Memory formation in matter

Nathan C. Keim, Joseph D. Paulsen, Zorana Zeravcic, Srikanth Sastry, Sidney R. Nagel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

145 Scopus citations


Memory formation in matter is a theme of broad intellectual relevance; it sits at the interdisciplinary crossroads of physics, biology, chemistry, and computer science. Memory connotes the ability to encode, access, and erase signatures of past history in the state of a system. Once the system has completely relaxed to thermal equilibrium, it is no longer able to recall aspects of its evolution. The memory of initial conditions or previous training protocols will be lost. Thus many forms of memory are intrinsically tied to far-from-equilibrium behavior and to transient response to a perturbation. This general behavior arises in diverse contexts in condensed-matter physics and materials, including phase change memory, shape memory, echoes, memory effects in glasses, return-point memory in disordered magnets, as well as related contexts in computer science. Yet, as opposed to the situation in biology, there is currently no common categorization and description of the memory behavior that appears to be prevalent throughout condensed-matter systems. Here the focus is on material memories. The basic phenomenology of a few of the known behaviors that can be understood as constituting a memory will be described. The hope is that this will be a guide toward developing the unifying conceptual underpinnings for a broad understanding of memory effects that appear in materials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number035002
JournalReviews of Modern Physics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 26 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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