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The Mystery Of How and Why We Store Memories Solved

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posted on Jun, 29 2010 @ 08:32 AM
My earliest memory is of 2 years old. I remember my bedroom, my favorite stuffed animal, even my pajamas. I remember my living room, kitchen and high chair.

I have always wondered why I can remember details of my early childhood, as if it were yesterday; even down to the clothes I was wearing when just mundane events occurred. Example: What I wore to school, the second day of first grade.
This drives my family and friends crazy!

Yet if you were to ask me what I had for dinner 2 nights ago and I would have to do some serious mental gymnastics to give you the answer.

Is this a mere example of long term verses short term memory? Scientist don't think so.

Here is an article, depicting how and why we store memories as we do. The discovery made, may be a major breakthrough for those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder commonly known as PTSD.

Science News

Different Signal Paths for Spontaneous and Deliberate Activation of Memories ScienceDaily (Mar. 13, 2010) —

Entirely different signal paths and parts of the brain are involved when you try to remember something and when you just happen to remember something, prompted by a smell, a picture, or a word, for instance. This is shown by Kristiina Kompus in her dissertation at Umeå University in Sweden.

Imagine you are asked to remember what you were doing exactly one week ago. You would probably have to make quite a mental effort to sift through your memories.

On another occasion, a smell, a picture, or a word might suddenly and unexpectedly trigger a vivid memory of something that happened to you.

Science still does not fully understand why our brain sometimes automatically supplies us with a memory that we have done nothing to deliberately call to mind, whereas why, on other occasions, we cannot remember things even though we make efforts to recall them.

The studies in Kristiina Kompus's dissertation show that these two different ways of remembering things are initiated by entirely different signal paths in the brain.

Efforts to retrieve a specific memory are dealt with by the upper part of the frontal lobe. This area of the brain is activated not only in connection with memory-related efforts but also in all types of mental efforts and intentions, according to the dissertation.

This part of the brain is not involved in the beginning of the process of unintentionally remembering something as a response to external stimuli. Instead, such memories are activated by specific signals from other parts of the brain, namely those that deal with perceived stimuli like smells, pictures, and words.

Sometimes such memories are thought to be more vivid and emotional; otherwise they would not be activated in this way.

But Kristiina Kompus's dissertation shows tha t this is not the case -- memories do not need to be emotionally charged to be revived spontaneously, unintentionally. Nor do memories that are revived spontaneously activate the brain more than other memories.

The studies also reveal that our long-term memory is more flexible than was previously believed.

There is not just one single neurological signaling path for reliving old memories but rather several paths that are anatomically separate.

This discovery is important, since it helps us understand how we can help people who have a hard time remembering things, regardless of whether this is related to aging or to some disorder in the brain.

It may also help people who are plagued by unpleasant memories that constantly haunt them. This can happen following traumatic experiences, but also in depression.

Interested in your earliest memory.


posted on Jun, 29 2010 @ 09:24 AM
When my Mum was in her final months,i started asking lots of questions about things i remember,or places that i could describe but couldn't 'place'.
We discovered on that journey that my brain had stored all kinds of memories(which we always double-checked had not been told to me) but,the one that bamboozled her most was from when i was about 18 months old.
I drew a picture of a place that i recalled and my memories attached to that and she looked at me in complete shock.She couldn't believe i could remember minute details about a time when i was hardly even able to communicate!
But,i do....and i remember a heckuva lot since that time too.

Actually,i went through a stage of phoning my father and quizzing him on my early memories.He didn't like the fact i remembered minute details about his extra marital affairs and avoided me for a long time

My sister hardly remembers anything before age 6(which i find weird,she must be blocked for a reason)but,my eldest child(13) can recall things as far back as age 3.
I find it fascinating!!And,i have found it comforting too.
I walked into an upstairs bedroom in my house one day and it smelled exactly like my Grandparents house(i'd been cooking vegetables
).....i cried some very thankful tears because,in that moment i was transported back to my Grandparents home....i could place the furniture,the curtain pattern...everything.
Wonderful,just wonderful

I like my memory store.I can pop in anytime and i never know when it's going to send a surprise delivery!

posted on Jun, 29 2010 @ 09:42 AM
reply to post by paxnatus

S&F. Mainly because I have a friend whom suffers with PTSD. Maybe if I study this study I can use it to help her. Very useful info. TY OP!!!!

Oh and I forgot, My earliest memory, It was I think when I was two. My parents and sister and brother were gone when I awoke from my nap... It was a traumatizing event for me, I remember being scared, thank the Lord and Lady my grandparents were my neighbors, but at first I was too scared to walk over all I remember is crying on my steps that led up to kitchen living room, bedrooms, and bathroom. The layout of our house was unique at least to me; I still haven't seen a layout like this, the foyer of my house led directly to steps which I described went up to the main rooms of the house, and there was steps down to the basement which was like a family room/ garage those steps were on the other side of the foyer and parallel to the up going steps but facing the opposite direction. It's hard to explain. Anyway I finally got my grandparents and they called my mother who thought I had left with my father and my father thought I had gone with my mother. I stayed at my grandparents till they got back. But like I said, It was traumatizing, all those years that's the only thing I can remember exactly to a "T". There's not much I do remember I think I have stuffed too much knowledge in my brain first with memorizing song lyrics, and then with learning so many vastly different things, besides school knowledge, that I think, like a computer has to make room for that new information you're programming it with, you have to clear out some of the useless crap. That's what I think anyway. It'd be cool to see studies done on that. Like how much storage space is available in the brain.

[edit on 29-6-2010 by ldyserenity]

posted on Jun, 29 2010 @ 10:40 AM
Childhood was very stressful for me. I remember only a few things -- and my memory in general for things in my daily life is not good. I can, however, remember many books and many other things.

posted on Jun, 29 2010 @ 08:35 PM
Thank you for sharing what you can and cannot remember. I find great comfort in my memories and at the same time sadness.

I guess I have always had a strong desire to go back to a time when life seemed simple and I didn't have a care in the world.

Funny though no matter how much we try we can never go back. Even if it were possible things just wouldn't be the same.

Although having a strong memory has for the most part been a blessing, it can also be a double edged sword.

Who really wants to remember every detail of something said that was hurtful; even when the intention was not malicious?

To recall an argument verbatim can make it quite difficult to move on. It can also make one seem quite neurotic at times, especially when the offense was so trivial.

With this new understanding of how and why memory is stored the way it is, we could be looking at a cure for Alzheimer's and what a phenomenal breakthrough this would be.

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