Ida Sue Baron, Ph.D., ABPP
Board Certified in Clinical Neuropsychology
Board Certified Subspecialist in Pediatric Neuropsychology
American Board of Professional Psychology
Clinical Professor of Pediatrics
The University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville, VA
& The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC

Newsletter: Learning and Memory

September 2014

Past newsletters are posted at www.isbaron.com. Questions/comments should be emailed to ida@isbaron.com

Award

Dr. Baron was honored to receive an “Award for Service to the Specialty of Clinical Neuropsychology” from the American Board of Professional Psychology, on August 9, 2014 at the annual American Psychological Association Meeting in Washington, DC.

LEARNING AND MEMORY

Read these 3 words aloud: “ brown, fox, artichoke”

Now read the following paragraph:

The probability that a child has a genuine memory problem in the absence of illness or injury is low. However, memory is often a concern for children born preterm and a concern for those doing poorly at school. If something is not learned, it cannot be recalled. It is therefore important to consider whether new information can be successfully encoded and stored (i.e., learned), or whether information once successfully encoded and stored can no longer be retrieved (remembered) when needed.

Without looking up at the top of the page !!, say aloud the 3 words you read above.

How many did you recall? What happened here? You were presented with familiar words already in your vocabulary (semantic memory), then you were distracted by another language (reading) task (interference), and finally, without warning, you had to remember what you had learned and stored (retrieval). If you had trouble, you could be shown each target word along with distractor words to see if you could recognize the target words (recognition memory).

Making a Diagnosis

Before concluding there is a memory impairment one has to consider the behavior that suggested this, and consider a number of alternative explanations that might mimic a memory disorder. In childhood, there are many conditions that might appear to represent a memory impairment. Some examples are:

  • Attention disorder
  • Specific learning disability
  • Modality-specific disorder (e.g., a hearing or vision impairment)
  • Psychiatric disorder

Types of Memory


There are many different kinds of memory, and different or overlapping brain areas are important for intact functioning of these different types of memory.
Common memory terms, and some examples, include:

Declarative (Explicit) memory, in which there is conscious awareness of recall. Two types of declarative memory are:

  • Semantic memory, information that is part of a person’s long-term factual knowledge. For example, knowing the definition of a vocabulary word.
  • Episodic memory, or conscious awareness of personally experienced facts or events. For example, on being introduced at a party to a number of new people, being able to recall those names.

Procedural (Implicit) memory, in which the person is not aware of what he/she is able to recall, or that he/she is using information that is in this memory system. The individual’s performance demonstrates that there has been prior learning. For example, knowing how to ride a bicycle after not riding one for a long time.

Short-term memory refers to the ability to register and hold information for a few seconds, and then encode and retain it. Short-term memory can be impaired while long-term memory is intact.

Long-term memory refers to the ability to encode and store information for later when it needs to be available for retrieval. It is generally presumed that it takes about 15-20 minutes to lay down a memory trace that is encoded into long-term memory.

Working memory, as noted in the June 2014 newsletter about executive function, refers to the ability to briefly hold information in mind briefly in order to take some action (perform an activity) using that information.

Autobiographical memory refers to recall of details about one’s own personal history.

Anterograde memory refers to learning and memory of new information from a point in time forward. For example, immediately after falling and hitting one’s head, the person cannot learn or remember information going forward in time.

Retrograde memory refers to memory for information that was previously learned and stored. For example, immediately after falling and hitting one’s head information previously learned is not able to be recalled.

Prospective memory refers to “remembering to remember,” and involves performance of an action at a later time not just an ability to recall something. For example, I am putting a pencil on that desk and before you leave the room .

Source memory refers to memory for the context during which information was learned or presented.

And, there are other types as well. There are also many ways to test memory, and to assess integrity of stages of learning and memory. One can test recall:

  • of personal information/events (autobiographical memory)
  • immediately after presentation of a stimulus (short-term memory)
  • after there is interference with another unrelated task (long-term memory)
  • after multiple-choice options are presented (because information has been encoded and stored but is not easily retrieved (recognition)

Publication Accepted

Baron, I.S., Hopp, C. & Weiss, B. A. (2014) Developmental Normative Data for the Baron-Hopkins Board Test of Spatial Location Memory. Child Neuropsychology.

Tests of spatial (nonverbal) memory for young children are few and mostly experimental (without normative data) even though they could be helpful to understand functioning in specific brain regions. Dr. Baron developed a memory test for young children by adapting a test developed for adults with memory disorder. This journal article presents normative data appropriate for use with children aged 3 and 6 years. The normative group consisted of 365 typically developing children born at term gestational age, and 70% of those tested at age 6 had also been tested at age 3.