Semantics: Neuroscience Translated

Fornicular nuclei synapse in a rostral desiccation....What!? Neuroscience is filled with scary language. As we explore new and eerie parts of the brain, it seems an even more intimidating word is coined. But do not fear, fellow amygdalas! Place a hand on each side of your head. Every word describes what is now in between your hands, and learning them will give you an edge on understanding the brain you own. This new series, Semantics, seeks to clarify all of these words and their meanings in a short, quirky and memorable blurb. After all, what use is a word if it carries no meaning?

Wait...what are semantics?

Wait...what are semantics?

To flesh out this question, we need to back up and map out human memory. There are three types of memory, in order of the time we are likely to forget. Here is a visual: an overworked Manhattan secretary is sprinting on a rainy day to her boss's office.

The first memory type is sensory memory

The first memory type is sensory memory, which typically lasts little more than a second. Of course, an occasional shock may be burned into our retinae, but only a few gifted individuals have the capacity to eternalize snapshots of what they see, hear, smell, or touch. The secretary hears the small watery explosions her shoes make against the wet ground, sees the route through the ocean of umbrellas before her, smells the delicious warmth of coffee from the nearby shop and feels the wetness of the splash she made. Second is short term memory, essentially working memory. This is like the top pile of unstapled papers in the stack carried by our poor secretary. Only about a minute before they get wet and blow away: that phone number you heard expires before your thumbs stow it away in the contacts of your smartphone.

. Only about a minute before they get wet and blow away

Last is long term memory, which is the bottom of the stack of papers. They are closer to the realm of constants and further from that of variables. Long term memory is divided into explicit memory and implicit memory. Implicit memories are memories made for us. They are the tips of the trade the secretary picked up from her years of long work. Another name is procedural memory. Explicit memories are memories we actively make. This is what the secretary tells her friends when they both sit at that café mentioned earlier. This is known as declarative memory. In this final branch of memory, there are two types: episodic memory and semantics. The secretary declares this new episode of her hectic life riddled with semantics, or details and facts solidified into long term memory. "I carried 557 pages of the manuscript and the top 37 were ruined."

But, finally I must ask. How is your memory doing? You have just read a post about semantics filled with semantics defining the word semantics. They are essentially facts stripped of all emotions, which makes them a bit difficult to remember. Emotions carry semantics.

You have just read a post about semantics filled with semantics defining the word semantics

Next time you are befuddled by the dying memory of categorizing your own memory, empathize with that poor secretary stumbling through Manhattan. 

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