The Chemistry of Memory


Memory is a chemical process in the brain used to store different thoughts, ideas, and occurrences of the past. I chose to find the chemistry of memory because my memories are very important to me. If we didn’t have any memories whatsoever, then we would all be worse off than Dory in Finding Nemo!

Composition of ...

  • Nerve Cells (Neurons) -“Brain cells”.
  • Neurotransmitters (Calcium, sodium, potassium, chloride, etc…)
  • Glial Cells (Neuroglia) -provide a variety of minor functions for the neurons.
  • “Ca2+ responsive kinase” (CaMKII) - a specific enzyme.

Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components


Neurons, commonly called nerve cells or “brain cells”, are found throughout the brain along with nearly 100 billion others! They send signals across the brain and body (mainly muscles), telling them what to do. These cells are constantly at work in our bodies, but eventually they die and are never replaced.


Neurotransmitters, also located in the brain, are different sorts of chemical communicators. They keep one’s body in full orbit from a person’s mood to the beating of their heart. The level of a neurotransmitter’s effects can be tugged at by poor dietary consumption, alcohol use, and even stress!

Chemistry's Role

Neurons are nerve cells, or “brain cells” found in the brain. They send electro-chemical signals throughout the nervous system and brain. Producing a specific voltage, neurons create brain waves, connecting to other neurons to form neural nets. In the gap between the cells, or the synaptic cleft; neurotransmitters are transferred from cell to cell, opening up pathways/ “channels”. This allows charged particles, like calcium, to be received throughout the neural net.

The increase in the synaptic communication, or Long Term Potentiation ( LTP), is the process credited for allowing our brain to learn and acquire memories. Once the enzyme (CaMKII) is activated (by the calcium) it triggers a memory switch, causing it to stay active, even when the calcium is no longer present. The switch allows the enzyme to operate on its own at a constant rate, providing non-stop activity for the brain. Different sorts of neurotransmitters are responsible for the storing and revisiting of memories, along with a wide range of other assorted actions. Nerve cells and neurotransmitters use a chemical signal to resignate throughout the body, telling it what to do, even storing memories!

Background Research

    • Neurogenesis is the conception of neuron cells at birth.
    • The brain, primarily made up of fat, is coated with a fatty layer, conducting the neurotransmitters.
    • The proteins we consume break down into amino acids, creating the brain’s ability to focus.
    • The majority of the chemicals in our brains are passed down from parents to offspring.
    • For instance, if one’s parents have atrocious memory, then their kids have a good chance of also having inconsistent memory!


The processes of memory

What is memory?

Neuron basics

Where are they formed?

What do they do?

What is a Neuron?

Are primarily working with the body’s muscles and brain activity.

Nearly 100 billion

What are neurotransmitters?

Types of neurotransmitters

Transmission of neurotransmitters

Electro-chemical signals

Synaptic clefts

Neural nets

Long Term Potentiation

Calcium activates “Ca2+ responsive kinase” (CaMKII)

Molecular memory switch

Majority of Background information found here.


About the Author

Heather Rachel Nelstead is a junior at Billings Senior High School. She loves to play and watch baseball(go Cardinals!), loves to go skiing, painting, drawing, eating, and performing on stage. Heather has moved a lot and likes to keep in touch with friends that she’s made ranging back to kindergarten. She is considering attending either Montana State University or Lee University (in Tennessee) to study sociology and possibly secondary education.