Procedural memory definition is fairly simple on the surface. This is a part of your long-term memory that is responsible for remembering how to do things. When you can type, ride a bike, or drive a car without consciously thinking about how you are doing it, you are using your procedural memory.
Long-term memory is divided into many subtypes of memory, and procedural memory is one of these. Procedural memory is a subtype of implicit memory, which means that it is automatic. You don't have to consciously think or actively recall the information in your procedural memory. By definition procedural memory requires no conscious thought.
One of the ways you can tell if you are using procedural memory is to think about a task and how you would describe it. It is very difficult to explain how you do things that you do from procedural memory. For example, without using scientific explanations, it can be very difficult to explain to someone how to walk and maintain balance.
The parts of the brain that are used in developing procedural memory are the prefrontal cortex, the parietal cortex, and the cerebellum. These parts of the brain all work together to allow for coordinated and timed movements as you learn to perform a task. Once a task is formed, it is recalled automatically through procedural memory via the basal ganglia and cerebellum.
Primarily procedural memory is developed through practice and trial and error. Repeated actions must reinforce synapses in the brain to develop the memory. When you first learn how to do something, you make mistakes, and you have to think about what you are doing really. But, once the skill is learned, your procedural memory stores that information and recalls it automatically without conscious thought.
Many different examples could be used to describe procedural memory. While some things are common among everyone like walking and talking, most people will vary on what they have stored in their procedural memory. It all depends on what you have learned to do.
Some common examples of procedural memory include:
You can probably come up with many more examples of when you use procedural memory that is unique to what you have learned during your lifetime. If it is something that you do not have to think about how to do it, you are using procedural memory.
Several medical conditions and disorders can affect procedural memory. However, it is important to note that the disorders that commonly cause memory loss may not affect procedural memory. Procedural memory is often the most intact in most cases of memory loss. Still, it is possible to have problems with procedural memory loss in advanced or severe cases of these medical conditions.
In recent years more studies have been done looking into how much sleep plays a role in memory. The findings have been nearly unanimous that sleep hygiene plays an important role in your brain's ability to function properly. One study looked specifically at the procedural memory and the role of early sleep or late nocturnal sleep.
In the study, groups of people were tested on procedural memory tasks with no sleep, with early sleep, and with late sleep. The study concluded that people who slept soundly in late nocturnal sleep were better able to perform the tasks. This would indicate that good sleep hygiene, particularly a set amount of REM sleep late at night, can greatly improve procedural memory. Likewise, people without good sleep hygiene may suffer from an inability or difficulty in performing tasks from procedural memory.
This is one reason why people are told not to drive if they are not getting sleep. Sleep deprivation greatly inhibits your brain's ability to access procedural memory. You may falter in your responses while driving if you have not had a sufficient amount of sleep. Your body's need for sleep will overcome nearly all other intrinsic drives within you, including your need for safety.
Alzheimer's Disease And Dementia
Alzheimer's disease affects the brain in unique ways. Cognitive abilities are greatly decreased with this medical condition, usually beginning with short-term memory loss. After short-term memory loss, long-term memory begins to fail.
Although procedural memory is a part of long-term memory, it works in a much different way that episodic or declarative memory. Studies have found that procedural memory is not affected as easily or early as other types of long-term memory.
However, studies have shown that procedural memory can begin to fail with advanced or severe cases of Alzheimer's. Still, one study showed that Alzheimer's patients even in severe stages could develop new procedural memory and retain it for up to three months. This would indicate that people who have the disease could retain procedural memory for long after they lose other types of memory, but only if they use the skills frequently.
Parkinson's disease is another medical condition that affects cognitive abilities. One study done in 2008 of patients with Parkinson's showed that there were deficits in procedural learning and procedural memory. The patients and a control group were given specific tasks to perform over a three day period.
The patients with Parkinson's disease who were tested on rotary pursuit learning and procedural memory did not show any deficits in that type of memory. However, when it came to motor memory, procedural memory did falter in the more severe Parkinson's patients. This would indicate that over time procedural memory and in particular the basal ganglia are affected by the disease.
Huntington's disease is a genetic condition that leads to the degeneration of brain cells. One group of researchers had a hypothesis that this deterioration would present as deficiencies in both retrievals of procedural memory and development of new procedural memory. While the study was inconclusive regarding the development of procedural memory, it did show that Huntington's patients have difficulty with retrieval of procedural memory, though not as much difficulty as patients with amnesia.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Traumatic brain injury, for the most part, has not been found to affect procedural memory. In most patients both young and old, traumatic brain injuries did not impair their ability to recall or learn new procedural memory. However, this could be much different depending on what part of the brain was affected. Hypotheses exist to the effect that if the basal ganglia were injured, procedural memory would falter. However, more studies need to be done in this respect.
Prolonged drug abuse can have detrimental effects on the brain, particularly on many different types of memory. To better understand what types of memory are affected by drug abuse, one group of researchers did a study on cocaine abusers. In the study, cocaine users were tested on declarative and procedural memory both before and after a 45-day recovery period.
While the study showed that declarative memory does not improve much with abstinence from cocaine in long-term users, it was found that after a 45-day period without the drug patients did recover some minimal improvement with procedural memory. This would indicate that while substance abuse is detrimental to procedural memory, the effects may not be permanent if one stops using drugs.
Unique Psychological Outlooks
Psychologists have been applying the procedural memory psychology definition to many different applications in recent years. There are some schools of thought that procedural memory actually shapes behavior, personality, and success rates in certain organizational settings. This is largely speculation combined with psychological profiling.
One way that procedural memory knowledge has been applied is in organizational settings such as large corporations and non-profits. The thought is that the routines in an organization are stored in the procedural memory of the employees. Because of this, it is more difficult for organizations to make changes and improvements.
To test this hypothesis a group of psychologists did a series of tests to determine whether procedural memory played a role in organizational routines. The study concluded that these routines are stored in procedural memory. This knowledge could assist organizations in better understanding how to implement changes in routines that could benefit the organization.
Psychologists and researchers who have studied different parts of the brain and function have developed theories that procedural memory shapes a person's personality. As you grow up, you learn certain behaviors and emotional responses to different stimuli. This shapes who you are, because your brain then later in life automatically issues those responses from procedural memory.
This is one reason why people have such a hard time breaking habits such as smoking or certain emotional responses. Once a process is stored in the procedural memory it is very difficult to forget or consciously override with different behavior. Your procedural memory is emitting these responses automatically, so it takes a vast amount of willpower and self-consciousness to be able to override it with a new memory of new behavior.
When To Get Help
If you or a loved one seem to be having increasing difficulty performing tasks that have been done for years, you may want to consider seeking out medical attention. A professional psychologist can administer tests of procedural memory to determine if there are any severe deficits. If deficits do exist, they can help you determine the right tests to discover the cause and any necessary treatment.
What is an example of procedural memory?
One example of procedural memories is typing. Typing is one of the fine motor skills that are encoded in the limbic system. In one study, experienced typists were told to type on typewriters that had the letters covered. They all typed very easily because where the letters were was stored with their procedural memory. However, when they were asked to consciously recall and write the letters on the blank keys, they were only 57% accurate. This shows that typing is an unconscious and automatic skill for these typists, which is in the definition of procedural memories.
What part of the brain is procedural memory?
Procedural memory takes place in the prefrontal cortex, the parietal cortex, and the cerebellum. The cerebellum, caudate nucleus, putamen, and motor cortex all assist in encoding and recalling procedural memory. All these parts of the brain play a role in learning and remembering gross motor skills, like riding a bicycle or throwing a football, as well as fine motor skills, like writing with a pen or playing the piano. The basal ganglia, a part of the brain's limbic system, supports learning through feedback and intrinsic rewards.
Is procedural memory implicit?
Yes, procedural memory is implicit memory. That means you can remember things stored in procedural memory without trying or even thinking about remembering them. Consider playing a musical instrument like the piano. If you are experienced at all, you don't have to think about where you need to put your fingers. You simply look at the sheet music or even think of the tune, and your fingers automatically go to the right place. If you try to think about where to put your fingers, you will likely become distracted and not move as quickly as you need to in order to stay with the tempo. Then, your performance will suffer.
What is the difference between declarative and procedural memory?
Declarative memory includes the things you consciously try to learn, while procedural memory is things you learn by doing. As you keep repeatedly practicing motor skills, those actions become encoded in your procedural memory. Then, you recall them automatically. But with declarative memory, you consciously have to think about learning it, and you consciously have to think about it to remember it.
The difference between procedural tasks and conscious thought is substantial. With procedural tasks, you learn and remember how to do something. With declarative tasks, you learn facts. Sometimes, though, you may use both procedural and declarative memory while you are doing one thing.
Take, for example, driving. If you had to consciously think about how to turn on your blinker, turn a corner, and speed up, you would have a lot of trouble paying attention to what's going on around you and getting where you need to go. Defensive driving would be next to impossible if your mind were on how to do the basic tasks of driving. However, say you go to a state you've never been to before. Someone tells you that the state has a law that is different than in your state. In that case, you would use declarative memory to recall the law and follow it. It isn't stored in your procedural memory with your motor skills, so you have to think about it to remember it. Such facts require conscious thought. Yet, at the same time, the motor skills you use for driving would be clicking along as usual, without you paying attention to them.
Another thing that's different about declarative memory is that you can experience the tip of the tongue phenomenon. That happens when you try to recall a name or a fact, and you feel like you almost remember it and that you will remember it soon. But the answer doesn't come until you stop thinking about it. This doesn't happen with procedural memory, because you aren't consciously thinking about what you're doing anyway. You're doing it automatically, and it happens easily and naturally.
Are there other types of implicit memory besides procedural?
Procedural memories are just one type of implicit memory. The other two types are classical conditioning and priming. Classical conditioning is a type of implicit memories that happens when we associate one stimulus with another. The most well-known example of classical conditioning is Pavlov's dogs. When they heard a bell, they salivated because they associated that sound with food being brought to them. Priming refers to a type of implicit memories that bring about changes in behavior based on something that happened often or frequently. For example, if someone gave you a list of words related to kindness, priming might cause you to behave kindly. In this case, you would not think about being kind, but the words about kindness would "prime" you to behave that way automatically.
How does procedural memory work?
You begin using procedural memory early in life, as you learn gross motor skills like walking and fine motor skills like feeding yourself. Procedural memories are formed in your brain when you do something over and over. Each time you perform the action, a signal is sent through the synapses – or gaps – between the nerve cells in your brain. As you continue to do the thing again and again, the route between those synapses becomes strong. Then, whenever you want to do the same thing again, the memory passes along that route easily and automatically. You don't have to think about the skills required to walk – you just do it!
What are the 3 different types of memory?
Memory can be categorized in several ways. First, there are sensory memories, short-term memories, and long-term memories. Under long-term memory, you will find procedural memory and two kinds of declarative memory, which are episodic memory and semantic memory.
Where is procedural memory stored?
Procedural memory is stored in the brain structures of the cerebellum, caudate nucleus, putamen, and motor cortex. The limbic system, especially the basal ganglia, helps coordinate the storage and retrieval of these memories about how to do motor skills.
What does the limbic system have to do with procedural memory?
Often, when people think of the limbic system, they think of emotions. And while it's true that this area of the brain does help with emotional processing, the limbic system is also involved in the processes of memory and learning. The limbic system interacts with other brain structures to carry out the processes involved with creating, storing, and retrieving memories. Also, the limbic system acts on the basal ganglia. When the limbic system sends signals to the basal ganglia, the motor centers of the brain are activated, allowing you to perform motor skills.
Does procedural memory decline with age?
No, procedural memory does not decline with age. While your motor skills may decline, it is not because of what's involved in memory acquisition, storage, or retrieval. Instead, it might happen because your body can't physically carry out what your memory still holds. The brain structures related to procedural memory, including those in the limbic system, do their job no matter how old you get. The only problem that might arise is that you may not be strong enough or steady enough to accomplish the task anymore. Declining declarative memory is a type of problem that many older people deal with, but they typically don't forget how to do things.
Is procedural memory time stamped?
No, procedural memory is not usually time stamped. When memory is time-stamped, that means you know when that memory was made. Chances are, you don't remember when you learned to walk or talk, for example.
What is an example of procedural knowledge?
Procedural knowledge includes any type of knowledge about how to do something that you can recall without consciously thinking about it. This can include motor skills like riding a bicycle, but it can also include things like work procedures. During your onboarding for a new job, you might practice using the computer system in the way your company requires. At first, the process will include consciously thinking about what you need to do. But as you learn this procedural knowledge, you will develop procedural memories, and doing these tasks will become like second nature.
What is one way to improve procedural knowledge?
You can sometimes improve your procedural knowledge by watching someone else do the same thing you have already practiced doing. This is called observational learning. After watching someone else kick a soccer ball, you might learn something from them about how to do it better. Then, after you practice that new knowledge, it can become a part of your procedural memory.
What does cognitive psychology have to do with procedural memory?
Cognitive psychology is the study of mental processes. This includes everything involved in memory, from attention to language to problem-solving. Cognitive psychologists also study human memory, including procedural memory. Cognitive psychology, when applied to psychotherapy, primarily focuses on working memory. You need to consciously think about your problems and the things you want to change if you want to make any progress. However, there may be times when you need to think about your procedural memories and develop strategies for changing them. For example, if you want to break a bad habit that has become automatic, you will probably need to assess the problem, find out its source, and make a plan for changing it.