What is a General Memory?

I argue elsewhere that general memory plays a central role in not only the human mind, but the brain as well. Thus a definition would be beneficial.

In my view a general memory is, from a first person subjective view, a range of similar experience. For example, consider the memory “apple.” This is an object commonly experienced by people. “Apple” is known to be comprised of a range of color/size/shape combinations, tactile feelings (on hand, teeth, and mouth), tastes, thoughts (fruit, snack, grows on trees), intentions (grasp, take a bite) etc. The “apple” memory is a range of similar past experience (of apples).

The basic sequence of general memory formation, I argue, is: experience → mind → episodic memory → matching general memory. A similar set of experience, via the mind, form and shape general memory. The experience needs to be common and powerful enough to create such a memory.

The neural correlate of a general memory is proposed to be a functional neural network (FNN) range. FNN ranges and general memories are one and the same thing, seen from two different viewpoints. A general memory (first person subjective view) = a FNN range (third person objective, or neural, view).

I also argue a person’s state of mind, during routine tasks and activities = (mostly) a set of active general memories. Or, from a neural perspective, sparse code FNN activity (a given brain signal through time) = (mostly) the activity of a set of FNN ranges.

Consider general memory during the task of reaching out and grasping one’s phone. The memories “my arm,” “reach,” “my hand,” “grasp,” and “phone” would all have to activate. Otherwise the reach and grasp will not be directed in the intended way. Other memory activation might include “my phone,” “my fingers and their movements,” “letters,” “the internet,” and “my favorites.” Each of these are general memories, which have specific — and definable — perceptual, cognitive, and emotional content.

The memory “phone” for example represents a range of phone-like objects, capabilities, how one typically feels when using one, etc.. “Phone” is comprised of a range of past phone-associated experience. Any new phone experience will be categorized as “phone” if it matches this range sufficiently.

The concept of a general memory is not only simple but common knowledge. However the content and function of a general memory (a set of connected, weighted, excitatory/inhibitory components and associations) is quite complex. The good new is this complexity can in fact be understood, and even defined. The contents of experience, and memory, are in many ways a open book. And — more good news — understanding general memory allows a greatly improved understanding of both mind and brain.

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