Being Able To Forget Some Things Easily Might Actually Be A Good Thing For Your Brain


Being Able To Forget Some Things Easily Might Actually Be A Good Thing For Your Brain

There is a new popular story according to which being forgetful might be a sign that your brain is working properly. Not finding easy to recall unnecessary details might actually prove that your brain is better at separating what's important from what's trivial.

The idea isn't new, but this recent research, conducted by the University of Toronto and published in the journal Neuron, supports the claim.

The researchers discovered that the growth of new neurons in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that's associated with memory, appeared to promote forgetting. The goal was to make space for more significant information and get rid of useless details.

Professor Blake Richards, the lead author on the study, stated that although we all tend to admire a person who wins on trivia games, the point of memory is not that. Remember every historical detail or who won a football match twenty years ago is not what will make you intelligent. On the contrary, an intelligent person is the one who can make decisions given the circumstances, the one who can tell what's useful and what's not, and, after all, the one who is able of forgetting some information.

This is something that’s been quoted before. Back in 2007, some researchers used fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to monitor the brains of twenty healthy adults while they were performing a simple memory test. The study suggested that people were better at recalling conflicting information, rather than repeating or easy information.

As Michael Anderson of the University of Oregon had told New Scientist at the time, being forgettable serves a good functional goal.

Richards' latest study, with his colleague Paul Frankland, produced no experimental evidence. Instead, they studied previously published papers to come to a conclusion. What they discovered was plenty of evidence that being forgetful is rather useful.

There are several advantages to this. For one, the brain tries to get rid of old useless information, such as an old password. If it’s continually bringing up old things we don’t need anymore, it’s more difficult to make a concrete decision. Forgetting also makes it easier for us to generalize previous events, such as multiple visits to a shop, rather than recalling every simple detail from each visit.

One example Richards and Frankland refer to is an experiment where mice searched for the exit to a maze, as noted by Science Alert. Each time the exit was moved, the mice could find it faster if they were drugged to forget where the old exit was located.

So next time you’re struggling at the pub quiz, don't be devastated. Your brain may just be waiting for more useful information.


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Thinking Humanity: Being Able To Forget Some Things Easily Might Actually Be A Good Thing For Your Brain
Being Able To Forget Some Things Easily Might Actually Be A Good Thing For Your Brain
There is a new popular story according to which being forgetful might be a sign that your brain is working properly.
Thinking Humanity
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