Explore Short-Term Vs Long-Term Memory And How Do They Work?

Explore Short-Term Vs Long-Term Memory And How Do They Work?

Explore Short-Term Vs Long-Term Memory And How Do They Work

Memory is an essential human brain function that allows us to retain and reproduce information. It stores our valuable life experiences, emotions, and knowledge and helps us recall essential events and learn new things. 

Without effective memory, it becomes difficult for a person to perform tasks properly in their daily life. People also suffer memory-related disorders like Dementia,   Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body dementia, etc. Therefore, it is crucial to understand memory and its types.

In this blog, we will learn about the types of memory and understand short-term vs. long-term memory. If you want to improve your memory, there are many helpful practices you can try. And if you need advice from health experts, you can go to Bansal Hospital Bhopal. Continue reading to learn about short-term vs long-term memory and their working!

Table of Contents

  1. What Is Memory?
  2. How Is Memory Made?
  3. What Is Short-Term Memory?
  4. What Is Long-term Memory?
  5. How Does Long-Term Memory Work?
  6. Understanding The Short-Term Vs Long-Term Memory
  7. The Final Say
  8. FAQs
  9. References

What Is Memory?

Our brain is the vital organ that controls all the activities and functions of the body. One of the key functions is “Our Memory”. Memory refers to the emotions and feelings stored in the central nervous system. 

Actually, it is the process of storing information and experiences in the unconscious mind and finally bringing it to the conscious intellect.

Humans have five sense organs that work differently, like 

• The nose for detecting smell,
• The ear for detecting sound
• The tongue determines taste
• The skin senses touch
• The eyes for vision

Whenever we feel anything like smell, vision, sound or touch, our nerves send the signal to our central brain, which is stored in memory. This is how the information travels through nerves to the brain. Let us now learn about the workings of memory.

Also Read: Exploring The Spectrum Of Mental Health: An Overview Of Mental Health Disorder Types

How Is Memory Made?

Now, let us understand how this memory is made. Our magical brain processes memories in two ways: 

• First, it can create a memory by continuously focusing on something, like studying any subject or topic.
• Secondly, it can create it subconsciously, like attaching emotional feelings to the given information so that you remember it.

Memory formation is a stepwise process; let us understand this:

Step 1: Encoding 

Encoding is the first step of memory formation, following the process of attaching meaning. In this, the brain recognises the information and tries to understand why it is happening. It is easy to learn and remember things while associating them with a purpose or image.

Step 2: Storage

Memories are not stored in the brain as complete, exact copies that can be easily retrieved. Instead, they are stored in small bits that are scattered throughout different parts of the brain. 

Step 3: Recall 

When you remember something, your brain reconstructs the memory by combining smaller stored pieces. It is not an exact replay of the experience but more like a creative reimagining. Memories can change over time, and memory recall stimulates nerve pathways created when the memory is formed. Working on your memory consistently can strengthen it over time.

Also Read: What Are The Common Causes Of Strokes In Young Adults?

What Is Short-Term Memory?

Short-term memory, or active or primary memory, is the information we are currently thinking about. It is different from working memory, which manipulates and prioritises information. Short-term memory can hold data for only 30 to 60 seconds and can store between 4 to 9 points. 

For memory loss discussions, short-term memory refers to recent memories that last minutes to days, such as where you parked your car this morning or what you had for lunch yesterday.

Characteristics Of Short-Term Memory

• It lasts for a short period, generally up to 20 seconds.
• The human brain can only remember around seven pieces of information and can be easily distracted or disrupted.
• It is affected by medicine, sleep deprivation, a brain stroke, or a head injury.

What Is Long-term Memory?

Long-term memory refers to distant memories stored in the brain, such as important events or work expertise learned in the past. It is generally well preserved in early and mid-stage Alzheimer’s disease. 

The brain regions responsible for healthy memory function are the temporal lobe and the hippocampus. Long-term memory is stored as a network of schemas, which convert into knowledge structures and help us recall relevant information.    

It is of two types:

Explicit Long-term Memory: These conscious memories include our perception of the world and our experiences.
Implicit Long-term Memory: We use these unconscious memories without realising it.

Also Read: What Are The Common Causes Of Traumatic Brain Injuries?

How Does Long-Term Memory Work?

The long term memory works in three different phases:

Encoding: In this phase, our brain processes incoming information and turns it into data that can be fed into our memory.
Storage: It involves storing the collected information and accumulating it in the various parts of our brain.
Retrieval: It involves recalling the information from our memory to make decisions, solve problems, and interact with the world.

Understanding The Short-Term vs Long-Term Memory

The key differences between short-term vs long-term memory include the following


Short-Term Memory

Long-Term Memory


Brief, typically seconds to minutes

Prolonged, potentially a lifetime


Limited, can hold a few pieces of information at once

Vast, can store a large amount of information


Information can be quickly accessed but is easily forgotten

Information retrieval may take longer but is more enduring


Primarily acoustic and visual

More complex encoding, including semantic and contextual

Sensory Input

Receives information from sensory organs

Receives information from short-term memory or external sources

Vulnerability to Decay

Susceptible to decay or interference if not rehearsed

Less susceptible to decay, with proper encoding and consolidation

Conscious Awareness

Typically conscious, in our awareness

May become subconscious or require effort to retrieve

Capacity for Learning

Supports temporary tasks and immediate problem-solving

Supports learning, knowledge retention, and expertise development

Brain Regions Involved

The prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and other regions

Distributed across various brain regions, including the cortex and hippocampus


Remembering a phone number temporarily

Recalling childhood memories or learned skills

The Final Say

Our brain stores information in two different ways: short-term memory and long-term memory. Short-term memory retains the information only for a short duration on the other hand, long-term memory preserves it for longer periods

It is important to understand the workings of both the memories and their key differences so that you can be aware of the consequences of these two. If you have any questions regarding the brain or memory, you can consult the neurological department of the Bansal Hospital Bhopal.


  1. What are the types of memory?

The types of memory include

• Short-term memory
• Long term memory

  1. What is the best example of long-term memory?

There are many different types of long-term memories. A few common examples include 

• Remembering how to ride a bike
• Significant life events
• Knowledge that the sun on Earth rises in the East.

  1. What are examples of short-term memories?

A great way of thinking about an example of short-term memory includes how you remember a phone number someone has just recited to you or if someone gives you directions.

  1. How short-term memory works?

Short-term memory follows three phases 

  1. Encoding: in this, the information gets collected.
  2. Storage: here is where the collected information gets stored.
  3. Retrieval: in this, the information gets retrieved whenever required.



About Bansal Hospital

Bansal Hospital is a multispeciality hospital and is one of the leading, reputable and reliable healthcare providers trusted by patients and their families across the region. It has all the major departments, including cardiology, neurology, oncology, orthopaedics, gastroenterology, urology, liver transplant, bone marrow transplantation, nephrology, gynaecology and more. The hospital is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and technology and has a team of highly qualified and experienced doctors and medical staff who provide round-the-clock care to the patient.

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