As we grow we make several memories but in a specific duration, we forget many of them, we remember only a few of them. A general assumption is that with time we forget but recent theory represents it as a form of learning and conveys that ‘forgetting’ is not that much worse.

Scientists presenting this theory suggested that the human mind’s power of reminding some memory depends largely on environmental feedback and predictability. Thus rather than a disability, forgetting is a typical functional aspect of the brain and helps it get dynamic interaction with the environment. In a fast-growing world forgetting some memories can be beneficial as this human behavior is more flexible and improves decision making.

If memories are made in such conditions that are not relevant to current situations then forgetting them is good as it improves our wellbeing. Scientists said that humans in the process of retaining important memories tend to lose a few unimportant ones. Forgetting makes the mind lose information but in some cases, forgetting is because of changed ways to access memory and not due to memory loss.

This theory was proposed by Dr. Tomás Ryan, Associate Professor in Trinity College Dublin, and Dr. Paul Frankland, Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto. Dr. Ryan conveys that, “Brain stores memories in units of neurons called engram cells.”

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An engram cell. Credit: Dr. Clara Ortega-de San Luis, Ryan Lab, Trinity College Dublin

He conveyed further that when memories are recalled successfully then that process involves reactivation of these units. Thus humans failed to recall when these engram cells units can not be reactivated. Memories lie there but can not be recalled if a particular ensemble is not activated. It is just like you hold the information in the folder but forget its password.

Dr. Frankland said, “There are many ways that cause forgetting but all of them involve harder access to engram. Forgetting is mainly due to switching engram cells from access to the non-accessible state. Environmental conditions affect forget rate and thus we propose that forgetting is a type of learning that modifies memory accessibility and it’s more predictable.”

Scientists also said that this naturally forgetting mechanism does not apply to some conditions like in disease and let’s say if an individual is affected by Alzheimer’s disease then it results in a large reduction of engram cell accessibility and pathological memory loss.


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