Whereas with visual encoding the amygdala of the brain does much of the encoding without a lot of conscious thought going into the process, semantic encoding, memory storage and retrieval often require conscious thought. We have to create the memories.
The area of the brain involved in semantic encoding is the left inferior prefrontal cortex, areas that are sometimes referred to by the numbers 45, 46 and 47. This also seems to be the portion of the brain where semantic memories are stored. MRIs show increased activity in the area when the new memories are being encoded and also show activity when the memories are being retrieved, although there is less activity during the retrieval than during the encoding phase.
Memory Storage Processes
Scientists agree that memory storage and retrieval cannot occur without the encoding process. They don’t always agree on the storage process specifically. There are a number of memory models, but most make use of the concepts of short and long-term memory.
If you see a word right now, you should be able to recall it in 20-30 seconds. After that, you may have difficulty retrieving the word, unless it has been transferred to long-term storage, which may require an additional encoding process.
Studies concerning memory storage and retrieval indicate that the three encoding processes may go on nearly simultaneously and that a person can make a conscious effort to use all three types of encoding when attempting to memorize or learn.
You see a word (visual). You understand what it means (semantic). You say it aloud (auditory).
As already discussed, different parts of the brain are involved in each of the three encoding processes. There may be some overlap, which is why more than one type of encoding may go on simultaneously.
The memories also seem to be stored in different parts of the brain. For example, the semantic memories seem to be stored in areas 45, 46 and 47.
Research has shown that when a person makes an effort to use visual, semantic and auditory processes, it is easier for them to recall the information later. It is believed that the same information is stored in various parts of the brain, based on how it was encoded or based on the senses used. It is easier to retrieve the information, because multiple copies of it exist. In addition, multiple associations have been tied to the specific memory which strengthen the associative links to it.
Of course, that’s just one theory about encoding, memory storage and retrieval. While this explanation has been