While the human brain cannot be described as being half as quick and productive as that of a computer even in the vaguest terms, it nevertheless works in a way that is twice as fascinating.
It is often concluded that we are a sum of our memories. But do we make our memories or do they make us? While this sounds like a philosophical debate for another day, one thing is for sure - we wouldn't be who we are if not for our memories. Sadly, memory and recall is one field of medicine that is poorly understood yet — and that’s despite many studies done.
Perhaps this could be the number one reason why people often think they might be having a ‘bad memory'. At some point we all get frustrated after our brains can’t recall a certain fact; it happens to everyone now and then. Things like people's names, the Spanish word for a novel or where you put your car keys escape our brains all the time. It seems as if our memories ‘decay’, just like forgotten, overripe fruits. However, new research findings suggest otherwise.
Recent research points to our memory being limitless. All your memories are well stored somewhere in the brain, but without constant rehearsal the brain soon forgets where it 'put' them. From this, we get to understand that it’s not that our memories get lost, it's the retrieval mechanism that gets faulty.
But do we really need a brain that remembers everything we have ever experienced? The answer is ‘definitely not’. In fact, there are people who can remember every single day of their life in detail, and such people are considered to have a medical condition called hyperthymesia, which comes with many cognitive complications.
Paradoxically, the more we forget, the more our brain gets better at recalling. It sounds counterproductive for sure, but just imagine you have a brain that never forgets. Now when you try to remember where you’ve parked your car, you get so many mental images of all those numerous places you have ever parked your car. Then, your brain has to sort all those memories and give the most recent ‘picture’ the highest priority. Luckily for most of us, our brains don’t have to work that hard.
As recent research claim, for the brain to be quick, productive and actually healthy, it needs a way to discard those earlier and/or unimportant memories. Any outdated, useless information does more harm than good to the way the brain functions. While all memories a person has ever got can theoretically be stored forever in the brain, accessing them isn’t easy. Experiments have shed some light on this sensitive matter and proved that we never forget anything completely. Information that we previously thought was forgotten could be revived. Indeed, that explains why people that would ride bikes in their childhood can after many decades relearn the skill much quicker than those who never rode bikes before.