The switch between the working state of your memory to long-term memory passes an in-between state like a clipboard software facility in our computers.
Our brain works full time as information after information get fired up. As a working memory leaves behind data to pass on to the long-term memory, there is still a switch state it can come back to retrieve an information before totally surrendering it permanently to long-term.
Researchers in Science
showed how latent memory gets withheld as the working memory still functions actively and as it brings in new information. The study suggests that synapses among neurons held the information even after the working memory has already faded.
Nathan Rose, a cognitive neuroscientist and his colleagues at the University of Wisconsin (UW) in Madison tasked subjects to watch series of slides of faces, words or dots going in one direction. They were queued in with combination of items but were only asked to focus on one item. Scientists used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to track resulting neural activity associated with each item. They used electroencephalography (EEG) to measure the the neural activity. The result showed that when subjects were asked to focus on cued item, the EEG for the cued item remained but the uncued item dropped to baseline. Despite the drop in EEG of uncued items, subjects could still recall them after few seconds.
Rose and his colleagues decided to turn to transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a noninvasive, magnetic method used to stimulate small regions of the brain. They had the subjects perform the memory task again. This time Rose and his team applied the pulse as soon as the signature of the uncued item has faded. A spike showed up to the appropriate neural activity that should've been 'forgotten'.
The study does not show how much of this latent state in the memory holds nor how it has held that much.
Bradley Postle, a cognitive neuroscientist and study co-author said, "It's a primitive early step in understanding how we bring things into mind."
This study should be able to lead through practical applications on students can learn more efficiently or how to assist people with memory-related issues such as amnesia and schizophrenia.