It’s a well-known fact that as we age, we start to lose our memory. But what if this decay of memories is actually useful? According to scientists from the University of Toronto and Trinity College Dublin, forgetting is a unique and active form of learning, which helps our brain to access the more important and current information. They also argue that the forgotten memories are not really lost, just inaccessible, and can possibly be retrieved and restored. So, Sherlock’s mind palace may not be so out of reach anymore.
The Explanation for Memory Loss
As the scientists explained, memories are stored permanently in neurons called engram cells. Our brains can decide which memories to keep and which ones to be locked away. This action gives our cognition behavioral flexibility by letting us ditch unimportant information and irrelevant experiences. These choices, as per the scientists, are largely based on our environmental feedback. Theoretically, this flexible process helps us cope in the face of change and enables us to make better decisions as a result. These findings can also lead to new ways to better understand and treat disease-caused memory loss, like what happens in patients with Alzheimer’s.
The Possible Memory Retraction
This path-breaking study was undertaken by neurology scientists Paul Frankland of the University of Toronto and Thomas Ryan of Trinity College Dublin. The full study was published in the Nature Reviews Neuroscience journal. Their new findings on memory can lead to revolutionary treatments for pathological memory loss. According to this researcher duo, natural forgetting is reversible in certain circumstances, where the old irrelevant memories can be retracted into a more important light. In the case of people suffering from any memory-loss symptoms, the mechanism of forgetting becomes complex. Even then, memories can be recovered with different and harder methods based on the natural memory restoration process.