Memory and recall

by Mahmoud Alnsour, Kajal Gandhi, Omair Mohammed, and Anas Najib

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Take a moment and try to remember why we learned “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally” in math class. Do you remember why? It was because we need to remember how math works and the rules that go along with solving a problem. This mnemonic works to help us remember what order we need to solve equations. A mnemonic is a technique people use to remember information through patterns of letters, ideas or other associations. The first letter of each word represents a math expression that we follow in order to get to the final answer. The ‘P’ represents parenthesis, ‘E’ exponents, ‘M’ multiplication, ‘D’ division, ‘A’ addition, and ‘S’ subtraction. This is the order of operations we use to solve complex equations like (x+6)^3 = 4x-7. Expressions like these coincide with the repetition part of our memory. The teachers made us memorize this one particular mnemonic in order to advance in math class and learn how things work. So in order to solve a math equation we follow parenthesis, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction. This is one expression that children will never forget because it has been repeated to them all their lives and now its processed in their memories. Mnemonics are not the only way memories are created; there are other ways to create them as well. Let’s take at look at how memories are created through repetition.

Take a look at the following picture for about a minute.

Find the animals

Cover the image, and now try to recall what you saw in the picture. You have thirty seconds. Was it hard? How much did you remember? Do you see a bird? How about a butterfly? A fish? Let’s do this again, but this time, take a look at the picture for two minutes. You still have thirty seconds to remember what you saw. Was it easier this time around? What was different? Do you see a bat? How about a mouse? Do you see the snake in the lower right hand corner? Let’s do it one final time. This time you have three minutes to look at the picture, but still thirty seconds to recall what you saw. Do you see the lemurs? In this image, overall, there were six lemurs, three bats and three frogs that were hard to find. Now that you have the answers, can you go back and figure out where they are? Let me guess, it was much easier for you to recall what you saw. Why is this? It’s because you saw the picture multiple times and because you remembered what you saw the first couple of time. Why does this occur? It’s because of the posterior cingulate cortex. It is a part of the brain where one processes the repetition and learning aspects of their lives. This part of the brain helps a person in creating long- term memories that will help in recalling certain information and details.


The PCC is the central part of the default mode network. A default mode network is a network of interacting brain regions that are known to function with each other, but each has it’s own role. It is also connected to the entorhinal cortex and the parahippocampal gyrus, which are known to be involved with learning. The picture of the brain above shows the different parts of that brain as stated. One might ask how the process of memory and recall works and it is actually quite simple. First thing is that a person looks at something, maybe a few words and it goes through your eyes. From here on, this information is sent to other parts of the brain to try and figure out what is going on and what we are looking at. For recall and memory, this information is sent towards the frontal lobe and cerebellum, which are close to the areas where the process of recall occurs. Here is where one sees and tries to interpret what is going on and how they will remember what they just saw. From here on, the process of repetition comes. Each time the person sees the same image, the same process of recall occurs. It is practically a never-ending loop. Now why don’t you try and go back and reread this post, who knows, maybe something will recollect in your memories.

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