Your Short-term Memory Isn’t Gone; It’s Just ‘Sleeping’

How many times have you walked into a room and forgotten why you are there?

Sometimes you remember after a brief pause and sometimes not at all. Short-term memory loss strikes again.

Your Short-term Memory Isn't Not Gone; It’s Just ‘Sleeping’But scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison recently found that memories once considered lost aren’t gone at all—they’re simply “sleeping.”

Researchers conducted experiments that revealed a neural signature for a third type of memory, according to a Jan. 5 article in The Wall Street Journal. Before, memory was classified as short-term—or working—memory and long-term memory. Now there’s a kind of “behind-the-scenes thoughts that are warehoused in the brain,” according to the article.

The study asked 65 students to study two images. During a 10-second period, students were asked to think about one of the two pictures. After a delay, they were shown a picture and asked if it matched one of the two they had seen.

In the meantime, researchers monitored the students’ neural activity, paying close attention to what happened to the memory of the image “on hold.”

Researchers likened these memories to writing with invisible ink. They may appear invisible but a prompt—transcranial magnetic stimulation, in the case of the brain—can bring these memories to light.

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