Long-term memory – what exactly is it all about? – Animus Medicus GmbH Skip to content
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Our long-term memory – an explanation

In order to use knowledge or skills, it is necessary to draw on long-term memory. This stores facts, memories and skills for minutes, years or a lifetime, depending on the type. This article from Animus Medicus, the shop for anatomy pictures, explains what long-term memory is all about, how it works and what strategies there are to combat poor long-term memory.

What is long-term memory?

Long-term memory is a mechanism in the human brain. It is able to store and access information and skills over different periods of time. The information contained in long-term memory is extremely important for everyday tasks. Weak long-term memory can be managed to a certain extent through cognitive training.

The structure of long-term memory

Long-term memory is made up of two large areas: “declarative memory” and “non-declarative memory”. Both are presented below:

  • Declarative memory

Declarative memory is also known as knowledge memory. It is able to store knowledge, data and facts as well as memories of events so that they can be retrieved. The information stored here is explicit and can be reproduced verbatim.

Two areas of declarative memory are semantic and episodic memory. Semantic memory stores specialist knowledge that is true independently of all people. This includes, for example, the fact that the Earth is a sphere. Episodic memory, on the other hand, stores facts about personal life. This is how people are able to remember their first kiss.


  • Non-declarative memory

Non-declarative memory is also known as behavioral memory. Learned sequences of actions or skills are stored here. These enable a person to ride a bicycle, for example. The information stored here is implicit and cannot be reproduced verbatim.

The non-declarative memory is divided into three areas. Procedural memory contains all of a person's abilities. For example, we are only able to swim thanks to the information stored here.

The second area is priming. Here various aspects are linked to individual information. What color are clouds? White. What color is snow? white. What does the cow drink ? milk. Since our memory has been primed for the color white, we think that the cow must drink something white. But that's not the case, she drinks water.

The third area of ​​non-declarative memory is conditioning. The most famous example of this is the Pavlovian dog. Pavlov always rang a bell when he gave his dog something to eat. This resulted in the dog over time salivating when he just heard the bell without there being anything to eat.

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Processes of long-term memory

Various processes take place in long-term memory. The first is learning. This means that information is stored in such a way that it not only remains in short-term memory, but also moves into long-term memory. Only once this has happened will we have long-term access to such information.

The second process consists of the sub-areas “remember, retain and connect”. People are now able to retain the information stored in long-term memory over the long term and remember it when necessary. In addition, the stored information can be linked in order to derive new information or capabilities. Information that is not used, repeated, consolidated and networked is deleted from long-term memory.


Differences to other memory areas

There are different memory areas in the human brain, each of which performs different tasks and each has its own special characteristics and abilities. The three most important ones are presented in the following table:

Ultra-short-term memory

Short-term memory

Long-term memory

Registers all sensory perceptions

Also called working memory

Can in principle save an unlimited amount of data


Filtering of impressions


Stores information for approximately 30 seconds

Depending on the type of learning, information is stored for minutes, years or a lifetime

Separation of what is important and what is unimportant

Is used for information that is not needed permanently

stores and sorts incoming information so that we become aware of it for the first time

Stores factual knowledge, skills and memories

Transmission of important impressions to the short-term memory

Transfers important information to long-term memory; Unimportant things are overwritten

Composed of different areas



Is characterized by a limited storage capacity

Poor long-term memory can be due to the circumstances (e.g.b lack of sleep) or illnesses


Indispensable for concentration and attention


Training can improve the performance of long-term memory


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Possible causes of poor long-term memory

Forgetting is fundamentally not a fault in long-term memory in the brain, but a completely normal process. When information is not needed or is needed too rarely, we forget it. The same goes for skills that we have acquired but do not practice regularly. However, there are various forms of forgetting that indicate poor long-term memory.

There are some people who are unable to store and remember new information. This is called anterograde amnesia. Problems retrieving information stored in long-term memory, on the other hand, are called retrograde amnesia. The opposite of this is hypermnesia, in which one involuntarily remembers things that are stored in long-term memory.

There are many causes that can lead to poor long-term memory. These include, for example, lack of sleep and high stress. Psychological stress, such as that caused by the death of loved ones, can also affect long-term memory. But even positive effects such as falling in love occasionally have negative effects on long-term memory. In the case of long-term problems with long-term memory, illnesses can also be a cause. These include alcohol and drug addiction, but also Alzheimer's, dementia or Parkinson's.



Weak long-term memory can be due to many different causes. If these are illness-related, not only the symptoms but also the causes of the illness themselves must be combated. To combat other problems, it is possible to improve long-term memory by slightly changing your rhythm of life. Last but not least, it is recommended to carry out various memory exercises regularly in order to maintain the performance of long-term memory. It is important to identify the individual causes of poor long-term memory and take action against them with individually tailored measures. If you have any questions, you can find many answers in our Help Center or contact us.