Partial Recall

Mikey 6 comments
Partial Recall

What does one have to do in order to commit something to memory permanently? The question that has eluded scientists for years and baffled me at the same time is starting to make me feel old.

Some cases in point. Why can I remember the exact time, location, and weather conditions when I first heard "Music sounds better with you" by Stardust back in 1998, but I can"t remember anything about a particular song I have been hearing a lot of on the radio this week, despite it being back announced every time.

Why do I remember the irrelevant details when I dropped my car keys into a small puddle that had formed in my driveway back in 1990, but can"t remember what I had for lunch 5 days ago?

If there is a part of the brain dedicated to organising priority, it must be flawed. But what constitutes priority? And how is priority decided?

Back in 1998 I loved the aforementioned Stardust single, but today I am more impressed by the new song on the Triple J play list. So should my brain automatically re-organise the priority? Perhaps assign higher priority to the new song and therefore allow me to actually remember the things I want to remember; the things that are important to me now. After all I have already decided the new song is better, so why can"t I remember anything about it?

This situation of often mirrored during times of extreme emotion. You have no doubt heard people who can say they remember exactly where they were when they got news that Kennedy had been shot, or when Elvis died. It would be fair to suggest extreme emotions embed longer lasting more vivid memories.

Perhaps the part of the brain responsible for memory and the other part responsible for emotions such as desire, love and want are not as connected as we may think. I am no neurosurgeon but I imagine it like two badly designed programs. Program A is for priority and Program B is for recall. The programs run independent but are also part of a larger program (Brain) and although they need to communicate with each other they inherently rely on the user to make the connection to transfer a piece of information. Sometimes information is lost during the transfer and all that remains is residue or fragments of data. Not unlike a computer at all.

We want to assign a high priority level to the new information, but existing memories are saying "I was here first take a number and stand in line". It only it were as simple as writing code.

What if we could simply delete memories at a mere thought, allowing ourselves to forget irrelevant data thereby remembering only the things that are important? That"s a scary concept I know, and probably something intentionally not built into "the design". Except I don't believe in "the design" but that's another story. Ironic given my job title is 'Design Director'. I digress...

Could the problem be more related to technology? I know that if I don't have it logged in Microsoft Outlook, I will completely forget the meeting I had organised for the same day. Or if my partner doesn't send a text message to my mobile phone around the time I am driving home from work I will forget to stop at the shops to get baby food and chocolate, despite having discussed it on the phone earlier that day.

Can an over-reliance on technology somehow "dull" the part of the brain that helps us remember important things? It would make for some interesting research at the very least.

I know I am not alone. What irrelevant memories do you still hold? And do you have a method to help you recall things afterwards?

Enquiring minds want to know.
Not a Member!


Thursday 9th November 2006 | 10:16 AM

I think extreme emotion plays a part but as you said sometimes there's no reason to explain why we remember insignificant events so vividly. I still remember pulling the head off my baby sisters doll when I was about 4 years old. The event lasted only seconds and the memory has faded somewhat but I can't remember much about a movie we saw a few weeks ago. The movie was crap and we endured but it lasted a couple of hours so I should remember it. But good movies I tend to remember very well regardless of when I saw them.

Not a Member!


Friday 10th November 2006 | 11:08 AM

It's somewhat fitting you put a picture of Homer above, as I often stated I wanted all my uni lecturers delivered by a Simpson, as I can remember every stupid line from the show but not a damn thing from a 4 year Engineering course.

Not a Member!


Friday 10th November 2006 | 01:14 PM

If I ever take anything onto a bus say an umbrella and put it on the seat next to me I will leave it behind everytime. Lucky I keep my ipod in my pocket. Its strange how easily we forget small things like that.

Not a Member!


Sunday 12th November 2006 | 07:08 AM

who has ever wandered about the house looking for the small but necessary item (such as car keys or cellphone) only to eventually discover it lodged safely and handily nearby but completely overlooked, in your own HAND?

and how stupid do we feel when we either happen upon this forgotten territory of the end of your arm, or (god forbid) have this pointed out by an amused onlooker?

and then we recall that in fact, as we searched, the hand felt somewhat full, assigned, perhaps even utilised, but our brain chose to ignore this, assuming we couldnt possibly be so stupid as tobe lookinf for something we were already holding...

Not a Member!


Thursday 16th November 2006 | 04:41 PM

I've always put it down to "old age" (even though I'm only in my late 20s) because it seems the older I get the more I seem to forget, or the less I seem to retain. At first I thought it may have simply been an awareness - the older you get, the more you realise there is that you don't know. When you're a teenager you think you know it all because only your opinion matters (at what age do we stop becoming the centre of the universe?), but as we get older we learn to consider other factors (such as people, emotions, effects of our actions, etc) and maybe that's what's bogging us down - we have too much floating through our brains to remember the everyday (and therefore insignificant) things.
Or maybe it's true what they tried to tell us at school, that alcohol really does kill brain cells and maybe those long dead ones were from the memory room....
All joking aside, I've found that the best way to remember things is to always make sure you're learning. By watching the news, researching facts, stimulating our minds with thought provoking conversation (have a dinner party with 3 completely argumentative, but intelligent people) your brain is flexing its muscles and will in turn become better at absorbing all information and display memories more readily. Your brain is like any other muscle in your body - if you don't use it for a prolonged period of time, then man is it gonna hurt when you try to do that marathon! But if you keep it in training by constantly keeping it on its toes, ever expanding, then it will seldom let you down. Give it a go - I hope it helps!

Not a Member!

Mari Lynn J

Friday 29th February 2008 | 08:22 PM

Keep exercising your mind. Solve puzzles, do crosswords, what ever blows your hair back.

Add a comment

Login to Rusty Lime

Not registered? | Forgot your Password? Cancel Login