Central processing unit And Memory

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The central processing unit (CPU, occasionally central processor unit[1]) is the hardware within a computer system which carries out the instructions of a computer program by performing the basic arithmetical, logical, and input/output operations of the system. The term has been in use in the computer industry at least since the early 1960s.sony vgp-bps2 battery The form, design, and implementation of CPUs have changed over the course of their history, but their fundamental operation remains much the same.

On large machines, CPUs require one or more printed circuit boards. On personal computers and small workstations, the CPU is housed in a single silicon chip called a microprocessor. Since the 1970s the microprocessor class of CPUs has almost completely overtaken all other CPU implementationssony vgp-bps3 battery. Modern CPUs are large scale integrated circuits in packages typically less than four centimeters square, with hundreds of connecting pins.

Two typical components of a CPU are the arithmetic logic unit (ALU), which performs arithmetic and logical operations, and the control unit (CU), which extracts instructions from memory and decodes and executes them, calling on the ALU when necessarysony vgp-bps4 battery.

Not all computational systems rely on a central processing unit. An array processor or vector processor has multiple parallel computing elements, with no one unit considered the "center". In the distributed computing model, problems are solved by a distributed interconnected set of processorssony vgp-bps5 battery.


Main article: History of general purpose CPUs

EDVAC, one of the first stored program computers

Computers such as the ENIAC had to be physically rewired to perform different tasks, which caused these machines to be called "fixed-program computers." Since the term "CPU" is generally defined as a device for software (computer program) execution, the earliest devices that could rightly be called CPUs came with the advent of the stored-program computersony vgp-bps7 battery.

The idea of a stored-program computer was already present in the design of J. Presper Eckert and John William Mauchly's ENIAC, but was initially omitted so that it could be finished sooner. On June 30, 1945, before ENIAC was made, mathematician John von Neumann distributed the paper entitled First Draft of a Report on the EDVACsony vgp-bpl7 battery. It was the outline of a stored-program computer that would eventually be completed in August 1949.[3] EDVAC was designed to perform a certain number of instructions (or operations) of various types. These instructions could be combined to create useful programs for the EDVAC to run. Significantly, the programs written for EDVAC were stored in high-speedsony vgp-bps8 battery computer memory rather than specified by the physical wiring of the computer. This overcame a severe limitation of ENIAC, which was the considerable time and effort required to reconfigure the computer to perform a new task. With von Neumann's design, the program, or software, that EDVAC ran could be changed simply by changing the contents of the memorysony vgp-bps8a battery.

Early CPUs were custom-designed as a part of a larger, sometimes one-of-a-kind, computer. However, this method of designing custom CPUs for a particular application has largely given way to the development of mass-produced processors that are made for many purposes. This standardization began in the era of discrete transistor mainframes and minicomputers and has rapidly accelerated with the popularization of the integrated circuit (IC) sony vgp-bps8b battery. The IC has allowed increasingly complex CPUs to be designed and manufactured to tolerances on the order of nanometers. Both the miniaturization and standardization of CPUs have increased the presence of digital devices in modern life far beyond the limited application of dedicated computing machines. Modern microprocessors appear in everything from automobiles to cell phones and children's toyssony vgp-bpl8 battery.

While von Neumann is most often credited with the design of the stored-program computer because of his design of EDVAC, others before him, such as Konrad Zuse, had suggested and implemented similar ideas. The so-called Harvard architecture of the Harvard Mark I, which was completed before EDVAC, also utilized a stored-program design using punched paper tape rather than electronic memorysony vgp-bps9 battery. The key difference between the von Neumann and Harvard architectures is that the latter separates the storage and treatment of CPU instructions and data, while the former uses the same memory space for both. Most modern CPUs are primarily von Neumann in design, but elements of the Harvard architecture are commonly seen as well. sony vgp-bps9/s battery

Relays and vacuum tubes (thermionic valves) were commonly used as switching elements; a useful computer requires thousands or tens of thousands of switching devices. The overall speed of a system is dependent on the speed of the switches. Tube computers like EDVAC tended to average eight hours between failures, whereas relay computers like the sony vgp-bps9a/s battery (slower, but earlier) Harvard Mark I failed very rarely.[2] In the end, tube based CPUs became dominant because the significant speed advantages afforded generally outweighed the reliability problems. Most of these early synchronous CPUs ran at low clock rates compared to modern microelectronic designs (see below for a discussion of clock rate) sony vgp-bps9/b battery. Clock signal frequencies ranging from 100 kHz to 4 MHz were very common at this time, limited largely by the speed of the switching devices they were built with.

Transistor and integrated circuit CPUs

CPU, core memory, and external bus interface of a DEC PDP-8/I. Made of medium-scale integrated circuits

The design complexity of CPUs increased as various technologies facilitated building smaller and more reliable electronic devicessony vgp-bps9a/b battery. The first such improvement came with the advent of the transistor. Transistorized CPUs during the 1950s and 1960s no longer had to be built out of bulky, unreliable, and fragile switching elements like vacuum tubes and electrical relays. With this improvement more complex and reliable CPUs were built onto one or several printed circuit boards containing discrete (individual) componentssony vgp-bps9a battery.

During this period, a method of manufacturing many interconnected transistors in a compact space was developed. The integrated circuit (IC) allowed a large number of transistors to be manufactured on a single semiconductor-based die, or "chip." At first only very basic non-specialized digital circuits such as NOR gates were miniaturized into ICssony vgp-bps9b battery. CPUs based upon these "building block" ICs are generally referred to as "small-scale integration" (SSI) devices. SSI ICs, such as the ones used in the Apollo guidance computer, usually contained up to a few score transistors. To build an entire CPU out of SSI ICs required thousands of individual chips, but still consumed much less space and power than earlier discrete transistor designssony vgp-bpl9c battery. As microelectronic technology advanced, an increasing number of transistors were placed on ICs, thus decreasing the quantity of individual ICs needed for a complete CPU. MSI and LSI (medium- and large-scale integration) ICs increased transistor counts to hundreds, and then thousands.

In 1964 IBM introduced its System/360 computer architecture which was used in a series of computers that could run the same programs with different speed and performancesony vgp-bpl9 battery. This was significant at a time when most electronic computers were incompatible with one another, even those made by the same manufacturer. To facilitate this improvement, IBM utilized the concept of a microprogram (often called "microcode"), which still sees widespread usage in modern CPUs.[4] The System/360 architecture was so popular thatsony vgp-bps10 battery it dominated the mainframe computer market for decades and left a legacy that is still continued by similar modern computers like the IBM zSeries. In the same year (1964), Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) introduced another influential computer aimed at the scientific and research markets, the PDP-8. DEC would later introduce the extremely popular PDP-11 line that originally was built with SSI ICs but was eventually implemented Sony VGP-BPS12 Batterywith LSI components once these became practical. In stark contrast with its SSI and MSI predecessors, the first LSI implementation of the PDP-11 contained a CPU composed of only four LSI integrated circuits.

Transistor-based computers had several distinct advantages over their predecessors. Aside from facilitating increased reliability and lower power consumption, transistors also allowed CPUs to operate at much higher speeds because of the short switching time of a transistor in comparison to a tube or relaySony VGP-BPL12 Battery. Thanks to both the increased reliability as well as the dramatically increased speed of the switching elements (which were almost exclusively transistors by this time), CPU clock rates in the tens of megahertz were obtained during this period. Additionally while discrete transistor and IC CPUs were in heavy usage, new high-performance designs like SIMD (Single Instruction Multiple Data) vector processors began to appearSony VGP-BPS13 Battery. These early experimental designs later gave rise to the era of specialized supercomputers like those made by Cray Inc.


Main article: Microprocessor

Die of an Intel 80486DX2 microprocessor (actual size: 12×6.75 mm) in its packaging

Intel Core i5 CPU on a Vaio E series laptop motherboard (on the right, beneath the heat pipe).

In the 1970s the fundamental inventions by Federico Faggin (Silicon Gate MOS ICs with self aligned gates along with his new random logic design methodology) Sony VGP-BPS13B/Q batterychanged the design and implementation of CPUs forever. Since the introduction of the first commercially available microprocessor (the Intel 4004) in 1970, and the first widely used microprocessor (the Intel 8080) in 1974, this class of CPUs has almost completely overtaken all other central processing unit implementation methodsSony VGP-BPS13/Q battery. Mainframe and minicomputer manufacturers of the time launched proprietary IC development programs to upgrade their older computer architectures, and eventually produced instruction set compatible microprocessors that were backward-compatible with their older hardware and software. Combined with the advent and eventual success of the ubiquitous personal computer, the term CPU is now applied almost exclusivelySony VGP-BPS13A/B battery to microprocessors. Several CPUs can be combined in a single processing chip.

Previous generations of CPUs were implemented as discrete components and numerous small integrated circuits (ICs) on one or more circuit boards. Microprocessors, on the other hand, are CPUs manufactured on a very small number of ICs; usually just one. The overall smaller CPU size as a result of being implemented on a single die means faster switching time because of physical factors like decreased gate parasitic capacitanceSony VGP-BPS13/S battery. This has allowed synchronous microprocessors to have clock rates ranging from tens of megahertz to several gigahertz. Additionally, as the ability to construct exceedingly small transistors on an IC has increased, the complexity and number of transistors in a single CPU has increased many fold. This widely observed trend is described by Moore's law, which has proven to be a fairly accurate predictor of the growth of CPU (and other IC) complexity. Sony VGP-BPS13/B battery

While the complexity, size, construction, and general form of CPUs have changed enormously since 1950, it is notable that the basic design and function has not changed much at all. Almost all common CPUs today can be very accurately[according to whom?] described as von Neumann stored-program machines. As the aforementioned Moore's law continues to hold trueSony VGP-BPS13B/S battery [according to whom?], concerns have arisen about the limits of integrated circuit transistor technology. Extreme miniaturization of electronic gates is causing the effects of phenomena like electromigration and subthreshold leakage to become much more significant. These newer concerns are among the many factors causing researchers to investigate new methods of computing such as the quantum computerSony VGP-BPS13A battery, as well as to expand the usage of parallelism and other methods that extend the usefulness of the classical von Neumann model.


The fundamental operation of most CPUs, regardless of the physical form they take, is to execute a sequence of stored instructions called a program. The program is represented by a series of numbers that are kept in some kind of computer memory. There are four steps that nearly all CPUs use in their operation: fetch, decode, execute, and writebackSony VGP-BPS13A/S battery.

The first step, fetch, involves retrieving an instruction (which is represented by a number or sequence of numbers) from program memory. The location in program memory is determined by a program counter (PC), which stores a number that identifies the current position in the program. After an instruction is fetchedSony VGP-BPS13AS battery, the PC is incremented by the length of the instruction word in terms of memory units.[7] Often, the instruction to be fetched must be retrieved from relatively slow memory, causing the CPU to stall while waiting for the instruction to be returned. This issue is largely addressed in modern processors by caches and pipeline architectures (see below) Sony VGP-BPS13S battery.

The instruction that the CPU fetches from memory is used to determine what the CPU is to do. In the decode step, the instruction is broken up into parts that have significance to other portions of the CPU. The way in which the numerical instruction value is interpreted is defined by the CPU's instruction set architecture (ISA).[8] Often, one group of numbers in the instructionSony VGP-BPS13A/Q battery, called the opcode, indicates which operation to perform. The remaining parts of the number usually provide information required for that instruction, such as operands for an addition operation. Such operands may be given as a constant value (called an immediate value), or as a place to locate a value: a register or a memory address, as determined by some addressing modeSony VGP-BPS13A/R battery. In older designs the portions of the CPU responsible for instruction decoding were unchangeable hardware devices. However, in more abstract and complicated CPUs and ISAs, a microprogram is often used to assist in translating instructions into various configuration signals for the CPU. This microprogram is sometimes rewritable so that it can be modified to change the way the CPU decodes instructions even after it has been manufacturedSony VGP-BPS13B battery.

After the fetch and decode steps, the execute step is performed. During this step, various portions of the CPU are connected so they can perform the desired operation. If, for instance, an addition operation was requested, the arithmetic logic unit (ALU) will be connected to a set of inputs and a set of outputs. The inputs provide the numbers to be addedSony VGP-BPS13B/B battery, and the outputs will contain the final sum. The ALU contains the circuitry to perform simple arithmetic and logical operations on the inputs (like addition and bitwise operations). If the addition operation produces a result too large for the CPU to handle, an arithmetic overflow flag in a flags register may also be setSony VGP-BPL21 battery.

The final step, writeback, simply "writes back" the results of the execute step to some form of memory. Very often the results are written to some internal CPU register for quick access by subsequent instructions. In other cases results may be written to slower, but cheaper and larger, main memory. Some types of instructions manipulate the program counter rather than directly produce result dataSony VGP-BPS21 battery. These are generally called "jumps" and facilitate behavior like loops, conditional program execution (through the use of a conditional jump), and functions in programs.[9] Many instructions will also change the state of digits in a "flags" register. These flags can be used to influence how a program behaves, since they often indicate the outcome of various operations. For exampleSony VGP-BPS21A battery, one type of "compare" instruction considers two values and sets a number in the flags register according to which one is greater. This flag could then be used by a later jump instruction to determine program flow.

After the execution of the instruction and writeback of the resulting data, the entire process repeats, with the next instruction cycle normally fetching the next-in-sequence instruction because of the incremented value in the program counterSony VGP-BPS21B battery. If the completed instruction was a jump, the program counter will be modified to contain the address of the instruction that was jumped to, and program execution continues normally. In more complex CPUs than the one described here, multiple instructions can be fetched, decoded, and executed simultaneouslySony VGP-BPS26 Battery. This section describes what is generally referred to as the "classic RISC pipeline", which in fact is quite common among the simple CPUs used in many electronic devices (often called microcontroller). It largely ignores the important role of CPU cache, and therefore the access stage of the pipeline.

Design and implementation

Main article: CPU design

The basic concept of a CPU is as follows:

Hardwired into a CPU's design is a list of basic operations it can perform, called an instruction set. Such operations may include adding or subtracting two numbersSony VGP-BPS26A Battery, comparing numbers, or jumping to a different part of a program. Each of these basic operations is represented by a particular sequence of bits; this sequence is called the opcode for that particular operation. Sending a particular opcode to a CPU will cause it to perform the operation represented by that opcode. To execute an instruction in a computer programSony VGP-BPS13 battery(without CD), the CPU uses the opcode for that instruction as well as its arguments (for instance the two numbers to be added, in the case of an addition operation). A computer program is therefore a sequence of instructions, with each instruction including an opcode and that operation's arguments.

The actual mathematical operation for each instruction is performed by a subunit of the CPU known as the arithmetic logic unit or ALUSony VGP-BPS13B/Q battery(without CD). In addition to using its ALU to perform operations, a CPU is also responsible for reading the next instruction from memory, reading data specified in arguments from memory, and writing results to memory.

In many CPU designs, an instruction set will clearly differentiate between operations that load data from memory, and those that perform math. In this case the data loaded from memory is stored in registersSony VGP-BPS13/Q battery(without CD), and a mathematical operation takes no arguments but simply performs the math on the data in the registers and writes it to a new register, whose value a separate operation may then write to memory.

Control unit

Main article: Control unit

The control unit of the CPU contains circuitry that uses electrical signals to direct the entire computer system to carry out stored program instructions. The control unit does not execute program instructionsSony VGP-BPS13A/B battery(without CD); rather, it directs other parts of the system to do so. The control unit must communicate with both the arithmetic/logic unit and memory.

[edit]Integer range

The way a CPU represents numbers is a design choice that affects the most basic ways in which the device functions. Some early digital computers used an electrical model of the common decimal (base ten) numeral system to represent numbers internally. A few other computers have used more exotic numeral systems like ternary (base three) Sony VGP-BPS13/S battery(without CD). Nearly all modern CPUs represent numbers in binary form, with each digit being represented by some two-valued physical quantity such as a "high" or "low" voltage.

MOS 6502 microprocessor in a dual in-line package, an extremely popular 8-bit design

Related to number representation is the size and precision of numbers that a CPU can represent. In the case of a binary CPUSony VGP-BPS13/B battery(without CD), a bit refers to one significant place in the numbers a CPU deals with. The number of bits (or numeral places) a CPU uses to represent numbers is often called "word size", "bit width", "data path width", or "integer precision" when dealing with strictly integer numbers (as opposed to floating point). This number differs between architectures, and often within different parts of the very same CPUSony VGP-BPS13B/S battery(without CD). For example, an 8-bit CPU deals with a range of numbers that can be represented by eight binary digits (each digit having two possible values), that is, 28 or 256 discrete numbers. In effect, integer size sets a hardware limit on the range of integers the software run by the CPU can utilize.

Integer range can also affect the number of locations in memory the CPU can address (locate). For example, if a binary CPU uses 32 bits to represent a memory addressSony VGP-BPS13A battery(without CD), and each memory address represents one octet (8 bits), the maximum quantity of memory that CPU can address is 232 octets, or 4 GiB. This is a very simple view of CPU address space, and many designs use more complex addressing methods like paging to locate more memory than their integer range would allow with a flat address spaceSony VGP-BPS13A/S battery(without CD).

Higher levels of integer range require more structures to deal with the additional digits, and therefore more complexity, size, power usage, and general expense. It is not at all uncommon, therefore, to see 4- or 8-bit microcontrollers used in modern applications, even though CPUs with much higher range (such as 16, 32, 64, even 128-bit) are availableSony VGP-BPS13AS battery(without CD). The simpler microcontrollers are usually cheaper, use less power, and therefore generate less heat, all of which can be major design considerations for electronic devices. However, in higher-end applications, the benefits afforded by the extra range (most often the additional address space) are more significant and often affect design choices. To gain some of the advantages afforded by both lower and higher bit lengthsSony VGP-BPS13S battery(without CD), many CPUs are designed with different bit widths for different portions of the device. For example, the IBM System/370 used a CPU that was primarily 32 bit, but it used 128-bit precision inside its floating point units to facilitate greater accuracy and range in floating point numbers.[4] Many later CPU designs use similar mixed bit width, especially when the processor is meant for general-purpose usage where a reasonable balance of integer and floating point capability is requiredSony VGP-BPS13A/Q battery(without CD).

Clock rate

Main article: Clock rate

The clock rate is the speed at which a microprocessor executes instructions. Every computer contains an internal clock that regulates the rate at which instructions are executed and synchronizes all the various computer components. The CPU requires a fixed number of clock ticks (or clock cycles) to execute each instructionSony VGP-BPS13A/R battery(without CD). The faster the clock, the more instructions the CPU can execute per second.

Most CPUs, and indeed most sequential logic devices, are synchronous in nature.[12] That is, they are designed and operate on assumptions about a synchronization signal. This signal, known as a clock signal, usually takes the form of a periodic square wave. By calculating the maximum time that electrical signals can move in various branches of a CPU's many circuitsSony VGP-BPS13AB battery(without CD), the designers can select an appropriate period for the clock signal.

This period must be longer than the amount of time it takes for a signal to move, or propagate, in the worst-case scenario. In setting the clock period to a value well above the worst-case propagation delay, it is possible to design the entire CPU and the way it moves data around the "edges" of the rising and falling clock signalSony VGP-BPS13B battery(without CD). This has the advantage of simplifying the CPU significantly, both from a design perspective and a component-count perspective. However, it also carries the disadvantage that the entire CPU must wait on its slowest elements, even though some portions of it are much faster. This limitation has largely been compensated for by various methods of increasing CPU parallelism. (see below) Sony VGP-BPS13B/B battery(without CD)

However, architectural improvements alone do not solve all of the drawbacks of globally synchronous CPUs. For example, a clock signal is subject to the delays of any other electrical signal. Higher clock rates in increasingly complex CPUs make it more difficult to keep the clock signal in phase (synchronized) throughout the entire unitSony VGP-BPL21 battery(without CD). This has led many modern CPUs to require multiple identical clock signals to be provided to avoid delaying a single signal significantly enough to cause the CPU to malfunction. Another major issue as clock rates increase dramatically is the amount of heat that is dissipated by the CPU. The constantly changing clock causes many components to switch regardless of whether they are being used at that timeSony VGP-BPS21 battery(without CD). In general, a component that is switching uses more energy than an element in a static state. Therefore, as clock rate increases, so does heat dissipation, causing the CPU to require more effective cooling solutions.

One method of dealing with the switching of unneeded components is called clock gating, which involves turning off the clock signal to unneeded components Sony VGP-BPS21A battery(without CD) (effectively disabling them). However, this is often regarded as difficult to implement and therefore does not see common usage outside of very low-power designs. One notable late CPU design that uses clock gating is that of the IBM PowerPC-based Xbox 360. It utilizes extensive clock gating to reduce the power requirements of the aforementioned videogame console in which it is used. Sony VGP-BPS21B battery(without CD)Another method of addressing some of the problems with a global clock signal is the removal of the clock signal altogether. While removing the global clock signal makes the design process considerably more complex in many ways, asynchronous (or clockless) designs carry marked advantages in power consumption and heat dissipation in comparison with similar synchronous designsSony VGP-BPS14/B Battery. While somewhat uncommon, entire asynchronous CPUs have been built without utilizing a global clock signal. Two notable examples of this are the ARM compliant AMULET and the MIPS R3000 compatible MiniMIPS. Rather than totally removing the clock signal, some CPU designs allow certain portions of the device to be asynchronous, such as using asynchronous ALUs in conjunction with superscalar pipelining to achieve some arithmetic performance gainsSony VGP-BPS14B Battery. While it is not altogether clear whether totally asynchronous designs can perform at a comparable or better level than their synchronous counterparts, it is evident that they do at least excel in simpler math operations. This, combined with their excellent power consumption and heat dissipation properties, makes them very suitable for embedded computers. Sony VGP-BPS14/S Battery


The description of the basic operation of a CPU offered in the previous section describes the simplest form that a CPU can take. This type of CPU, usually referred to as subscalar, operates on and executes one instruction on one or two pieces of data at a time.

This process gives rise to an inherent inefficiency in subscalar CPUs. Since only one instruction is executed at a timeSony VGP-BPL14/B Battery, the entire CPU must wait for that instruction to complete before proceeding to the next instruction. As a result, the subscalar CPU gets "hung up" on instructions which take more than one clock cycle to complete execution. Even adding a second execution unit (see below) does not improve performance much; rather than one pathway being hung upSony VGP-BPL14 Battery, now two pathways are hung up and the number of unused transistors is increased. This design, wherein the CPU's execution resources can operate on only one instruction at a time, can only possibly reach scalar performance (one instruction per clock). However, the performance is nearly always subscalar (less than one instruction per cycle) Sony VGP-BPL14B Battery.

Attempts to achieve scalar and better performance have resulted in a variety of design methodologies that cause the CPU to behave less linearly and more in parallel. When referring to parallelism in CPUs, two terms are generally used to classify these design techniques. Instruction level parallelism (ILP) seeks to increase the rate at which instructions are executed within a CPU (that is, to increase the utilization of on-die execution resources) Sony VGP-BPL14/S Battery, and thread level parallelism (TLP) purposes to increase the number of threads (effectively individual programs) that a CPU can execute simultaneously. Each methodology differs both in the ways in which they are implemented, as well as the relative effectiveness they afford in increasing the CPU's performance for an application.Sony VGP-BPS14 Battery

[edit]Instruction level parallelism

One of the simplest methods used to accomplish increased parallelism is to begin the first steps of instruction fetching and decoding before the prior instruction finishes executing. This is the simplest form of a technique known as instruction pipelining, and is utilized in almost all modern general-purpose CPUsSony VGP-BPL15/B Battery. Pipelining allows more than one instruction to be executed at any given time by breaking down the execution pathway into discrete stages. This separation can be compared to an assembly line, in which an instruction is made more complete at each stage until it exits the execution pipeline and is retired.

Pipelining does, however, introduce the possibility for a situation where the result of the previous operation is needed to complete the next operationSony VGP-BPS15/B Battery; a condition often termed data dependency conflict. To cope with this, additional care must be taken to check for these sorts of conditions and delay a portion of the instruction pipeline if this occurs. Naturally, accomplishing this requires additional circuitry, so pipelined processors are more complex than subscalar ones (though not very significantly so) Sony VGP-BPL15/S Battery. A pipelined processor can become very nearly scalar, inhibited only by pipeline stalls (an instruction spending more than one clock cycle in a stage).

Further improvement upon the idea of instruction pipelining led to the development of a method that decreases the idle time of CPU components even further. Designs that are said to be superscalar include a long instruction pipeline and multiple identical execution units. Sony VGP-BPS15/S Battery In a superscalar pipeline, multiple instructions are read and passed to a dispatcher, which decides whether or not the instructions can be executed in parallel (simultaneously). If so they are dispatched to available execution units, resulting in the ability for several instructions to be executed simultaneously. In general, the more instructions a superscalar CPU is able to dispatch simultaneously to waiting execution units, the more instructions will be completed in a given cycleSony VGP-BPS15 Battery.

Most of the difficulty in the design of a superscalar CPU architecture lies in creating an effective dispatcher. The dispatcher needs to be able to quickly and correctly determine whether instructions can be executed in parallel, as well as dispatch them in such a way as to keep as many execution units busy as possibleSony VGP-BPS18 battery. This requires that the instruction pipeline is filled as often as possible and gives rise to the need in superscalar architectures for significant amounts of CPU cache. It also makes hazard-avoiding techniques like branch prediction, speculative execution, and out-of-order execution crucial to maintaining high levels of performance. By attempting to predict which branch (or path) Sony VGP-BPS22 Batterya conditional instruction will take, the CPU can minimize the number of times that the entire pipeline must wait until a conditional instruction is completed. Speculative execution often provides modest performance increases by executing portions of code that may not be needed after a conditional operation completes. Out-of-order execution somewhat rearranges the order in which instructions are executed to reduce delays due to data dependenciesSony VPCCA1C5E Battery. Also in case of Single Instructions Multiple Data — a case when a lot of data from the same type has to be processed, modern processors can disable parts of the pipeline so that when a single instruction is executed many times, the CPU skips the fetch and decode phases and thus greatly increases performance on certain occasions, especially in highly monotonous program engines such as video creation software and photo processingSony VPCCA1S1E Battery.

In the case where a portion of the CPU is superscalar and part is not, the part which is not suffers a performance penalty due to scheduling stalls. The Intel P5 Pentium had two superscalar ALUs which could accept one instruction per clock each, but its FPU could not accept one instruction per clock. Thus the P5 was integer superscalar but not floating point superscalarSony VPCCA1S1E/B Battery. Intel's successor to the P5 architecture, P6, added superscalar capabilities to its floating point features, and therefore afforded a significant increase in floating point instruction performance.

Both simple pipelining and superscalar design increase a CPU's ILP by allowing a single processor to complete execution of instructions at rates surpassing one instruction per cycle (IPC).[17] Most modern CPU designs are at least somewhat superscalarSony VPCCA1S1E/D Battery, and nearly all general purpose CPUs designed in the last decade are superscalar. In later years some of the emphasis in designing high-ILP computers has been moved out of the CPU's hardware and into its software interface, or ISA. The strategy of the very long instruction word (VLIW) causes some ILP to become implied directly by the software, reducing the amount of work the CPU must perform to boost ILP and thereby reducing the design's complexitySony VPCCA1S1E/G Battery.

[edit]Thread-level parallelism

Another strategy of achieving performance is to execute multiple programs or threads in parallel. This area of research is known as parallel computing. In Flynn's taxonomy, this strategy is known as Multiple Instructions-Multiple Data or MIMD.

One technology used for this purpose was multiprocessing (MP). The initial flavor of this technology is known as symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) Sony VPCCA1S1E/P Battery, where a small number of CPUs share a coherent view of their memory system. In this scheme, each CPU has additional hardware to maintain a constantly up-to-date view of memory. By avoiding stale views of memory, the CPUs can cooperate on the same program and programs can migrate from one CPU to another. To increase the number of cooperating CPUs beyond a handfulSony VPCCA1S1E/W Battery, schemes such as non-uniform memory access (NUMA) and directory-based coherence protocols were introduced in the 1990s. SMP systems are limited to a small number of CPUs while NUMA systems have been built with thousands of processors. Initially, multiprocessing was built using multiple discrete CPUs and boards to implement the interconnect between the processorsSony VPCCA2AJ Battery. When the processors and their interconnect are all implemented on a single silicon chip, the technology is known as a multi-core microprocessor.

It was later recognized that finer-grain parallelism existed with a single program. A single program might have several threads (or functions) that could be executed separately or in parallel. Some of the earliest examples of this technology implemented input/output processing such as direct memory access as a separate thread from the computation threadSony VPCCA2S0E Battery. A more general approach to this technology was introduced in the 1970s when systems were designed to run multiple computation threads in parallel. This technology is known as multi-threading (MT). This approach is considered more cost-effective than multiprocessing, as only a small number of components within a CPU is replicated to support MT as opposed to the entire CPU in the case of MPSony VPCCA2S1E Battery. In MT, the execution units and the memory system including the caches are shared among multiple threads. The downside of MT is that the hardware support for multithreading is more visible to software than that of MP and thus supervisor software like operating systems have to undergo larger changes to support MT. One type of MT that was implemented is known as block multithreadingSony VPCCB3M1E Battery, where one thread is executed until it is stalled waiting for data to return from external memory. In this scheme, the CPU would then quickly switch to another thread which is ready to run, the switch often done in one CPU clock cycle, such as the UltraSPARC Technology. Another type of MT is known as simultaneous multithreading, where instructions of multiple threads are executed in parallel within one CPU clock cycleSony VPCCB3P1E Battery.

For several decades from the 1970s to early 2000s, the focus in designing high performance general purpose CPUs was largely on achieving high ILP through technologies such as pipelining, caches, superscalar execution, out-of-order execution, etc. This trend culminated in large, power-hungry CPUs such as the Intel Pentium 4. By the early 2000sSony VPCCB3S1E Battery, CPU designers were thwarted from achieving higher performance from ILP techniques due to the growing disparity between CPU operating frequencies and main memory operating frequencies as well as escalating CPU power dissipation owing to more esoteric ILP techniques.

CPU designers then borrowed ideas from commercial computing markets such as transaction processing, where the aggregate performance of multiple programsSony VPCCB4X1E Battery, also known as throughput computing, was more important than the performance of a single thread or program.

This reversal of emphasis is evidenced by the proliferation of dual and multiple core CMP (chip-level multiprocessing) designs and notably, Intel's newer designs resembling its less superscalar P6 architecture. Late designs in several processor families exhibit CMPSony VPCEG14FJ/P Battery, including the x86-64 Opteron and Athlon 64 X2, the SPARC UltraSPARC T1, IBM POWER4 and POWER5, as well as several video game console CPUs like the Xbox 360's triple-core PowerPC design, and the PS3's 7-core Cell microprocessor.

Data parallelism

Main articles: Vector processor and SIMD

A less common but increasingly important paradigm of CPUs (and indeed, computing in general) deals with data parallelism. The processors discussed earlier are all referred to as some type of scalar device.[18] As the name impliesSony VPCEG14FJ/W Battery, vector processors deal with multiple pieces of data in the context of one instruction. This contrasts with scalar processors, which deal with one piece of data for every instruction. Using Flynn's taxonomy, these two schemes of dealing with data are generally referred to as SIMD (single instruction, multiple data) and SISD (single instruction, single data), respectivelySONY VGN-FZ11E battery. The great utility in creating CPUs that deal with vectors of data lies in optimizing tasks that tend to require the same operation (for example, a sum or a dot product) to be performed on a large set of data. Some classic examples of these types of tasks are multimedia applications (images, video, and sound), as well as many types of scientific and engineering tasksSONY VGN-FZ11L battery. Whereas a scalar CPU must complete the entire process of fetching, decoding, and executing each instruction and value in a set of data, a vector CPU can perform a single operation on a comparatively large set of data with one instruction. Of course, this is only possible when the application tends to require many steps which apply one operation to a large set of dataSONY VGN-FZ11M battery.

Most early vector CPUs, such as the Cray-1, were associated almost exclusively with scientific research and cryptography applications. However, as multimedia has largely shifted to digital media, the need for some form of SIMD in general-purpose CPUs has become significant. Shortly after inclusion of floating point execution units started to become commonplace in general-purpose processorsSONY VGN-FZ11Z battery, specifications for and implementations of SIMD execution units also began to appear for general-purpose CPUs. Some of these early SIMD specifications like HP's Multimedia Acceleration eXtensions (MAX) and Intel's MMX were integer-only. This proved to be a significant impediment for some software developers, since many of the applications that benefit from SIMD primarily deal with floating point numbersSONY VGN-FZ130E/B battery. Progressively, these early designs were refined and remade into some of the common, modern SIMD specifications, which are usually associated with one ISA. Some notable modern examples are Intel's SSE and the PowerPC-related AltiVec (also known as VMX).


Main article: computer performance

The performance or speed of a processor depends on the clock rate (generally given in multiples of hertz) and the instructions per clock (IPC), which together are the factors for the instructions per second (IPS) that the CPU can perform. SONY VGN-FZ130E battery Many reported IPS values have represented "peak" execution rates on artificial instruction sequences with few branches, whereas realistic workloads consist of a mix of instructions and applications, some of which take longer to execute than others. The performance of the memory hierarchy also greatly affects processor performance, an issue barely considered in MIPS calculationsSONY VGN-FZ15 battery. Because of these problems, various standardized tests, often called "benchmarks" for this purpose—such as SPECint – have been developed to attempt to measure the real effective performance in commonly used applications.

Processing performance of computers is increased by using multi-core processors, which essentially is plugging two or more individual processors (called cores in this sense) into one integrated circuitSONY VGN-FZ150E battery. Ideally, a dual core processor would be nearly twice as powerful as a single core processor. In practice, however, the performance gain is far less, only about 50%,[21] due to imperfect software algorithms and implementation. Increasing the number of cores in a processor (i.e. dual-core, quad-core, etc.) increases the workload that a computer can handle. This means that the processor can now handle numerous asynchronous events, Interrupts, etcSONY VGN-FZ15G battery. which can take a toll on the CPU (Central Processing Unit) when overwhelmed. It is best to think of these numerous cores as different floors in a processing plant, with each floor handling a different task. Sometimes, these cores will handle the same tasks as cores adjacent to them if a single core is not enough to handle the information to prevent a crashSONY VGN-FZ15L battery.

In psychology, memory is the processes by which information is encoded, stored, and retrieved. Encoding allows information that is from the outside world to reach our senses in the forms of chemical and physical stimuli. In this first stage we must change the information so that we may put the memory into the encoding processSONY VGN-FZ15M battery. Storage is the second memory stage or process. This entails that we maintain information over periods of time. Finally the third process is retrieval. This is the retrieval of information that we have stored. We must locate it and return it to our consciousness. Some retrieval attempts may be effortless due to the type of information.

From an information processing perspective there are three main stages in the formation and retrieval of memorySONY VGN-FZ15S battery:

Encoding or registration (receiving, processing and combining of received information)

Storage (creation of a permanent record of the encoded information)

Retrieval, recall or recollection (calling back the stored information in response to some cue for use in a process or activity)

Sensory memory

Main article: Sensory memory

Sensory memory corresponds approximately to the initial 200–500 milliseconds after an item is perceived. The ability to look at an item, and remember what it looked like with just a second of observation, or memorisation, is an example of sensory memorySONY VGN-FZ15T battery. With very short presentations, participants often report that they seem to "see" more than they can actually report. The first experiments exploring this form of sensory memory were conducted by George Sperling (1963) [1] using the "partial report paradigm". Subjects were presented with a grid of 12 letters, arranged into three rows of four. After a brief presentationSONY VGN-FZ160E/B battery, subjects were then played either a high, medium or low tone, cuing them which of the rows to report. Based on these partial report experiments, Sperling was able to show that the capacity of sensory memory was approximately 12 items, but that it degraded very quickly (within a few hundred milliseconds). Because this form of memory degrades so quickly, participants would see the displaySONY VGN-FZ17 battery, but be unable to report all of the items (12 in the "whole report" procedure) before they decayed. This type of memory cannot be prolonged via rehearsal.

There are many types of sensory memories. Iconic memory is a type of sensory memory that briefly stores an image which has been perceived for a small duration. Echoic memory is another type of sensory memory that briefly stores sounds which has been perceived for a small duration.

Short-term memorySONY VGN-FZ17G battery

Main article: Short-term memory

Short-term memory allows recall for a period of several seconds to a minute without rehearsal. Its capacity is also very limited: George A. Miller (1956), when working at Bell Laboratories, conducted experiments showing that the store of short-term memory was 7±2 items (the title of his famous paper, "The magical number 7±2"). Modern estimates of the capacity of short-term memory are lowerSONY VGN-FZ17L battery, typically of the order of 4–5 items, however, memory capacity can be increased through a process called chunking. For example, in recalling a ten-digit telephone number, a person could chunk the digits into three groups: first, the area code (such as 123), then a three-digit chunk (456) and lastly a four-digit chunk (7890). This method of remembering telephone numbers is far more effective than attempting to remember a string of 10 digitsSONY VGN-FZ18 battery; this is because we are able to chunk the information into meaningful groups of numbers. This may be reflected in some countries in the tendency to display telephone numbers as several chunks of three numbers, with the final four-number group generally broken down into two groups of two.

Short-term memory is believed to rely mostly on an acoustic code for storing information, and to a lesser extent a visual codeSONY VGN-FZ180E/B battery. Conrad (1964) found that test subjects had more difficulty recalling collections of letters that were acoustically similar (e.g. E, P, D). Confusion with recalling acoustically similar letters rather than visually similar letters implies that the letters were encoded acoustically. Conrad's (1964) study however, deals with the encoding of written text, thus while memory of written language may rely on acoustic components, generalisations to all forms of memory cannot be madeSONY VGN-FZ180E battery.

Long-term memory

Olin Levi Warner, Memory (1896). Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C.

Main article: Long-term memory

The storage in sensory memory and short-term memory generally have a strictly limited capacity and duration, which means that information is not retained indefinitely. By contrast, long-term memory can store much larger quantities of information for potentially unlimited duration (sometimes a whole life span) SONY VGN-FZ18E battery. Its capacity is immeasurably large. For example, given a random seven-digit number we may remember it for only a few seconds before forgetting, suggesting it was stored in our short-term memory. On the other hand, we can remember telephone numbers for many years through repetition; this information is said to be stored in long-term memorySONY VGN-FZ18G battery.

While short-term memory encodes information acoustically, long-term memory encodes it semantically: Baddeley (1966) discovered that after 20 minutes, test subjects had the most difficulty recalling a collection of words that had similar meanings (e.g. big, large, great, huge) long-term. Another part of long-term memory is episodic memory "which attempts to capture information such as “what”, “when” and “where” SONY VGN-FZ18M battery. With episodic memory individuals are able to recall specific events such as birthday

parties and weddings.

Short-term memory is supported by transient patterns of neuronal communication, dependent on regions of the frontal lobe (especially dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) and the parietal lobe. Long-term memories, on the other hand, are maintained by more stable and permanent changes in neural connections widely spread throughout the brainSONY VGN-FZ18ME battery. The hippocampus is essential (for learning new information) to the consolidation of information from short-term to long-term memory, although it does not seem to store information itself. Without the hippocampus, new memories are unable to be stored into long-term memory, as learned from HM after removal of his hippocampus[citation needed], and there will be a very short attention spanSONY VGN-FZ18S battery. Furthermore, it may be involved in changing neural connections for a period of three months or more after the initial learning. One of the primary functions of sleep is thought to be improving consolidation of information, as several studies have demonstrated that memory depends on getting sufficient sleep between training and test. SONY VGN-FZ18T batteryAdditionally, data obtained from neuroimaging studies have shown activation patterns in the sleeping brain which mirror those recorded during the learning of tasks from the previous day[citation needed], suggesting that new memories may be solidified through such rehearsal.

Research has suggested that long-term memory storage in humans may be maintained by DNA methylation, or prionsSONY VGN-FZ190 battery


Models of memory provide abstract representations of how memory is believed to work. Below are several models proposed over the years by various psychologists. Note that there is some controversy as to whether there are several memory structures, for example, Tarnow (2005) finds that it is likely that there is only one memory structure between 6 and 600 secondsSONY VGN-FZ21E battery.

Atkinson-Shiffrin model

The multi-store model (also known as Atkinson-Shiffrin memory model) was first recognised in 1968 by Atkinson and Shiffrin.

The multi-store model has been criticised for being too simplistic. For instance, long-term memory is believed to be actually made up of multiple subcomponents, such as episodic and procedural memory. It also proposes that rehearsal is the only mechanism by which information eventually reaches long-term storageSONY VGN-FZ21J battery, but evidence shows us capable of remembering things without rehearsal.

The model also shows all the memory stores as being a single unit whereas research into this shows differently. For example, short-term memory can be broken up into different units such as visual information and acoustic information. Patient KF proves this. Patient KF was brain damaged and had problems with his short term memorySONY VGN-FZ21M battery. He had problems with things such as spoken numbers, letters and words and with significant sounds (such as doorbells and cats meowing). Other parts of short term memory were unaffected, such as visual (pictures).

It also shows the sensory store as a single unit whilst we know that the sensory store is split up into several different parts such as taste, vision, and hearingSONY VGN-FZ21S battery.

Working memory

In 1974 Baddeley and Hitch proposed a working memory model which replaced the concept of general short term memory with specific, active components. In this model, working memory consists of three basic stores: the central executive, the phonological loop and the visuo-spatial sketchpad. In 2000 this model was expanded with the multimodal episodic bufferSONY VGN-FZ21Z battery.

The central executive essentially acts as attention. It channels information to the three component processes: the phonological loop, the visuo-spatial sketchpad, and the episodic buffer.

The phonological loop stores auditory information by silently rehearsing sounds or words in a continuous loop: the articulatory process (for example the repetition of a telephone number over and over again). A short list of data is easier to rememberSONY VGN-FZ220E/B battery.

The visuospatial sketchpad stores visual and spatial information. It is engaged when performing spatial tasks (such as judging distances) or visual ones (such as counting the windows on a house or imagining images).

The episodic buffer is dedicated to linking information across domains to form integrated units of visual, spatial, and verbal information and chronological ordering (e.g., the memory of a story or a movie scene) SONY VGN-FZ220E battery. The episodic buffer is also assumed to have links to long-term memory and semantical meaning.

The working memory model explains many practical observations, such as why it is easier to do two different tasks (one verbal and one visual) than two similar tasks (e.g., two visual), and the aforementioned word-length effect. However, the concept of a central executive as noted here has been criticised as inadequate and vague. SONY VGN-FZ31B battery Working memory is also the premise for what allows us to do everyday activities involving thought. It is the section of memory where we carry out thought processes and use them to learn and reason about topics.

Types of memory

Researchers distinguish between recognition and recall memory. Recognition memory tasks require individuals to indicate whether they have encountered a stimulus (such as a picture or a word) beforeSONY VGN-FZ31E battery. Recall memory tasks require participants to retrieve previously learned information. For example, individuals might be asked to produce a series of actions they have seen before or to say a list of words they have heard before.

Classification by information type

Topographic memory involves the ability to orient oneself in space, to recognize and follow an itinerary, or to recognize familiar places. Getting lost when traveling alone is an example of the failure of topographic memorySONY VGN-FZ31J battery. This is often reported among elderly patients who are evaluated for dementia. The disorder could be caused by multiple impairments, including difficulties with perception, orientation, and memory.

Flashbulb memories are clear episodic memories of unique and highly emotional events. Remembering where you were or what you were doing when you first heard the news of President Kennedy’s assassination or about 9/11 are examples of flashbulb memoriesSONY VGN-FZ31M battery.

Anderson (1976) divides long-term memory into declarative (explicit) and procedural (implicit) memories.

Declarative memory

Declarative memory requires conscious recall, in that some conscious process must call back the information. It is sometimes called explicit memory, since it consists of information that is explicitly stored and retrievedSONY VGN-FZ31Z battery.

Declarative memory can be further sub-divided into semantic memory, which concerns facts taken independent of context; and episodic memory, which concerns information specific to a particular context, such as a time and place. Semantic memory allows the encoding of abstract knowledge about the world, such as "Paris is the capital of France"SONY VGN-FZ32B battery. Episodic memory, on the other hand, is used for more personal memories, such as the sensations, emotions, and personal associations of a particular place or time. Autobiographical memory - memory for particular events within one's own life - is generally viewed as either equivalent to, or a subset of, episodic memory. Visual memory is part of memory preserving some characteristics of our senses pertaining to visual experienceSony VAIO VGN-CR110 battery. One is able to place in memory information that resembles objects, places, animals or people in sort of a mental image. Visual memory can result in priming and it is assumed some kind of perceptual representational system underlies this phenomenon.

Procedural memory

In contrast, procedural memory (or implicit memory) is not based on the conscious recall of information, but on implicit learningSony VAIO VGN-CR115 battery. Procedural memory is primarily employed in learning motor skills and should be considered a subset of implicit memory. It is revealed when one does better in a given task due only to repetition - no new explicit memories have been formed, but one is unconsciously accessing aspects of those previous experiences. Procedural memory involved in motor learning depends on the cerebellum and basal gangliaSony VAIO VGN-CR115E battery.

[edit]Classification by temporal direction

A further major way to distinguish different memory functions is whether the content to be remembered is in the past, retrospective memory, or whether the content is to be remembered in the future, prospective memory. Thus, retrospective memory as a category includes semantic, episodic and autobiographical memorySony VAIO VGN-CR116 battery. In contrast, prospective memory is memory for future intentions, or remembering to remember (Winograd, 1988). Prospective memory can be further broken down into event- and time-based prospective remembering. Time-based prospective memories are triggered by a time-cue, such as going to the doctor (action) at 4pm (cue). Event-based prospective memories are intentions triggered by cuesSony VAIO VGN-CR11H/B battery, such as remembering to post a letter (action) after seeing a mailbox (cue). Cues do not need to be related to the action (as the mailbox/letter example), and lists, sticky-notes, knotted handkerchiefs, or string around the finger all exemplify cues that people use as strategies to enhance prospective memorySony VAIO VGN-CR11S/L battery.

Techniques used to study memory

Techniques used to assess infants’ memory

Infants do not have the language ability to report on their memories, and so, verbal reports cannot be used to assess very young children’s memory. Throughout the years, however, researchers have adapted and developed a number of measures for assessing both infants’ recognition memory and their recall memory. Habituation and operant conditioning techniques have been used to assess infants’ recognition memory andSony VAIO VGN-CR11S/P batterythe deferred and elicited imitation techniques have been used to assess infants’ recall memory.

Techniques used to assess infants’ recognition memory

Visual paired comparison procedure (relies on habituation): infants are first presented with pairs of visual stimuli, such as two black-and-white photos of human faces, for a fixed amount of time; then, after being familiarized with the two photosSony VAIO VGN-CR11S/W battery, they are presented with the “familiar” photo and a new photo. The time spent looking at each photo is recorded. Looking longer at the new photo indicates that they remember the “familiar” one. Studies using this procedure have found that 5- to 6-month-olds can retain information for as long as fourteen daysSony VAIO VGN-CR11Z/R battery.

Operant conditioning technique: infants are placed in a crib and a ribbon that is connected to a mobile overhead is tied to one of their feet. Infants notice that when they kick their foot the mobile moves – the rate of kicking increases dramatically within minutes. Studies using this technique have revealed that infants’ memory substantially improves over the first 18-months. Whereas 2- to 3-month-olds can retain an operant response Sony VAIO VGN-CR120 battery(such as activating the mobile by kicking their foot) for a week, 6-month-olds can retain it for two weeks, and 18-month-olds can retain a similar operant response for as long as 13 weeks.

Techniques used to assess infants’ recall memory

Deferred imitation technique: an experimenter shows infants a unique sequence of actions (such as using a stick to push a button on a box) and then, after a delay, asks the infants to imitate the actionsSony VAIO VGN-CR120E battery. Studies using deferred imitation have shown that 14-month-olds’ memories for the sequence of actions can last for as long as four months.

Elicited imitation technique: is very similar to the deferred imitation technique; the difference is that infants are allowed to imitate the actions before the delay. Studies using the elicited imitation technique have shown that 20-month-olds can recall the action sequences twelve months laterSony VAIO VGN-CR120E/L battery.

Techniques used to assess older children and adults' memory

Researchers use a variety of tasks to assess older children and adults' memory. Some examples are:

Paired associate learning - when one learns to associate one specific word with another. For example when given a word such as "safe" one must learn to say another specific word, such as "green". This is stimulus and responseSony VAIO VGN-CR120E/P battery.

Free recall - during this task a subject would be asked to study a list of words and then sometime later they will be asked to recall or write down as many words that they can remember. Earlier items are affected by retroactive interference, or RI, which means the longer the list, the greater the interference, and the less likelihood that they are recalled. On the other handSony VAIO VGN-CR120E/R battery, items that have been presented lastly suffer little RI, but suffers a great deal from proactive interference, or PI, which means the longer the delay in recall, the more likely that the items will be lost.

Recognition - subjects are asked to remember a list of words or pictures, after which point they are asked to identify the previously presented words or pictures from among a list of alternatives that were not presented in the original listSony VAIO VGN-CR120E/W battery.

Detection Paradigm- Individuals are shown a number of objects and colors samples, during a certain period of time. They are then tested on their visual ability to remember as much as they can by looking at testers and pointing out whether the testers are similar to the sample, or if any change is presentSony VAIO VGN-CR123 battery.


Brain areas involved in the neuroanatomy of memory such as the hippocampus, the amygdala, the striatum, or the mammillary bodies are thought to be involved in specific types of memory. For example, the hippocampus is believed to be involved in spatial learning and declarative learning, while the amygdala is thought to be involved in emotional memory. Sony VAIO VGN-CR13G battery Damage to certain areas in patients and animal models and subsequent memory deficits is a primary source of information. However, rather than implicating a specific area, it could be that damage to adjacent areas, or to a pathway traveling through the area is actually responsible for the observed deficit. Further, it is not sufficient to describe memory, and its counterpart, learningSony VAIO VGN-CR13G/B battery, as solely dependent on specific brain regions. Learning and memory are attributed to changes in neuronal synapses, thought to be mediated by long-term potentiation and long-term depression.

In general, the more emotionally charged an event or experience is, the better it is remembered; this phenomenon is known as the memory enhancement effect. Patients with amygdala damage, however, do not show a memory enhancement effectSony VAIO VGN-CR13G/L battery.

Hebb distinguished between short-term and long-term memory. He postulated that any memory that stayed in short-term storage for a long enough time would be consolidated into a long-term memory. Later research showed this to be false. Research has shown that direct injections of cortisol or epinephrine help the storage of recent experiences. This is also true for stimulation of the amygdalaSony VAIO VGN-CR13G/P battery. This proves that excitement enhances memory by the stimulation of hormones that affect the amygdala. Excessive or prolonged stress (with prolonged cortisol) may hurt memory storage. Patients with amygdalar damage are no more likely to remember emotionally charged words than nonemotionally charged ones. The hippocampus is important for explicit memorySony VAIO VGN-CR13G/R battery. The hippocampus is also important for memory consolidation. The hippocampus receives input from different parts of the cortex and sends its output out to different parts of the brain also. The input comes from secondary and tertiary sensory areas that have processed the information a lot already. Hippocampal damage may also cause memory loss and problems with memory storageSony VAIO VGN-CR13G/W battery.

Cognitive neuroscience of memory

Cognitive neuroscientists consider memory as the retention, reactivation, and reconstruction of the experience-independent internal representation. The term of internal representation implies that such definition of memory contains two components: the expression of memory at the behavioral or conscious level, and the underpinning physical neural changes (Dudai 2007) Sony VAIO VGN-CR13/L battery. The latter component is also called engram or memory traces (Semon 1904). Some neuroscientists and psychologists mistakenly equate the concept of engram and memory, broadly conceiving all persisting after-effects of experiences as memory; others argue against this notion that memory does not exist until it is revealed in behavior or thought (Moscovitch 2007) Sony VAIO VGN-CR13/P battery.

One question that is crucial in cognitive neuroscience is how information and mental experiences are coded and represented in the brain. Scientists have gained much knowledge about the neuronal codes from the studies of plasticity, but most of such research has been focused on simple learning in simple neuronal circuits; it is considerably less clear about the neuronal changes involved in more complex examples of memorySony VAIO VGN-CR13/R battery, particularly declarative memory that requires the storage of facts and events (Byrne 2007).

Encoding. Encoding of working memory involves the spiking of individual neurons induced by sensory input, which persists even after the sensory input disappears (Jensen and Lisman 2005; Fransen et al. 2002). Encoding of episodic memory involves persistent changes in molecular structures that alter synaptic transmission between neuronsSony VAIO VGN-CR13T/L battery. Examples of such structural changes include long-term potentiation (LTP) or spike-timing-dependent plasticity (STDP). The persistent spiking in working memory can enhance the synaptic and cellular changes in the encoding of episodic memory (Jensen and Lisman 2005).

Working memory. Recent functional imaging studies detected working memory signals in both medial temporal lobe (MTL), a brain area strongly associated with long-term memory, and prefrontal cortex (Ranganath et al. 2005) Sony VAIO VGN-CR13T/P battery, suggesting a strong relationship between working memory and long-term memory. However, the substantially more working memory signals seen in the prefrontal lobe suggest that this area play a more important role in working memory than MTL (Suzuki 2007).

Consolidation and reconsolidation. Short-term memory (STM) is temporary and subject to disruption, while long-term memory (LTM), once consolidatedSony VAIO VGN-CR13T/R battery, is persistent and stable. Consolidation of STM into LTM at the molecular level presumably involves two processes: synaptic consolidation and system consolidation. The former involves a protein synthesis process in the medial temporal lobe (MTL), whereas the latter transforms the MTL-dependent memory into an MTL-independent memory over months to years (Ledoux 2007) Sony VAIO VGN-CR13T/W battery. In recent years, such traditional consolidation dogma has been re-evaluated as a result of the studies on reconsolidation. These studies showed that prevention after retrieval affects subsequent retrieval of the memory (Sara 2000). New studies have shown that post-retrieval treatment with protein synthesis inhibitors and many other compounds can lead to an amnestic state (Nadel et al. 2000b; Alberini 2005; Dudai 2006) Sony VAIO VGN-CR13/W battery. These findings on reconsolidation fit with the behavioral evidence that retrieved memory is not a carbon copy of the initial experiences, and memories are updated during retrieval.


Study of the genetics of human memory is in its infancy. A notable initial success was the association of APOE with memory dysfunction in Alzheimer's Disease. The search for genes associated with normally varying memory continuesSony VAIO VGN-CR140 battery. One of the first candidates for normal variation in memory is the gene KIBRA, which appears to be associated with the rate at which material is forgotten over a delay period.

Memory in infancy

Up until the middle of the 1980s it was assumed that infants could not encode, retain, and retrieve information.[35] A growing body of research now indicates that infants as young as 6-months can recall information after a 24-hour delay. Sony VAIO VGN-CR140E battery Furthermore, research has revealed that as infants grow older they can store information for longer periods of time; 6-month-olds can recall information after a 24-hour period, 9-month-olds after up to five weeks, and 20-month-olds after as long as twelve months.[37] In addition, studies have shown that with age, infants can store information fasterSony VAIO VGN-CR21/B battery. Whereas 14-month-olds can recall a three-step sequence after being exposed to it once, 6-month-olds need approximately six exposures in order to be able to remember it.

It should be noted that although 6-month-olds can recall information over the short-term, they have difficulty recalling the temporal order of information. It is only by 9 months of age that infants can recall the actions of a two-step sequence in the correct temporal orderSony VAIO VGN-CR21E/L battery - that is, recalling step 1 and then step 2. In other words, when asked to imitate a two-step action sequence (such as putting a toy car in the base and pushing in the plunger to make the toy roll to the other end), 9-month-olds tend to imitate the actions of the sequence in the correct order (step 1 and then step 2). Younger infants (6-month-olds) can only recall one step of a two-step sequenceSony VAIO VGN-CR21E/P battery. Researchers have suggested that these age differences are probably due to the fact that the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus and the frontal components of the neural network are not fully developed at the age of 6-months.

Memory and aging

Main article: Memory and aging

One of the key concerns of older adults is the experience of memory loss, especially as it is one of the hallmark symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. However, memory loss is qualitatively different in normal aging from the kind of memory loss associated with a diagnosis of Alzheimer'sSony VAIO VGN-CR21E/W battery (Budson & Price, 2005). Research has revealed that individuals’ performance on memory tasks that rely on frontal regions declines with age. Older adults tend to exhibit deficits on tasks that involve knowing the temporal order in which they learned information;[43] source memory tasks that require them to remember the specific circumstances or context in which they learned information; Sony VAIO VGN-CR21S/L battery and prospective memory tasks that involve remembering to perform an act at a future time. Older adults can manage their problems with prospective memory by using appointment books, for example.


Much of the current knowledge of memory has come from studying memory disorders, particularly amnesia. Loss of memory is known as amnesia. Amnesia can result from extensive damage to: (a) the regions of the medial temporal lobeSony VAIO VGN-CR21S/P battery, such as the hippocampus, dentate gyrus, subiculum, amygdala, the parahippocampal, entorhinal, and perirhinal cortices[45] or the (b) midline diencephalic region, specifically the dorsomedial nucleus of the thalamus and the mammillary bodies of the hypothalamus.[46] There are many sorts of amnesia, and by studying their different forms, it has become possible to observe apparent defects in individual sub-systems of the brain's memory systemsSony VAIO VGN-CR21S/W battery, and thus hypothesize their function in the normally working brain. Other neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease can also affect memory and cognition. Hyperthymesia, or hyperthymesic syndrome, is a disorder which affects an individual's autobiographical memory, essentially meaning that they cannot forget small details that otherwise would not be stored. Sony VAIO VGN-CR21Z/N battery Korsakoff's syndrome, also known as Korsakoff's psychosis, amnesic-confabulatory syndrome, is an organic brain disease that adversely affects memory.

While not a disorder, a common temporary failure of word retrieval from memory is the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon. Sufferers of Anomic aphasia (also called Nominal aphasia or Anomia), however, do experience the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon on an ongoing basis due to damage to the frontal and parietal lobes of the brainSony VAIO VGN-CR21Z/R battery.

Factors that influence memory

Influence of odors and emotions

In March 2007 German researchers found they could use odors to re-activate new memories in the brains of people while they slept and the volunteers remembered better later.[49] Emotion can have a powerful impact on memory. Numerous studies have shown that the most vivid autobiographical memories tend to be of emotional events, which are likely to be recalled more often and with more clarity and detail than neutral eventsSony VAIO VGN-CR220 battery.

The part of the brain that is critical in creating the feeling of emotion is the amygdala, which allows for stress hormones to strengthen neuron communication. The most common way to get high activity from the amygdala is the feeling of excitement present both in good and bad situations. The chemicals cortisone and adrenaline are released in the brainSony VAIO VGN-CR220E battery. The most effective way to activate the amygdala is fear, because fear is an instinctive, protective mechanism which comes on strong making it memorable. Sometimes the feeling can be overwhelming. This is when a memory can be hazy yet vivid, or haunting with perfect clarity. This discovery lead to a drug to help a disorder called PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) Sony VAIO VGN-CR23/B battery. When someone is in a heightened emotional state, the events causing it become strong and ground in the memory, sometimes disrupting daily life for years.

An experiment done with rats helped create the drug for this issue. Dr. Kerry Ressler at Emory University, used tones and shocks to test an existing drug called dicyclomine used commonly for tuberculosis. Rats would hear a tone and receive a mild shock training them to fear the toneSony VAIO VGN-CR23/L battery. Then the drug was given to one set of rats then the test were done again. The rats that did not receive the drug froze in fear. When the tone was heard the rats given the drug ignored the tone and continued on. The drug can effectively allow for new receptor connections between neurons and relax the amygdala when it comes to fear. Allowing for patients to have a chance of recovery from PTSDSony VAIO VGN-CR23/P battery.

Barbara Rothbaum, PhD, works out of Emory University conducting experimental treatment for PTSD. Having the knowledge that exactly the same neurons are active when remembering and event as when it was created. Gives the drug dicyclomine the ability to make new connections between neurons this gives people a window to lesson the connection between neuronsSony VAIO VGN-CR23/R battery. Rothbaum decided to use the drug in a therapy session that utilities virtual reality to give PTSD suffers a second chance. When the events that have caused the PTSD are identified the process can begin. The surroundings of the events are recreated in a virtual reality helmet for instance in a combat vehicle in the desert.[53] This would remind or recall the target memories in a safe environment and activate the neurons without activating the fear response from the amygdalaSony VAIO VGN-CR23/W battery. So when the dicyclomine is in the system and the same neurons are active that were active during the event can now have a chance to reform with less chemicals from the amygdala. This does not erase the memory but rather lessens the strength of it giving some relief so people with PTSD can try to move on and live their lifeSony PCG-5G2L battery.

It is astounding the way memory is formed and how it can be manipulated just by emotion. If pain, joy, excitement, or any other strong emotion is present during an event the neurons active during the event make a stronger connection with each other. This means when remembered or recalled in the future the neurons will make the connections faster and easierSony PCG-5G3L battery. The strength and longevity of memories is directly related to the amount of emotion felt during the event of their creation. Knowing this helps the future of this since as well as offering healthy and better solutions to memory problems like PTSD.

Interference from previous knowledge

At the Center for Cognitive Science at Ohio State UniversitySony PCG-5J1L battery, researchers have found that memory accuracy of adults is hurt by the fact that they know more than children and tend to apply this knowledge when learning new information. The findings appeared in the August 2004 edition of the journal Psychological Science.

Interference can hamper memorization and retrieval. There is retroactive interference, when learning new information makes it harder to recall old informationSony PCG-5J2L battery and proactive interference, where prior learning disrupts recall of new information. Although interference can lead to forgetting, it is important to keep in mind that there are situations when old information can facilitate learning of new information. Knowing Latin, for instance, can help an individual learn a related language such as French – this phenomenon is known as positive transferSony PCG-5K1L battery.

Memory and Stress

Stress has a significant effect on memory formation and learning. In response to stressful situations, the brain releases hormones and neurotransmitters (ex. glucocorticoids and catecholamines) which affect memory encoding processes in the hippocampus. Behavioural research on animals shows that chronic stress produces adrenal hormones which impactSony PCG-5K2L battery the hippocampal structure in the brains of rats. An experimental study by German cognitive psychologists L. Schwabe and O. Wolf demonstrates how learning under stress also decreases memory recall in humans. In this study, 48 healthy female and male university students participated in either a stress test or a control group. Those randomly assigned to the stress test group had a hand immersed in ice cold water (the reputable SECPT or ‘Socially Evaluated Cold Pressor Test’) Sony PCG-5L1L batteryfor up to three minutes, while being monitored and videotaped. Both the stress and control groups were then presented with 32 words to memorize. Twenty-four hours later, both groups were tested to see how many words they could remember (free recall) as well as how many they could recognize from a larger list of words (recognition performance) Sony PCG-6S2L battery. The results showed a clear impairment of memory performance in the stress test group, who recalled 30% fewer words than the control group. The researchers suggest that stress experienced during learning distracts people by diverting their attention during the memory encoding process.

However, memory performance can be enhanced when material is linked to the learning context, even when learning occurs under stressSony PCG-6S3L battery. A separate study by cognitive psychologists Schwabe and Wolf shows that when retention testing is done in a context similar to or congruent with the original learning task (i.e., in the same room), memory impairment and the detrimental effects of stress on learning can be attenuated. Seventy-two healthy female and male university students, randomly assigned to the SECPT stress test or to a control groupSony PCG-6V1L battery, were asked to remember the locations of 15 pairs of picture cards – a computerized version of the card game “Concentration” or “Memory.” The room in which the experiment took place was infused with the scent of vanilla, as odour is a strong cue for memory. Retention testing took place the following day, either in the same room with the vanilla scent again present, or in a different room without the fragranceSony PCG-6W1L battery. The memory performance of subjects who experienced stress during the object-location task decreased significantly when they were tested in an unfamiliar room without the vanilla scent (an incongruent context); however, the memory performance of stressed subjects showed no impairment when they were tested in the original room with the vanilla scent Sony PCG-6W2L battery (a congruent context). All participants in the experiment, both stressed and unstressed, performed faster when the learning and retrieval contexts were similar.

This research on the effects of stress on memory may have practical implications for education, for eyewitness testimony and for psychotherapy: students may perform better when tested in their regular classroom rather than an exam roomSony PCG-6W3L battery, eyewitnesses may recall details better at the scene of an event than in a courtroom, and persons suffering from post-traumatic stress may improve when helped to situate their memories of a traumatic event in an appropriate context.

Memory Construction

Although we like to think that our memory operates like recording equipment, that is not actually the caseSony PCG-7111L battery. The molecular mechanisms underlying the induction and maintenance of memory are very dynamic and comprise distinct phases covering a time window from seconds to even a lifetime.[60] In fact research has revealed that our memories are constructed. People can construct their memories when they encode them and/or when they recall themSony PCG-7112L battery. To illustrate consider a classic study conducted by Elizabeth Loftus and John Palmer (1974) [61] in which people were instructed to watch a film of a traffic accident and then asked about what they saw. The researchers found that, those people who were asked, “How fast were the cars going when they smashed into each other?” gave higher estimates than those who were askedSony PCG-7113L battery, “How fast were the cars going when they hit each other?” Furthermore, when asked a week later whether they have seen broken glass in the film, those who had been asked the question with smashed were twice more likely to report that they have seen broken glass than those who had been asked the question with hit. There was no broken glass depicted in the film. ThusSony PCG-7133L battery, the wording of the questions distorted viewers’ memories of the event. Importantly, the wording of the question led people to construct different memories of the event – those who were asked the question with smashed recalled a more serious car accident than they had actually seen. The findings of this experiment were replicated around the world and researchers Sony PCG-7Z1L batteryconsistently demonstrated that when people were provided with misleading information they tended to misremember, a phenomenon known as the misinformation effect.[62]

Interestingly, research has revealed that asking individuals to repeatedly imagine actions that they have never performed or events that they have never experienced could result in false memoriesSony PCG-7Z2L battery. For instance, Goff and Roediger [63] (1998) asked participants to imagine that they performed an act (e.g., break a toothpick) and then later asked them whether they had done such a thing. Findings revealed that those participants who repeatedly imagined performing such an act were more likely to think that they had actually performed that act during the first session of the experimentSony PCG-8Y1L battery. Similarly, Garry and her colleagues (1996) [64] asked college students to report how certain they were that they experienced a number of events as children (e.g., broke a window with their hand) and then two weeks later asked them to imagine four of those events. The researchers found that one-fourth of the students asked to imagine the four events reported that they had actually experienced such events as childrenSony PCG-8Y2L battery. That is, when asked to imagine the events they were more confident that they experienced the events.

Improving memory

Main article: Improving memory

A UCLA research study published in the June 2006 issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry found that people can improve cognitive function and brain efficiency through simple lifestyle changes such as incorporating memory exercisesSony PCG-8Z1L battery, healthy eating, physical fitness and stress reduction into their daily lives. This study examined 17 subjects, (average age 53) with normal memory performance. Eight subjects were asked to follow a "brain healthy" diet, relaxation, physical, and mental exercise (brain teasers and verbal memory training techniques). After 14 days, they showed greater word fluency (not memory) compared to their baseline performance. No long term follow up was conductedSony PCG-8Z2L battery, it is therefore unclear if this intervention has lasting effects on memory.

There are a loosely associated group of mnemonic principles and techniques that can be used to vastly improve memory known as the Art of memory.

The International Longevity Center released in 2001 a report[66] which includes in pages 14–16 recommendations for keeping the mind in good functionality until advanced age. Some of the recommendations are to stay intellectually active through learningSony VAIO VGN-FW21E battery, training or reading, to keep physically active so to promote blood circulation to the brain, to socialize, to reduce stress, to keep sleep time regular, to avoid depression or emotional instability and to observe good nutrition.

Levels of processing

Main article: Levels-of-processing effect

Craik and Lockhart (1972) proposed that it is the method and depth of processing that affects how an experience is stored in memory, rather than rehearsalSony VAIO VGN-FW21J battery.

Organization - Mandler (1967) gave participants a pack of word cards and asked them to sort them into any number of piles using any system of categorisation they liked. When they were later asked to recall as many of the words as they could, those who used more categories remembered more words. This study suggested that the organization of memory is one of its central aspects (Mandler, 2011) Sony VAIO VGN-FW21L battery.

Distinctiveness - Eysenck and Eysenck (1980) asked participants to say words in a distinctive way, e.g. spell the words out loud. Such participants recalled the words better than those who simply read them off a list.

Effort - Tyler et al. (1979) had participants solve a series of anagrams, some easy (FAHTER) and some difficult (HREFAT). The participants recalled the difficult anagrams better, presumably because they put more effort into themSony VAIO VGN-FW21M battery.

Elaboration - Palmere et al. (1983) gave participants descriptive paragraphs of a fictitious African nation. There were some short paragraphs and some with extra sentences elaborating the main idea. Recall was higher for the ideas in the elaborated paragraphs.

Methods to optimize memorization

Memorization is a method of learning that allows an individual to recall information verbatim. Rote learning is the method most often usedSony VAIO VGN-FW21Z battery. Methods of memorizing things have been the subject of much discussion over the years with some writers, such as Cosmos Rossellius using visual alphabets. The spacing effect shows that an individual is more likely to remember a list of items when rehearsal is spaced over an extended period of time. In contrast to this is cramming which is intensive memorization in a short period of timeSony VAIO VGN-FW25T/B battery. Also relevant is the Zeigarnik effect which states that people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed ones. The so-called Method of loci uses spatial memory to memorize non-spatial information.

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