The newsletter of the Memory Disorders Project at Rutgers University

What is Verbal Memory

Verbal memory is a catchall phrase used to refer to memory for words and verbal items (as opposed to spatial memory). It can be assessed by using a neuropsychological test which measures memory for a list of words or for a short story.

The California Verbal Learning Test (CVLT) is one example of a verbal memory test.

Process most verbal information by left brain

Many people process most verbal information using the left side of their brain; thus, damage to the left side of the brain can often cause impairment in verbal memory and in the ability to generate and understand speech. Usually, damage limited to the right side of the brain causes little disruption in verbal abilities (but may disrupt spatial memory). This left-right distinction is not true of everyone, though.

Additionally, some people naturally tend to process information verbally, while others naturally tend to process information visually (e.g. through pictures). An individual who tends to process information visually may score relatively poorly on a test of verbal memory -- even though there is nothing "wrong" with that person's memory.

When testing a person's memory, it is better to consider both verbal and visual memory to get a complete understanding of that person's memory abilities.

by Catherine E. Myers. Copyright © 2006 Memory Loss and the Brain