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Memory is the ability to acquire, store, retain, and recall information. It allows us to learn and adapt from our past experiences and helps us live our lives independently. There are three types of memory: sensory, short-term, and long-term. Each of these have different functions. 

Sensory Memory  

Sensory memory is the first component of memory retrieval and consists of five senses (i.e., visual, auditory, tactile [touch], gustatory [taste], and olfactory [smell]). It allows us to process and make sense of our world. Sensory memory briefly stores information and lasts only about a second. 

Sensory Memory Type  Definition  Example 
Visual   Attending to and processing the visual information you are seeing such as an object, word, or picture 
  • Showing you a card and putting it face down 
  • Seeing a dog that runs by you 
Auditory   Attending to and processing information the information you hear 
  • Hearing and recalling someone’s name 
Tactile   Attending to and processing information you feel 
  • Describing what a peach you just touch felt like (e.g., fuzzy and firm) 
Gustatory   Attending to and processing information you taste 
  • Realizing the salsa you ate was too hot 
Olfactory   Attending to and processing information you smell 
  • Smelling a barbeque outside 


Impairments and strategies for all senses would include using other available senses. 

Impairments  Strategies 
  • Touching object 
  • Hearing words or descriptions  
  • Reading or seeing information 
  • Touching objects 
  • Visual looking at items when reaching into a purse 
  • Smelling the food before eating it 
  • Using an augmentative and alternative communication devices (AAC) device 
  • Using vision such as reading captions when watching a movie 


Short-term Memory 

Short-term memory, also known as working memory, is the second component of memory retrieval. It is information that is stored and recalled for a relatively short period of time. It allows us to hold information in our mind temporarily so it can be available to use at a later time (i.e., recalling a phone number after it has been recited).  

Short-term memory usually lasts from 15 to 30 seconds and can hold about 5 to 9 items. Impairments or deficits in short-term memory can lead to: 

  • Asking the same questions repeatedly 
  • Forgetting recent events 
  • Inability to remember something seen, heard, or read recently  

There are two strategies that an individual with an impaired short-term memory can use. They are called chunking and rehearsal.  

Strategy  Definition  Example 
Chunking  Taking individual pieces of information and grouping them into larger pieces 
  • Breaking down your list of groceries into categories 
  • Frozen Food: Ice cream, Frozen pizza 
  • Dairy: Eggs, Milk, Cheese 
  • Grouping a phone number into a bigger set, i.e., 9093458957 to (909) 345-8957 
Rehearsal  Repeating information over and over again so it can be processed and stored as a memory 
  • Repeating a phone number to yourself out loud 


Long Term Memory 

Long-term memory is the last stage of memory retrieval. It is the storage of information over an extended period of time. There are two types of long-term memory: explicit and implicit.  

Explicit Memory 

Explicit memory is one of the two types of long term memory. It allows you to store and consciously recall information based on facts, events, or concepts. Another term for explicit memory is called declarative memory. Explicit memory can be divided into episodic and semantic memories. 

Type of Explicit Memory  Definition  Example 
Episodic Memory  Recalling personal events, experiences, and facts.
  • Your high school graduation year 
  • Your favorite meal for breakfast 
Semantic Memory  Recalling learned information such as general events and facts 
  • Remembering that Christmas day is on December 25th. 


Strategies for impairments with explicit long term memory includes:

  • Using a desk or phone calendar to write important events or to remember holidays 
  • Utilize several study strategies to learn the information (e.g., watching videos and listening videos or reading more information online) 
  • Connect and relate the information to previous experiences 
  • Find connections and make it meaningful 
  • Fully attend to the information you are focusing on 
  • Rehearse information often to help store into your long term memory 
  • Quiz yourself on information by using flashcards  

Implicit Memory 

Implicit memory is the other type of long term memory. It is not consciously recalled and allows us to perform skills, habits, and automatic behaviors, such as driving a car. There are two types of implicit memory: procedural memory and priming.   

Type of Implicit Memory  Definition  Example 
Procedural Memory  A type of memory that allows us to store information on how to follow certain procedures 
  • Riding a bike 
  • Buttoning a shirt 
  • Brushing your teeth 
Priming  A cognitive process that occurs when exposure to something can change someone’s thoughts or behavior later 
  • Screaming at the sight of a spider after watching a scary movie about spiders 
  • Having violent thoughts after playing a violent video game 


Strategies that individuals with impaired implicit memories can utilize are: 

  • Visual aids, i.e., sequence cards of how to brush your teeth 
  • Breaking down a task into smaller steps 



Öğmen, H., & Herzog, M. H. (2016). A New Conceptualization of Human Visual  

Sensory-Memory. Frontiers in psychology7, 830. 

Healthline. (2020). Everything You Want to Know About Sensory Memory. Healthline. 


Jawabri K.H., & Cascella, M. (2020) Physiology, explicit memory. In: StatPearls [Internet].  

StatPearls Publishing. 

For more TBI Glossary Terms, click here.

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