Memory and cognition are closely connected, as cognition plays a key role in memory processes. Neurologists, psychologists, and other researchers interested in how the brain handles information refer to mental processes and functions collectively as “cognition.” This includes activities like communicating, completing tasks, and making decisions. It also involves memory, a particularly complex cognitive function with key importance for a number of human activities. Researchers who focus on memory and cognition conduct studies on topics ranging from healthy aging to amnesia.
Cognition generally involves a series of processes that the brain uses to obtain, interpret, and apply information. These can be extremely complex and may involve communication between multiple areas of the brain. Researchers can examine cognitive development, the changes to the brain that occur as people mature, as well as decline, associated with aging, injury, or disease. Understanding the mechanics of cognition is key to memory research.
Humans are able to take some of the information they encounter and store it for future use because it has valuable applications. Studies on memory and cognition look at how and where people decide to store information and how they organize it. This provides key information for research on memory retrieval, the process that allows people to bring up memories for use. These memories may range from the knowledge necessary to speak a foreign language to the skills needed to drive a car.
Numerous theories on memory and cognition have been developed by researchers in this field. Some look at the underlying physical and chemical processes in the brain to explain how information moves through parts of the brain and which parts of the brain activate in the process of forming and retrieving memories. Others are interested in the psychology of cognition, studying topics like perception to evaluate factors that may interfere with memory formation or retrieval. This information can have important applications for activities like treating patients with brain damage or providing an opinion on the reliability of eyewitness testimony.
Some labs dedicated to the study of cognition may focus on a range of topics involving mental processes. Others focus on specific issues like attention and memory. Those with an interest in this field can contribute to research at memory and cognition labs by participating in studies. Large sample populations can help researchers generalize their results to the population as a whole, allowing people who may not have specific training or experience in this field to offer benefits to the rest of society.