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Memory glossary
Category: Health and Medicine > memory
Date & country: 07/10/2007, UK
Words: 274

Functional Architecture
The arrangement and organisation of process as opposed to structure.

Functional Decomposition
Another of the basic skills of modern systems analysis [alongside entity-relationship modelling]. The recursive analysis of the sub-processes within a process, beginning ideally at the very top, and continuing down the hierarchy of processes until one of two things happens - either (a) you reach the

Functional Primitive
See functional decomposition.

This is a subsection of a chromosome. It contains just enough genetic material to manufacture a single molecule of protein (although it can do this many times). Each human chromosome contains of the order of 100,000 genes, each of which has a molecular weight of the order of 1 million and contains p

Generalised Event Memory (GEM)
See event memory.

The key points in a story. [See now Bartlett (1932) and memory for gist.]

Golgi Apparatus
This is an extension of the endoplasmic reticulum, seemingly responsible for directing newly formed proteins back into the cytoplasm. It does this by forming them into small vesicles known as secretory granules which can then be passed in through the reticular membrane by a process known as endocyto

Graded Potential
[See firstly potential difference and propagation.] Small changes in membrane potential which die away by decremental propagation, that is to say, smoothly with time or distance and without inducing an action potential.

Halstead-Reitan Battery
[See firstly frontal lobe syndrome and dysexecutive syndrome.] This test is described in Section 5 of our e-paper 'From Frontal Lobe Syndrome to Dysexecutive Syndrome'. One disadvantage of the test is that it takes around six hours to work through all the sub-tests (Anastasi, 1990).

Hebb-Marr Network
Same as neural network. [For a broader introduction to this topic, see our e-paper on 'Connectionism'.]

Hebb's Rule
[See firstly cell assembly.] The law of contiguity applied to synaptic learning. Originally stated as follows: Let us assume then that the persistence or repetition of a reverberatory activity (or 'trace') tends to induce lasting cellular changes that add to its stability. The assumption can be prec

Higher (Mental) Functions
A term initially devised by neurologists to encompass all cognitive functions over and above those concerned with reflex, perceptual, and motor behaviour. Broadly speaking, the same set of processes now treated as executive function.

Iconic Memory
Very short-term visual memory, first formally investigated by Sperling (1960).

The non-conceptual memory of past visual and/or auditory scenes. Presumably, therefore, some sort of partly reactivated perceptual memory, with associations to both episodic memory (for the context within which the scene was originally experienced) and propositional memory (for the interpretation pl

A clinical sign of a response-inhibiting deficit in neurological disease (and especially in dysexecutive syndrome). Responding with the first thing which comes into your head, despite knowing this to be an inappropriate strategy.

[See firstly event memory and story memory.] The concept of 'indexing' is a valuable, but oft-ignored, aspect of Schank and Abelson's (1995) story-based approach to memory, and it earns its value from the simple fact that a prior experience is only useful if it can be used. That means being able to

Inner Speech
Thinking by talking silently to oneself. One of the most important (and mysterious) cognitive abilities, and typically modelled as a feedback loop, as, for example, Route #11 (northbound) on the Ellis and Young (1988) transcoding model.

This is the doctrine (originally from Ebbinghaus, 1885) that forgetting can be caused by competing demand for memory resources, rather than by simple time lapse alone. You forget, in other words, because one engram can become mixed up with, and eventually indistinguishable from, earlier or later one

Interpolated Activity
See Brown-Peterson technique.

Interstitial Fluid
A type of extracellular fluid. It is mainly composed of water, with traces of other substances - salts (predominantly sodium chloride), sugars, dissolved blood gases, and proteins - in solution. The main difference between interstitial fluid and the cytoplasm is that the interstitial fluid contains

An atom with one or more electrons in surplus or deficit. Because each electron carries a unit negative charge, if there is a surplus of them the overall atomic charge is a net negative (making the ion in question an anion), and if there is a deficit of them the overall atomic charge is a net positi

See inhibitory post-synaptic potential.

Loosely speaking, the sum total of the representations of the world contained in the mind, on all subjects (including our own selves) and involving all memory types. But avoid specific use of this term in technical arguments in favour of the more precise propositional knowledge (or as appropriate).

See indexing.

See Luria-Nebraska Neuropsychological Battery.

Logic (of a Process)
The sequence of events by which a problem can be solved. These events can be, for example, movements of, manipulations of, or tests of, memory content.

Long-Term Working Memory (LTWM)
[See firstly working memory.] Ericsson and Kintsch (1995) [useful commentary and extracts] have recently introduced the concept of long-term WM (an assertion which would once have been considered a contradiction in terms) to account for tagging phenomena in complex cognitive behaviours like the comp

This is a small spherical organelle containing digestive enzymes. Lysosomes help 'sweep up' foreign substances entering the cell.

Managerial Knowledge Units
[See firstly frontal lobe syndrome, planning, and script execution.] Term coined by Grafman (1989) for cognitive structures in the frontal lobes which coordinate lesser blocks of memory into meaningful sequences [1994 press release]. More or less synonymous, therefore, with the terms action schema a

Mannikin Test
[See firstly executive function and dysexecutive syndrome.] MAIN ENTRY TO FOLLOW

Maze Following (Visual)
[See firstly executive function and dysexecutive syndrome.] MAIN ENTRY TO FOLLOW

See Wisconsin Card Sorting Test.

Memory for Gist
[See firstly gist and Bartlett (1932).] Understanding a complex narrative or a technical argument requires what the man in the street would call 'grasping' or 'getting the gist' of a very deep message; what Bartlett (1932) called the 'bare outline' (p75) or 'the general form, or scheme, or plan' (p8

Memory Span
A memory test in which subjects are presented with strings of test items for short term rehearsal. Performance levels off in normals as soon as the string exceeds about seven items in length, and is one of the first abilities to fail following neurological trauma.

Memory Trace
Same as engram (which use).

Metabolic Pumping
[See firstly random molecular movement.] Our bodies are made up of billions of cells, each one surrounded by a porous cell membrane. The passing of chemicals across these membranes due to osmosis is a significant biological problem because if steps were not taken to prevent it, the cytoplasm within

Method of Repeated Production
A memory test in which subjects are presented with test stimuli and required to reproduce them from memory after a series of intervals. Wulf (1922) used this method to investigate progressive changes in the memory trace for simple visual shapes, and Bartlett (1932) used it to investigate progressive

Method of Savings
This is a powerful but complex memory measure dating back to Ebbinghaus (1885). The subject is firstly trained to criterion on the learning task in question. Learning is then discontinued for a period, as a result of which some forgetting will take place. At the end of this period, the subject is re

Method of Serial Reproduction
A memory test in which subjects are presented with test stimuli and required to reproduce them from memory after an interval. This reproduction is then used as the test stimulus for a second subject, whose output is used as the stimulus for the third subject, and so on. Bartlett (1932) used this met

Minimum Stimulus Current
The smallest continuous stimulation required to exceed the action potential threshold.

(Pl: Mitochondria.) This is a sausage-shaped organelle of which several hundred may be present in a given cell. It acts as the cell's 'powerhouse', that is to say, it is where the energy source adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is stored pending demand.

See Mini Mental State Examination.

An encoding strategy for enhancing memory performance.

Modal Model of Memory (MMM)
A consensus (hence 'modal') approach to memory theory which emerged during the 1960s, and which was most clearly expounded by Atkinson and Shiffrin (1971). The MMM treats memory phenomena as beginning with sensory memory, advancing to STM, and consolidating to LTM, and as being supported along the w

Modified Card Sorting Test (MCST)
See Wisconsin Card Sorting Test.

Motor Hierarchy
See dedicated support article.

Multiple Errands Tests
[See firstly executive function and dysexecutive syndrome.] The Multiple Errands Test is a simple test of the integrity of the planning-execution components of human executive function, and, as such, is commonly included as a frontal battery test. The test was developed by Shallice and Burgess (1991

Neural Network
[See firstly Connectionism.] A non-biological simulation of a biological cell assembly, either (a) simulated 'in hardware' using purpose-built electronic circuitry, or (b) simulated 'in software'. [For further details, see our e-paper on 'Connectionism'.]

See basic nervous system macroanatomy for the structures visible to the naked eye, and basic neuron microanatomy for the cellular and sub-cellular stuff.

Neuron, Non-Spiking
Type of neuron whose normal mode of operation involves transmitting graded potentials only (rather than action potentials) during decremental propagation.

Neuronal Network
A network of neurons. Same thing as cell assembly. NOT A NEURAL NETWORK!!

A neuron's cytoplasm.

Reduced to basics, there are actually three ways for chemicals to leave a given cell, namely (a) by simple diffusion through the cell membrane, (b) by passing out through pores in the cell membrane such as the sodium ion channel (possibly - but not necessarily - helped on their way by metabolic pump

[See firstly neurotransmission.] The contents of the synaptic vesicles released from the pre-synaptic neuron into the synaptic cleft. These chemicals induce a post-synaptic potential in the receiving neuron.

Node of Ranvier
The space between adjacent Schwann cell sheaths on a myelinated axon. The only points on such an axon where an action potential can occur. [See now saltatory conduction.]

Non-Decremental Propagation
Propagation whereby an action potential at one point on a cell membrane induces a full action potential either (a) at an immediately adjacent point in the neural membrane, or (b) some way off at the next node of Ranvier. Because each action potential consumes metabolic energy, its power does not dec

Nuclear Membrane
This is the outer surface of the cell nucleus, that is to say, the layer which confines the nucleoplasm. Outside the nuclear membrane there is cytoplasm. It is a two-layered molecular structure, namely a bimolecular lipid layer (lacking the outer 'sandwich' of protein layers which characterises the


This is the fluid medium of the cell nucleus. It contains the nucleoli and the chromosomes. [Compare cytoplasm and interstitial fluid.]

This is physically and functionally the central component of the cell. It is a near-spherical structure, containing the nucleoplasm, the nucleoli, and the chromosomes, and is bounded by the nuclear membrane. Most cells have a single nucleus, although muscle cells have several and red blood cells hav

See Object Alternation Test.

See Object Alternation Test.

Apart from its everyday usage, the word 'object' also has a specific technical meaning within the 'object-oriented' field of computing [see our e-paper on 'Short-Term Memory Subtypes in Computing and Artificial Intelligence', Part 6 (Section 3.9), if interested in this aspect of memory theory].

Object Alternation Test (OAT)
This is a test first devised for use with animals (eg. Pribram and Mishkin, 1956) and then adapted for use with humans (Freedman, 1990). It requires the integration of short-term visual memory and simple rule learning. The patient is seated in front of two black 'plaques', either, both, or neither o

A subcellular structure (or class of structures), such as the Golgi apparatus, the mitochondria, or the ribosomes.

Maintaining general everyday awareness. One of the first things to be established in the Routine Neurological Examination is 'orientation to time, person, and place'. This involves asking such questions as 'Do you know where you are, Ethel?', 'Can you tell me who the Prime Minister is?', and so on.

Orthodromic Conduction
The propagation of a neural impulse in the 'forwards' direction, that is to say, from a point of stimulation on the axon away from the cell body. The opposite of antidromic conduction.

Partial Report Paradigm
A memory test set-up in which subjects are presented with an array of test items, but required to process only a subset thereof. This involves cueing before, during, or after the display with instructions as to which subset is to be recalled. Providing the cue is received early enough, this allows a

This is the name given to the process by which information acquired from the environment is transformed into experience of objects and events (Roth and Frisby, 1986). It is a selective placing of input into one category of identity rather than another (Bruner, 1957), thus making it essentially an ac

Perceptual Memory
[See firstly perception.] This is LTM for external stimulus pattern (primarily visual or auditory). Its contents help you recognise things you have interacted with in the past (particularly familiar faces and objects), and this act of recognition is at the heart of the process of 'perception'. The v

[See firstly frontal battery.] An inability to discontinue (i.e. cancel) an ongoing planned behaviour, despite instructions to do so, and a common feature of dysexecutive syndrome. Perhaps a failure of the mind's contention scheduling mechanism.

Phonological Loop
[See firstly Working Memory Theory in general and articulatory loop in particular.] Later theoretical adjunct to the articulatory loop, introduced by Baddeley (1986) to explain the phonological similarity effect. Characterised as 'a function of the short-term store which is maintained and refreshed

Phonological Recoding Effect
[See firstly Working Memory Theory.] This is the name given to the recruitment of both the phonological loop and the articulatory loop memory resources for material initially presented to the four senses other than hearing (i.e. vision, touch, smell, and taste). It reflects our ability (indeed prefe

Phonological Similarity Effect
[See firstly confusibility studies.] This is the name given to an STM impairment when presented with acoustically similar material. It was first detected by Conrad (1964), who found that misrecollections of target letters were more likely to be acoustically similar than not. Thus 'D' would be more c

Although planning is strictly speaking a cognitive process, not a form of memory (i.e. it is something the mind does, not something it contains or creates), it is nevertheless a process which requires memory, (a) to store its primary products (i.e. the plans), (b) to store the action schemas needed

Porteus Maze
[See firstly executive function and dysexecutive syndrome.] DETAIL TO FOLLOW

Generally relating to the neuron on the 'down' side of a synapse.

Post-Synaptic Membrane
[See firstly cell membrane.] The receiving (or 'down') side of the synaptic cleft.

Post-Synaptic Potential
Refers to the electrotonic effects at the receiving neural cell membrane when the neurotransmitter substances arrive. Can be inhibitory or excitatory (i.e. it can either discourage or encourage a further action potential in the receiving neuron).

Post-Tetanic Potentiation
The reduction of the action potential threshold for a short period following a given action potential.

The presence of ions at a given point. Loosely speaking, the same thing as 'voltage'.

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

Potential Gradient
See potential difference.

The science of communicational motivation, that is to say, of the effects that immediate motive, context, and custom have on discourse. [For further details see the longer entry under the same heading in our Psycholinguistics Glossary.]

Generally relating to the neuron on the 'up' side of a synapse.

Pre-Synaptic Membrane
[See firstly cell membrane.] The transmitting (or 'up') side of the synaptic cleft.

Price Estimation
[See firstly executive function and dysexecutive syndrome.] MAIN ENTRY TO FOLLOW

Primacy Effect
[See firstly serial position effect.] Superior performance on the early list items in a free recall learning task. [See serial position effect and compare recency effect.]

The act of pre-exposing subjects to memory test material prior to the memory test proper being applied. This might involve something as simple as deliberately pre-using items from a word list prior to the delivery of that list (item priming), or of pre-presenting semantically related items (semantic

Proactive Interference
A type of interference, specifically, the deleterious effect of previous memory contents on newly memorised material. [Contrast retroactive interference.]

See cueing in our Neuropsychology Glossary.

The movement of a depolarising influence from one point on a neural cell membrane to adjacent points. Can be of two types, namely decremental propagation and non-decremental propagation. Decremental propagation is the term used to describe minor fluctuations in resting potential which fail to reach

[See firstly predicate and proposition in our Psycholinguistics Glossary.] A proposition is that which describes a particular truth relationship between concepts [eg. 'cats have fur'], and which is thus 'the smallest unit of knowledge that can be judged either true or false' (Matlin, 1989). It follo

Propositional Knowledge
[See firstly proposition.] Knowledge made up of propositions. Also known as 'declarative' knowledge.

Prospective Memory
Prospective memory is memory for events which have yet to happen, that is to say, it is 'the ability to remember at a particular moment that one has previously decided to carry out a particular action at that moment' (Raskin, 2003 online), although Elvevag, Maylor, and Gilbert (2003/2003 online) add

Protein Kinase Studies
[See firstly electrochemical medium-term memory in the Introduction to this glossary.] Successful neurotransmission relies in large part on enzymes which can phosphorylate - that is to say, add a phosphate group to - other proteins, thus changing their molecular shape, electrical charge, and overall

Random Access
Computer terminology for long-term data storage systems from which specific data items can be retrieved without serial search. Random access can be achieved in a number of ways, as described in some detail in our e-paper on 'Short-Term Memory Subtypes in Computing and Artificial Intelligence', Part

Random Molecular Movement
The particles making up gases and liquids are continually moving about at very high speeds. This allows them, when they are bounded by a permeable (porous) membrane, to find their way through to the other side. Moreover, once they are on the other side, some of them find their way back in again! Dep

Readiness Potentials
A readiness potential is a strong negative shift in parietal EEG in the moments immediately prior to the initiation of a voluntary response, almost as though the brain were 'winding itself up' in readiness to go off. This effect was first detected by Kornhuber and Deecke (1965). A typical study by L

[See firstly the three fundamental physical memory types described in the Introduction.] Retrieval into STM, especially that part of it we know as consciousness. If from LTM not recently accessed, then presumably with the help of processes like ecphory, indexing, or similar retrieval structure. If f