The Well of Memories

We’ve all heard of people in NDE experiences (what I call Temporary Death Experiences, because they DID technically die, not just were “near death”) where they went to the light, and saw a lost loved one who know looked like they were in their 30s, almost glowing, looking better than they did before. This has raised a question with me that I think deserves, no, demands, more inquiry. Where are memories stored ?

We know that there was a man with severe epilepsy who was having so many grand mal seizures a day, it was definitely life threatening, and so, the surgeon took a bold move by ablation (burning out) of bilateral medial temporal lobectomy to surgically remove the anterior two thirds of his hippocampi, parahippocampal cortices, entorhinal cortices, piriform cortices, and amygdalae, in an attempt to reduce the amount of glutamine, because it had been noted higher levels of glutamine had been associated with epilepsy. ( More on this at ) Although it did help with his epilepsy, an unfortunate effect that was permanent from the surgery was his loss of the ability to form short term memories…so, although he had well preserved memories from his life before the surgery, after the surgery he was unable to form short term memories which, in the normal person, can be transferred into long term memories.

So in essence, Henry Molaison was always living  in the “now”, If he met you 10 minutes ago and you left the room and came back, you had to again introduce yourself to him. In later years, scientists found that the hippocampus is important to short term memory creation.

As memory research has improved, scientists now classify long term memories into two types, procedural and declarative. Procedural memory is involved in things like knowledge of how to ride a bicycle, knowing how to shave, to drive a car, etc. Procedural memory is also known as “implicit memory” and Declarative is known as “explicit memory”.

Procedural memories are produced by doing the series of acts over and over. You can remember when you were learning how to ride a bicycle. I know when I was young, my Father was trying to teach me to learn a bicycle and had the patience of Job because, it seemed I just not coordinate my muscles and balance well enough to do it.  Then, and I recall this event very clearly, there was an “AHA” event where suddenly, I could do it. I got on the bike and rode it perfectly.
I never did get as good as my Dad though , because he could ride the bike backward (turned around with his back facing the front tire). At any rate, once you learn how to ride a bike, you don’t have to learn again from scratch even if it has been years since you have ridden one.

This is different from declarative. From we read that
”  Declarative memory (“knowing what”) is memory of facts and events, and refers to those memories that can be consciouslyrecalled (or “declared”). It is sometimes called explicit memory, since it consists of information that is explicitly stored and retrieved, although it is more properly a subset of explicit memory. Declarative memory can be further sub-divided into episodic memory and semantic memory“.

The main difference I guess is that procedural tends to be an unconscious type of memory…whereas declarative is a conscious type.

Over the years, scientists have mapped the regions of the brain they believe are associated with different types of actions, abilities, etc., but, they have also found that the brain seems to be far more plastic than they previously thought. They’ve seen people who suffered trauma to one part of the brain that controls a certain function, that after the trauma, it is like the brain has rewired things and now, they can still perform that function, but a different part of the brain has taken over. This goes along with the so-called holonomic brain theory of Karl Pribram in association with physicist David Bohm. This theory of the brain, especially with regard to memory, is a holographic storage concept,which allows for non-local storage of memories and information. More on this at

Now, we’ve waded through all this for me to ask one question. If all memories are stored in the brain, and that, in essence, the brain is like a computer hard drive, and death is like pulling both the power cable and the data cable loose, how do these people who die, recognize dead relatives ?

In other words, if the essence of YOU, who you are, what your life has been, your memories, is stored solely within that walnut shaped bit of tissue in your skull that we call a brain, when there is zero brain activity per the EEG, how are people able to perceive events during temporary death? How are they able to form what are permanent, long term memories of exactly what happened to them when they were clinically dead? A flat EEG means that the brain has NO activity, and yet, there are cases where people have been temporarily breathing, no eeg, no sign of life, even starting to show the classic signs of lividity, and yet, they came back describing not only what was being said, what was happening in the operating room, but even in waiting rooms down the hall where their relatives were gathered together, talking.

This goes WAY beyond ” non-local” holographic storage in the holonomic theory of Pribram and Bohm. It suggests that the essence of who YOU are, may not be housed solely in the brain. If it were, then people who clinically die, should describe being confused, not knowing who they were, not knowing the people they see in Heaven, nor the people they “see” in operating rooms. Of course, where does the sight come from anyway. There are no optic nerves, no occipital lobes in the spirit, and of course, this consciousness, this awareness of things when a person is technically dead, where the heck does THAT come from.

A simple view of the spirit or soul (I’ve always had difficulty knowing the difference) would be an animated , etheric or energetic form of a person, but, one would think without a brain, there would be no ability to “think”, let alone, process what they see into short term or long term memories. They would, unless you alter this simplistic theory , in essence be spiritual zombies…wandering aimlessly, without consciousness, without memories.

But, the events described by people on the series BEYOND and BACK, and on the AFTERLIFE PROJECT, and in many books, magazines, videos, movies, etc., would indicate that the higher functions we as humans are so proud of, i.e., memory, compassion, love, consciousness, are preserved in the spirit or soul even after death.

Of course, many who are skeptics will look at the testimony of those who have experienced temporary death and come back to report on it, as people who have a great imagination, people whose brain was affected by hypoxia (lack of oxygen) and thus, that they hallucinated. But, facts are stubborn things and in many cases, the nurses, surgeons, as well as family members who listened to what the patient who temporarily died reported, have to admit that somehow, what these people “saw and heard” in the spiritual body, was indeed what happened, and in the case of one woman who perfectly described what as said, what happened in the waiting room, located far away from the operating room, she was able not only to report exactly was was said, and what happened, but also, one of her relatives did something highly unusual for them, something anyone guessing about what was happening, would  not have known.

Although finally we have some scientists who are brave enough to start asking the questions about what happens after death, we are light years away from understanding exactly how things like memories are preserved in a spirit…or how consciousness is preserved in a spirit.

We’ve learned that there is something called “muscle memory” such that, if you repeat a task over and over and over, when called upon to perform that task, you don’t have to consciously think about how the action is done, it almost seems to be automatic. In martial arts, we have certain sets of actions called kuen (aka kata in karate in Japanese arts and Korean arts) which, after you practice them over and over, you develop a “muscle memory” so that, in an attack, you don’t have to consciously plan your actions, they flow spontaneously from having practiced the series of actions over and over.

For many scientists and skeptics, they would scoff at this whole line of inquiry, and that’s fine, but for those of us who are interested in the area of study involving temporary death, or “NDE” (near death experience), it does raise interesting questions about where memory and consciousness is stored in an energy body that has no brain. But, perhaps the energetic body has a sort of brain…a non-local, non physical center of memory, thinking, awareness, cognition.
Certainly, there must be some means by which they are able to recognize dead relatives when they temporarily pass to “The Other Side”.

One other aspect of memory is the “engram” (and I am not referring to the Scientology gibberish they call engrams).

 “The term engram was coined by the little-known but influential memory researcher Richard Semon.

Karl S. Lashley‘s search for the engram found that it could not exist in any specific part of the rat’s brain, but that memory was widely distributed throughout the cortex.[3] One possible explanation for Lashley’s failure to locate the engram is that many types of memory (e.g. visual-spatial, smell, etc.) are used in the processing of complex tasks, such as rats running mazes. The consensus view in neuroscience is that the sorts of memory involved in complex tasks are likely to be distributed among a variety of neural systems, yet certain types of knowledge may be processed and contained in specific regions of the brain.[4] Overall, the mechanisms of memory are poorly understood. Such brain parts as the cerebellum, striatum, cerebral cortex, hippocampus, and amygdala are thought to play an important role in memory. For example, the hippocampus is believed to be involved in spatial and declarative learning, as well as consolidating short-term into long-term memory.

In Lashley’s experiments (1929, 1950), rats were trained to run a maze. Tissue was removed from their cerebral cortices before re-introducing them to the maze, to see how their memory was affected. Increasingly, the amount of tissue removed degraded memory, but more remarkably, where the tissue was removed from made no difference.[4]

Later, Richard F. Thompson sought the engram in the cerebellum, rather than the cerebral cortex. He used classical conditioning of the eyelid response in rabbits in search of the engram. He puffed air upon the cornea of the eye and paired it with a tone. (This puff normally causes an automatic blinking response. After a number of experiences associating it with a tone, the rabbits became conditioned to blink when they heard the tone even without a puff.) The experiment monitored several brain regions, trying to locate the engram.

One region that Thompson’s group studied was the lateral interpositus nucleus (LIP). When it was deactivated chemically, the rabbits lost the conditioning; when re-activated, they responded again, demonstrating that the LIP is a key element of the engram for this response.[5]

This approach, targeting the cerebellum, though successful, examines only basic, automatic responses, which almost all animals possess, especially as defense mechanisms.

Studies have shown that declarative memories move between the limbic system, deep within the brain, and the outer, cortical regions. These are distinct from the mechanisms of the more primitive cerebellum, which dominates in the blinking response and receives the input of auditory information directly. It does not need to “reach out” to other brain structures for assistance in forming some memories of simple association.

So, the bottom line is that even in the area of neuropsychology and neuroanatomy, there are many things we do not fully understand about memory…its storage, retrieval, the relocation of the function in people who are sustain brain injuries or born with a partial brain, etc).

And, if we are so far from fully understanding and mapping the physical brain, we are all that more far from understanding what happens after physical death.


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