What is memory? © MEMO 2015

Memory is the process of taking in information from the world around us, processing it, storing it and later recalling that information, sometimes many years later.

Human memory is often likened to that of a computer memory system or a filing cabinet. But in fact, memory is far from perfect - most people do not remember every single thing that has happened to them, and memories are often changed and can become distorted.

Memory is not just one entity - there are different types of memory such as: learning the meaning of single words, facts about the world, skills like learning to ride a bicycle or how to play a musical instrument, and a complex type of memory that allows us to recall and even 're-live' personal events or episodes from our past. This latter type of memory forms our personal history or autobiography, which is why it is known as autobiographical memory.

We and other research teams have found that autobiographical memory is very closely linked to another type of memory - spatial memory and navigation, which allows us to learn and remember how to find out way around the world. Additionally, related to both navigation and autobiographical memory is the ability to think about events that might happen in the future.

One of the goals of MEMO is to understand how all of these functions are related to each other.

Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at UCL - 12 Queen Square - London - WC1N 3BG © MEMO 2015

Supported by the Wellcome Trust and UCL