If you’re constantly forgetting stuff, you might be worried that something’s going on with your health. Something bad.
Even if we didn’t freak you out just there, people who are extremely forgetful don’t enjoy a great social standing. They’re seen as undependable, careless, maybe even a little stupid.
Well, fear not! Your forgetfulness might not be a symptom of a debilitating health issue or late-onset stupidity! According to a new study, quite the reverse.
According to a study by the University of Canada, forgetting stuff likely means your brain can easily distinguish between important information and fodder.
Basically, new neurons produced in the hippocampus, the section of the brain related to memory, seem to favor forgetfulness. The reason, researchers explained, is because the brain wants to trash useless information to make room for the vital facts.
“We always idealize the person who can smash a trivia game, but the point of memory is not being able to remember who won the Stanley Cup in 1972,” says Professor Blake Richards. “The point of memory is to make you an intelligent person who can make decisions given the circumstances, and an important aspect of helping you do that is being able to forget some information.”
Richards and his colleague Paul Frankland used analytical data from an experiment in 2007 as a basis for their research. In the previous study from Stanford University, Professor Bruce Kuhl utilized functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, to measure brain activity in 20 adults.
Those being studied were given three pairs of words to memorize and recall. The first two words (“ATTIC dust” & “ATTIC junk”) were closely associated. The third pair (“MOVIE reel”) is obviously quite different. Participants had a 15% of chance of forgetting the second associated pair (“ATTIC junk”) than they were at remembering the third pair (“MOVIE reel”).
Kuhl concluded that the reason for forgetting the second pair suggested the brain was trying to conserve availability in the memory. It appears to discard repeated information to save space for the information that does matter.
The next time your spouse gets on your case for forgetting to put the toilet seat down, try to remember the essential information from this article.