, such that the commonality may itself become conceptualised and named. Thus the manifest physical and behavioural similarities between sparrows, eagles, and ducks would, by the process of abstraction, soon give rise t

Category Test
[See firstly executive function and dysexecutive syndrome.] This test present patients with a short series of categorial exemplars (eg. ) and then marks them on their ability to respond with the appropriate category owner (i.e. 'bird'). The category test is one of the Ha

A positively charged ion.

Cell Assembly
[See firstly synaptic learning.] The most influential early statement of the neuronal interconnection approach to memory was in Donald Hebb's book, 'The Organisation of Behaviour', in which he described the interlinking of neurons as creating what he called a cell assembly, 'a diffuse structure comp

Cell Membrane
This is the outer surface of the cell, that is to say, the continuous layer which separates the cytoplasm within the cell from the interstitial fluid outside it. The membrane itself is a four-layered molecular structure, namely a bimolecular lipid layer 'sandwiched' between two protein layers. Becau

Central Executive
[See firstly Working Memory Theory.] Term coined by Baddeley and Hitch (1974) for the hypothetical cognitive structure which manages the routing of material between the slave systems and WMG, and which is accordingly the conductor of the mental orchestra, as it were. Baddeley later described the cen

See Weigl Colour-Form Sorting Task.

Cholinergic Transmission
Neurotransmission where the transmitter substance happens to be acetylcholine. [Compare adrenergic transmission.]

Enzyme responsible for the breakdown of acetylcholine during the recovery phase of synaptic transmission.

This is a thin filament of DNA double-helix found in the cell nucleus. It is vitally important to biological systems because it carries the body's genes. The nucleus of the human cell contains 46 chromosomes, each with a molecular weight of the order of 100 billion.

A concept introduced by Miller (1956) to explain how more and more information might be handled without any increase in the brain's processing power. Thus, where previously unconnected items are learned together (such as putting individual numbers together in a novel way when learning a new telephon

The acquisition, storage, retrieval, and use of knowledge (Matlin, 1989).

Cognitive Estimates Test
[See firstly executive function and dysexecutive syndrome.] DETAIL TO FOLLOW

Cognitive Map
A mental representation of the physical setting of the world.

Cognitive Psychology
By definition, the study of cognition, but, more critically, the study of the functional architecture of the brain as opposed to its structural architecture. Alternatively, the study of how the brain works at a level of analysis above the anatomical and physiological. The science of mind.

How many things - in this case, ions - there are at a single point in three-dimensional space.

Concentration Difference
A difference in concentration between two points; a 'slope' of concentration between these two points; a concentration gradient. Concentration gradients are important because ions tend to 'flow down' the gradient until the concentration difference is cancelled out. This is what is happening whenever

Concentration Gradient
See concentration difference.

Concepts are abstractions from, and categorisations of, experience. They are 'mental representations of objects, entities, or events, stored in memory' (Roth and Frisby, 1986, p19). Alternatively, a concept is 'a mental representation of a category, which allows one to place stimuli in a category on

A clinical sign of an orienting deficit in neurological disease (and especially in dysexecutive syndrome). Attempting to make sense of a present situation not truly understood, and characterised (a) by inventing a plausible (but factually false) explanation, and (b) (as far as can be established) by

Confusibility Studies
A confusibility effect is a memory deficit which emerges when the stimuli to be retained are similar in a certain respect. This is because the corresponding engrams are presumed to be confusible in that same respect, and therefore tend to get irretrievably overlain. However, this only happens if the

The doctrine that cognition can be modelled (and therefore better understood) by connecting up artificial neurons, either in fact, or in simulation on a computer. [For further details, see our e-paper on 'Connectionism']

Follower of Connectionism as a philosophical school and set of explanatory principles.

Term coined by Muller and Pilzecker (1900) to describe the process by which short-term memories became physically permanent as structural engrams. However, the term is also commonly used to describe the transition between STM and LTM as psychological phenomena. Thus, we may describe our experiences

Contention Scheduling
Term borrowed by the Norman-Shallice Model of Supervisory Attentional Function from virtual machine operating systems in computing [as described in some detail in our e-paper on 'Short-Term Memory Subtypes in Computing and Artificial Intelligence', Part 5 (Section 1.2)], where it is describes the ab

Context Rehearsal
[See firstly pragmatics and rehearsal.] Term coined by Parker-Rhodes (1978) to describe the refreshing of the high-level conceptual (i.e. pre-linguistic) codes during sentence production, using feedback from, and presumably some sort of re-perception of, the sentence(s) being produced. Hence a form

Literally, closeness to, or adjacency. The term needs to be applied in two ways in psychology, firstly contiguity in space (i.e. physical proximity) and secondly contiguity in time (i.e. simultaneity, or nearly so), both of which seem to be able to promote the association of the things contiguous. C

Controlling Impulsivity
Stroop Task

Corsi Blocks Test
This is a test of sequential memory involving nine blocks irregularly laid out on a base board. The investigator points to a number of blocks in turn at a rate of one per second, and the patient then has to repeat the sequence in the same order. The test sequences then get longer and longer until th

This is the fluid medium of the non-nuclear part of the cell. It is 90% water, with a variety of other substances - salts, sugars, dissolved blood gases, and proteins - in colloidal (gel-like) solution. The main difference between the cytoplasm and the interstitial fluid is that the cytoplasm contai

This is a microscopic framework of intracellular protein filaments spreading like scaffolding throughout the cytoplasm and giving it additional rigidity.

Dale's Law
The principle that while there are many different neurotransmitters to choose from, each individual neuron relies on only one (implying, of course, that all synapses from a given neuron use the same neurotransmitter).

This is the doctrine (originally from Ebbinghaus, 1885) that forgetting can be caused by the gradual disappearance of a memory trace over time. That is to say, you forget because your engrams spontaneously become fainter and fainter over time, unless you revisit them occasionally to refresh them. [C

Declarative Memory
Same as propositional memory.

Decremental Propagation
Small local changes in potential across the cell membrane are easy to induce both electrically and chemically, but if they do not reach the action potential threshold, will simply die away like ripples in a pond. No action potential develops. Until they die away, however, there is a potential gradie

Deep Learning
[See firstly Bloom's six levels of knowledge.] Term coined by Marton and Saljo (1976a,b) to characterise the learning of issues and principles. [Contrast surface learning.]

Delayed Alternation Task
[See firstly executive function and dysexecutive syndrome.] MAIN ENTRY TO FOLLOW

See Behavioural Assessment of the Dysexecutive Syndrome Test.

Duplex Model of Memory
[See firstly consolidation.] Any 'two-box' model of memory which separates STM and LTM. Duplex models were rendered largely obsolete by the discovery of sensory memory in 1960.

Dysexecutive Questionnaire
See Behavioural Assessment of the Dysexecutive Syndrome Test.

Dysexecutive Syndrome
[See firstly Working Memory Theory.] Term coined by Baddeley (1986, p238) as a synonym for frontal lobe syndrome, and nowadays perhaps the preferred term. The concept was introduced in a chapter entitled 'The Central Executive and its Malfunctions', in which the 1970s working memory concepts were co

Echoic Memory
An auditory version of iconic memory.

[From the Greek ekphorein = to make known; reveal.] A valuable, but oft-ignored, term devised by Tulving (1972) to describe a largely pre-conscious process in which retrieval cues are brought into contact with stored information, causing parts of that stored information to be reactivated, and thus r

Eidetic Imagery
A particularly vivid form of visual imagery, more fully described in Haber (1969).

Electrostatic Force
[See firstly resting potential and equilibrium.] The charged particles which move back and forth across the cell membrane in excitable tissues are capable of exerting relatively strong intermolecular forces. Like charges (both positive or both negative) repel, and unlike charges (i.e. one of each) a

In general, a stable, rather than constantly changing (clonic) electrical potential. In the present context, the neuron's resting potential is an electrotonic potential.

Encoding is what the nervous system does to the stimuli which impinge upon it. It is the mechanism by which the various attributes of the external stimulus are converted to an internal - that is to say, neural - signal. With a visual stimulus, for example, you need to encode size, shape, colour, bri

Same as cytoplasm.

Endoplasmic Reticulum
This is a complex network of intracellular microtubules and cisterns (small chambers) which permeates the cytoplasm. Its walls - the reticular membrane - share the four-layered molecular structure of the cell membrane. Indeed, at some points on the cell membrane there are pores where selected endopl

It has long been suspected/agreed that the process of retaining information over time requires some sort of structural change within the nervous system, but opinions as to the nature of this trace continue to differ. However, its name at least is fairly well established

..... a person, object, place or event for which data is collected. For example, if you consider the information system for a business, entities would include not only customers, but the customer's address, and orders as well [source]. Alternatively, entities are 'the elements or parts of a system'

Entity-Relationship Diagram
See entity-relationship modelling.

Entity-Relationship Modelling (ERM)
[See firstly entity, relationship, and attribute.] ERM is of the basic skills of modern systems analysis. It is a method of modelling which requires the identification and naming (a) of all the entities dealt with or touched upon by an information processing system, (b) of the attributes of said ent

[See firstly calcium switching.] If calcium-switched post-synaptic sensitisation has a lifetime measured in hours, then it cannot explain memory for longer periods. Membrane sensitisation, in other words, is NOT the sort of structural change long believed to be involved in the formation of LTM engra

Episodic Memory
The concept of episodic memory derives from a 1972 paper by Endel Tulving, who argued that the material used in memory experiments was far from 'natural' (Tulving, 1972). In particular, it did not tap the ability of subjects to record their personal life events in the form of an internal autobiograp

Episodic vs Semantic Memory
[See firstly episodic memory.] Tulving gave many examples to illustrate the difference between episodic memory and semantic memory. Episodic memories would include the fact that ten years ago one moved house, or that last Saturday one went to a wedding, or that one passed one 's driving test in 1991

The study of theories of knowledge or ways of knowing, particularly in the context of the limits or validity of the various ways of knowing [source]. The science and philosophy of semantic memory.

See excitatory post-synaptic potential.

The ion concentration at a given point on the neural cell membrane at which the three competing molecular transport forces (random molecular movement, metabolic pumping, and electrostatic forces) balance out. This results in a resting potential of -70mV.

Errands Tests
[See firstly executive function and dysexecutive syndrome.] DETAIL TO FOLLOW

Event Memory
Another view of the episodic vs semantic memory distinction comes from Roger Schank of Northwestern University. Schank is a leading AI researcher who has been forced to postulate different subtypes of episodic memory in order to make progress with cognitive modelling on computers. To start with, he

Executive Function
[See firstly frontal lobe syndrome.] That which occupies the processor(s) at the top of the motor hierarchy, and therefore the faculty (or cluster of faculties) which is failing in dysexecutive syndrome. In fact, four major components of executive functioning may be identified, namely (a) orienting

The releasing of neurotransmitter chemicals into the synaptic cleft by passing 'bubbles' of them - synaptic vesicles - out through the pre-synaptic cell membrane.

Experiential Learning
Term devised by Kolb (1983) to refer to conceptual knowledge acquired over time from simple performance, and generally applied specifically within educational theory rather than within mainstream memory theory. The principle of experiential learning is that conceptual knowledge [ie. semantic memory]

Explanatory Gap
The practical problem faced by followers of Reductionism in relating micro observations to macro observations. To take a memory phenomenon as a convenient example, we know what ependymins are and how they behave, and we can readily demonstrate memory consolidation at a psychological level. However,

Extracellular Fluid (ECF)
This is the generic term for all non-cellular bodily fluids. There are three main types of ECF, two of which, lymph and blood, are confined into circulatory systems and do not concern us here. The third type, the interstitial fluid is not circulated as such, but simply fills in all the gaps between

First Messenger Neurotransmission
See second messenger neurotransmission.

Flashbulb Memory
See episodic memory and imagery.

Forward Planning
Multiple Errands Test; Porteus Maze; Six Elements Test; Tower of Hanoi; Tower of London

Free Recall
The recall of stimulus items in any order (as, for example, in the Brown-Peterson technique). (Those interested in studying free recall will find some useful standardised data on 925 English nouns in Rubin and Friendly, 1986.)

Frontal Amnesia
See frontal lobe syndrome.

Frontal Battery
[See firstly frontal lobe syndrome and dysexecutive syndrome.] A loose collection of psychometric tests - both adhoc and formally standardised - applied over a period of time to build up a bigger picture of a frontal patient's executive function. To do the frontal assessment properly, therefore requ

Frontal Lobe Syndrome
The intriguing but puzzling pattern of deficits sometimes associated with damage to the frontal lobes (Baddeley, 1986, p236). One of the earliest accounts of the effects of a frontal lobe lesion is Bigelow's (1850) [timeline] account of the brain-injured American railway labourer Phineas Gage. This