Just Forget It!
Have you ever lost something, yet had the feeling that you knew where it was?
Have you ever studied hours for an exam only to forget most of what you have learned?
I am sure you have had an experience in which you were frustrated by a spotty memory. Memory is an extremely complicated process. In a nutshell, it is the ability to store, connect, and retrieve information over time. The key stages are encoding, storage and retrieval. In the encoding phase, our minds process sensory information and convert it into enduring memories, a process that primarily occurs at the hippocampus. As its name suggest, the storage phase is maintenance of information in memory over time. Finally, retrieval is the process by which information is brought back to the consciousness from storage. There are various types of encoding, various types of memory storage, various retrieval cues, as well as many limitations to our memory process.
Although memory is an instrumental part of human existence, it turns out that, despite our constant struggles with it, forgetting is an incredibly important ability. Every day we are exposed to an immeasurable amount of information, and the human brain cannot handle it all. Fortunately, our brain has the ability to forget. But more importantly it has the ability to suppress irrelevant memories and highlight the important ones.
Brain imaging studies using fMRI have shown that our brain’s ability to disregard unimportant information allows us to remember what is important. Every time we are exposed to something, our brain automatically remembers similar situations, transforming them and using them for our benefit. Our brain’s ability to forget gives us the talent of prediction. By forgetting irrelevant memories, our brain is able to access those that are important rapidly and effectively. By doing this we are somewhat able to accurately make predictions about life without having various different competing memories or having to sift through a vast amount of recollections.
Forgetting, a process that mainly occurs in the prefrontal cortex, is key to our neural processing system. By avoiding competing memories, we are able to remember what is crucial for our lives. Retrieving relevant memories is not a simple task; it requires energy and uses many mechanisms of the prefrontal cortex. As such, having only important memories permits us to go through our day to day lives in a much more productive and efficient manner.
– Roberto Barroso Luque