Memories are not stored

D. L. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The term 'memory' is being used in 2 different senses, both for the engram, or memory trace, and for specific memories. It is proposed that the memory trace problem (of what changes are occurring in the brain during engram formation, or memory consolidation) and the recall problem (of what mechanisms allow for the specific, rapid recall of memories), which have been taken as 2 distinct problems, are actually a single one (of how brain structure is changed to allow for recall of memories). Thus, engram formation does not involve storing the informational equivalent of a memory or experience. This view is prefaced upon each individual's perceptions and thoughts being based upon an internal (brain) structure whose organization was originally dictated genetically, but with plasticity, thereby allowing alterations to occur through experience. Internal structure makes possible and delineates the spatio temporal excitation patterns (STEPs) which the various regions of the brain are capable of producing. Different STEPS are different thoughts, memories and perceptions. Memories are not stored by changes in the brain, but structural changes are made which increase the probability of reconstruction (recall) of a STEP similar to the original one. Structural change could involve long term modification of synapses or synaptic efficacy, but modification of other physiologic processes, such as endogenous spiking, could be involved alternatively or additionally.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages1
JournalFederation Proceedings
Issue number3 I
StatePublished - Jan 1 1974

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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