The Connection between Language and Memory

by Eddie P.

My wife loves to finish my sentences. I swear I can’t even get a whole sentence out without her trying to fill in the blank. Our conversations go like this …

  • Me: “Hey babe, guess what happen to me today!?”
  • Her: “I don’t know, what happen”
  • Me: “So I was on my way to the store and…”
  • Her: “You got pulled over!”
  • Me: “No… I was driving and…”
  • Her: “You got in a car crash!”
  • Me: “NO!, Let me finish!”

This almost always ends with me frustrated and I end up not telling my story. I’m sure this isn’t a women thing because I tend to find myself doing this while I’m talking to other people as well. The only difference is I’m usually on the right track when I finish people’s sentences unlike my wife. Don’t tell her that though…

This “filling in the blank” phenomenon scientists now know is linked to our hippocampus in our brain, which is the brain’s relay station for memories. Researchers from the University of Berkley conducted a new experiment that confirmed this link between language and memory via the hippocampus. You can read more about it in this article from Science Daily.

The hippocampus acts like a router to link related memories. Let’s take an orange for example. The color, shape, texture, taste of an orange let us know that it’s an orange. These are all different associations our brain remembers to help us understand that it is in fact an orange.

The brain does the same thing with language. The hippocampus role is to relate incoming words from the stored sematic knowledge to understand and generate sentence meaning.

What’s interesting is researchers reported patients with hippocampal damage displayed symptoms with problems relating word meanings to each other, which would now support this new finding that memory is linked to language learning.

This is a significant finding that is going to help us understand how we speak and understand language. It’s going to bring about a whole new area of studying language and the brain’s involvement in understanding language. This could also be the reason why my wife is way off when it comes to filling in the blank. Her hippocampus might be slightly damaged. Again… Don’t tell her I said that.

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