Friday, October 21, 2011

You must forget more to remember better!

The most important part of remembering is forgetting.  Not forgetting the things, but forgetting other background things that need not be remembered.  It makes sense.  The brain receives all sorts of information from all five senses, and it must "tune out" the majority of this information in order to focus on and remember the important things. 

Rodin's The Thinker at the Musée Rodin.Image via Wikipedia

Memory consolidationImage via Wikipedia
The idea of an inability to tune out less important information, or being unable to discriminate the important from the unimportant, is presented for multiple disorders, including autism and dementia.  For me, I think this happens when I try to remember where I put my keys.  I've put them in many different places, and which of these was the place that I most recently did so might be difficult to determine.
Happy Children Playing KidsImage by via Flickr

On the other hand, other research says that the most important factor in forgetting is confusing, not decaying.  Basically, that similar memories confuse the brain into forgetting information more than the idea that a memory gets crowded out or overwritten by other memories.  This second article indicates that a better memory of something would be had by separating it from similar things in the brain. 
Healthy brain (bottom) versus brain of a donor...Image via Wikipedia

Loss of short term memory to some degree is normal for everyone, and especially of those that are elderly.  Loss of long term memory is not normal, and may indicate disease processes such as Dementia of the Alzheimer's Type, aka Alzheimer's disease.  Remembering where the car is parked is bad, waking up and forgetting where the bathroom in your house is will be really bad. 

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