On memory

WHY do people forget things? Or, how do they remember a few and forget the rest? What makes people retain billions of bits of information in their brain cells, or lose it, is still a scientific mystery. While it is acknowledged that repetitive practice will improve memory, there is no logical explanation how we remember our childhood whereas we forget the telephone numbers or street names given a few minutes ago.

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Published: Sat 26 Nov 2005, 10:16 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 6:48 PM

It’s a big puzzle how the human brain archives volumes of information and retrieves anything from facts and figures to pictures and memories in a matter of a split second. However, there are some limitations to the brain function. Unless one is endowed with excellent memory or has practised skills to enhance one’s remembering power, it is likely that a person starts forgetting things as he or she grows old. It’s not considered memory loss, which is the inability to recall or recognise.

Forgetfulness increases with age as people start paying little attention to what they are doing or want to do multiple tasks at the same time. The result is, they can’t remember anything at the end of their task. Psychologists and gurus often advocate concentration techniques, prescribe games and puzzles that require attention to sharpen the memory. But their success rate is limited because focusing attention needs practice and discipline. For people who think they are short of or faltering on memory, researchers have found a way to minimise their forgetfulness.

The technique is simple, works something like on the principle of microchips. If you want to make your computer work at its optimum level, you won’t stuff it with all unwanted junk. You keep in the system what’s important for you. The rest goes into the trash bin. Similarly, scientists at the University of Oregon say, remember what is really important to you and purge the useless information. That means the brain stores only the relevant information and its task of recalling it is made easier and faster. Indeed, it may be a true biological memory upgradation!

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