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Science News

Forgetting May be Part of the Remembering Process 191

Posted by samzenpus
from the what-was-I-talking-about dept.
CFTM writes "The New York Times is running an interesting article about how human memory works and the theorized adaptive nature of forgetfulness". From the article, "Whether drawing a mental blank on a new A.T.M. password, a favorite recipe or an old boyfriend, people have ample opportunity every day to curse their own forgetfulness. But forgetting is also a blessing, and researchers reported on Sunday that the ability to block certain memories reduces the demands on the brain when it is trying to recall something important. The study, appearing in the journal Nature Neuroscience, is the first to record visual images of people's brains as they suppress distracting memories. The more efficiently that study participants were tuning out irrelevant words during a word-memorization test, the sharper the drop in activity in areas of their brains involved in recollection. Accurate remembering became easier, in terms of the energy required."
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Forgetting May be Part of the Remembering Process

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @11:16PM (#19419841)
    I hope I remember to smoke more pot.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by bobo mahoney (1098593)
      If you can remember where your bong is, wait I can't remeber where my lighter is.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by __NR_kill (1018116)
      We really don't need to remember everything..

      Danger, Will Robinson! You didn't log in! You apparently put in the wrong password, or the wrong nickname. Either try again, or have your password mailed to you if you forgot your password. Logging in will allow you to post comments as yourself. If you don't log in, you will only be able to post as Anonymous Coward.
    • I forgot to forget things and now my brain is full... now I can't remember anything!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @11:16PM (#19419847)
    Stop making excuses for dupes.
  • by Scoth (879800) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @11:18PM (#19419851)
    The question I've always had is more along the lines of the filing system - there are times that I can't remember any part of something until someone reminds me of some small part, and it all comes flooding back. That means it was all in there somewhere, I just couldn't find it. I'm wondering what might cause that, and what might be done to improve it. Or, as the article is saying, perhaps we're not meant to?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dabraun (626287)

      there are times that I can't remember any part of something until someone reminds me of some small part, and it all comes flooding back.

      You needed the value of the index column, then you were able to retrieve the entire row. Simple as that.
      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Damn, I knew I was forgetting to do something. Tomorrow, I will index my brain, if I can remember.
      • by Timesprout (579035) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @11:38PM (#19419971)
        Yeah but usally when I do a

        SELECT what_happened FROM drunken_weekend_haze WHERE night = 'saturday';

        It's followed immediately by OMG I did what!!!!!! Followed in turn by

        DELETE FROM drunken_weekend_haze WHERE embarrassing_episode = True;

        Then when people say "Good weekend?" I can almost truthfully respond "Yeah but I got pissed and I can't remember a whole lot of it"
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I don't think it's as simple as searching a database along one dimension. It's more of a SELECT * WHERE a=b AND c=d AND e=f ... and you have to know enough parameters to narrow it down to one specific memory. When you get a reminder of a small part, it gives enough reference points that your brain can track down the whole memory.
      • Only on /. does a joke comparing the brain to an Array, or anything in programming, get modding insightful...
        • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

          by fireman sam (662213)
          Yeah, everyone knows it is a series of tubes.
        • Actually, Only on /. does a joke comparing the brain to an Array, or anything in programming, get modding insightful...

          Actually, I think computer science is a very good background for understanding the brain. If more pyschiatrists understood that, they might not still be fumbling around with the basics, and arguing that most mental conditions are is caused by brain chemistry (which is like saying that most software states are caused by an imbalance of 1s and 0s). It might be true, and it might sometimes s

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by thegnu (557446)
            which is like saying that most software states are caused by an imbalance of 1s and 0s

            As a computer technician, I welcome our vaguely interpreted and rather imaginary methodology of fixing computers... err.... overlords.
        • by alexo (9335)
          > Only on /. does a joke comparing the brain to an Array, or anything in programming, get modding insightful...

          Only on /. does a post complaining about a joke comparing the brain to an Array, or anything in programming, can get modded insightful...
      • by replicant108 (690832) on Thursday June 07, 2007 @05:46AM (#19421447) Journal
        In any mnemonic system, linking is a key component.

        The assumption is that any given item of information can only be reliably retrieved if it is linked to something already known.

        In computer science, the concept of the linked mist is probably most analogous.

        Clearly an index plays a vital role in such a system.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by rgravina (520410)

          In computer science, the concept of the linked mist is probably most analogous.

          Ah yes... the good ol' linked mist!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      perhaps we're not meant to?

      Meant to by whom? God?

      Personally, I prefer intelligent adaptation. This discovery (though it hardly sounds modern, I remember reading a summary of a hypothesis along these lines written by Freud) suggests that the problem isn't one if reducing a limitation or pushing a boundary so much as more intelligently directing a heuristic. The brain suppresses memories that it deems irrelevant to the task at hand, which is a good thing. The problem comes when it mis-assesses the relevan
      • perhaps we're not meant to?

        Meant to by whom? God?


        This doesn't necessarily assume a controlling intelligence. Cats aren't physically capable of human speech because they didn't evolve that way - they didn't need it, you could say they aren't meant to speak like we are. People haven't evolved to remember every single thing that ever happened to them; we aren't meant to be solely stores of information, we need to eat, work, play, etc.

        I suppose someone could make it their goal to remember everything, to devote
      • by NateTech (50881)
        Summary:

        Pay attention. There's going to be a test.
    • by buswolley (591500) on Thursday June 07, 2007 @12:05AM (#19420171) Journal
      I happen to be a memory researcher at a major University. I also happen to be on a project very similar to the one in the article. However, we are doing the fMRI imaging with children of different ages, as a developmental study. We also piloted adults, and replicating results similar to the ones in the article. Interesting. Of course, I cannot speak about the research in much detail. Journals don't like that much.

      As to your question, I could tell you a lot about why this is so. 1st, cued recall is much easier than free recall. The cue helps stimulate the appropriate associative networks facilitating recall. In particular, a primary focus of mine is cued recall, or recognition. I use the dual process model of recognition: Recollection and Familiarity.

      Familiarity, as experienced, is the feeling of familiarity we get when we see something that we've seen before, aside from actually remembering anything about it, which is recollection.

      I highly recommend the seminal: Yonelinas. A.P. (2002). The nature of recollection and familiarity: A review of 30 years of research. Journal of Memory and Language, 46, 441-517.

      You can get it here: http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/labs/Yonelinas/index _files/page0003.htm [ucdavis.edu]

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by slickwillie (34689)
        Are you aware of any research in this area concerning memory and ADD? It could be (from personal experience) that ADD is actually failure to prune enough memories.
      • by syousef (465911) on Thursday June 07, 2007 @01:48AM (#19420623) Journal
        Of course, I cannot speak about the research in much detail. Journals don't like that much

        You're a scientist and a researcher working at a (public??) university but can't speak about what you do. What's wrong with this picture? Rampant unchecked capitalism is little better than rampant unchecked communism.
        • by buswolley (591500) on Thursday June 07, 2007 @02:11AM (#19420713) Journal
          Of course, I agree wholeheartedly. Researchers could speak of it all they want, but doing so may jeopardize their chances of being published. Journals like to have the first press release.
          • by syousef (465911)
            Forgive me if I sounded at all harsh or condescending. I've had a gut full of the medical profession just at the moment. It's a long story but a loved one suffers a rare condition that sees her present at the ER (as she did 2 days ago) and half the time it is misdiagnosed (incorrect technique) and she is labelled a mallingerer despite having a history with this condition. I've resorted to digging up medical articles on it but I don't like my chances of them actually listening even with the documentation.

            A n
            • If you have a teaching/research hospital in your area, try them.
              Also see this post [slashdot.org]
              • by syousef (465911)
                Sadly this was at a teaching hospital, but thanks for the info. I'm in Australia, but who knows how desperate we may one day be. International travel is unlikely but not out of the question.

        • by yali (209015) on Thursday June 07, 2007 @02:26AM (#19420793)

          You're a scientist and a researcher working at a (public??) university but can't speak about what you do.

          That's an overstatement. The poster was referring to a specific study that has been submitted to a journal. Journals consider their mission to publish original data and findings, and won't accept stuff that has been previously published. Some interpret "prior publication" quite broadly to include many forms of dissemination of findings, including stuff posted on the web. (This is prevalent in psychology [apa.org], where there is no equivalent to arXiv.org [arxiv.org] for preprints.) It's not right, and it's changing slowly, but until it gets better researchers have to play along.

          Moreover, there are potential ethical issues with disseminating findings that have not yet been subjected to peer review. Many scientists consider peer review to be an integral part of the scientific process, because it provides a form of quality control and ensures a minimum standard for findings and conclusions that the scientific community will communicate the the public. Some publicity-hungry researchers violate this, but many others do care about it.

          Once the study in question has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication, I'm sure the poster will be happy to tell you all about it.

          • by smallfries (601545) on Thursday June 07, 2007 @03:35AM (#19421015) Homepage
            Although it also depends on the subject. In CS it is common to publish work three times, firstly at a workshop, then at a conference, and finally at a journal. Each level of the pyramid is happy as long as the work hasn't been that high before. Even before any of these it is common to release a tech report or an eprint to "get a flag in the ground". Part of the difference in culture comes from the turn around time on research.

            The ethical issues are still the same though. Most "blind" review is not blind after a little googling, although preprints of the work do make that a little easier. Work in CS doesn't have such a binary quality control. There is an ordering between the different types of publications, but it isn't as important as the quality of the venue. I can think of some really prestigious workshops with 60:1 acceptance ratios against some pretty crappy journals that are 3:1.
        • Rampant unchecked capitalism is little better than rampant unchecked communism.
          He should publish his results so that you can benefit at his expense.
           
          • by syousef (465911)
            Actually he should publish his results so that the American public that fund the University he works at can benefit.
            • by Colin Smith (2679)
              You don't think the University should attempt to sell or license the information or otherwise make a business out of it? You know that information easily spreads outwith US borders?
               
              • by Darby (84953)
                You don't think the University should attempt to sell or license the information or otherwise make a business out of it?

                What kind of an idiotic fool would think anything so entirely stupid?!?
                It's a public university meaning the public already fucking paid for it.
                What kind of an insane rock do people like you crawl out from under?

                Hey, you already paid for your car, so why shouldn't I be allowed to send you bills for it? That is identical to the situation proposing. Try thinking net time, don't just spout id
      • by kklein (900361)
        Thanks for the link! I am thinking switching out of the SLA ghetto into cogsci since most of my research questions (regarding L2 vocab acquisition) ultimately seem better suited to that field. Got any other great seminal links you'd like to pass to a newbie?
    • by SeekerDarksteel (896422) on Thursday June 07, 2007 @12:21AM (#19420289)
      In artificial neural networks, there are structures called auto-associative memory networks. The networks are "trained" on certain patterns, then when it receives one of those patterns as input, it outputs a pattern closer to the pattern it was trained on. If you make it recursive (and your network is good enough), you can take as input a pattern that contains only a fragment of one of the patterns it was trained on and get as output the pattern you trained on. It's quite likely that something like that is going on inside our brains to store memories in some fashion, but on a far more complex scale than we can describe at this point.
    • by AlpineR (32307)

      I've had lots of memory trouble lately as a symptom of chemobrain [blogspot.com]. I get chemotherapy two weeks per month and develop lots of holes in my memory of those chemo days. I also received intensive chemotherapy two years ago and have whole weeks missing from my memory.

      But lately I've been getting lots of flashbacks [blogspot.com]. A scent or a sound associated with the missing memories will make them all come flooding back. And it's very powerful -- I recall all of the sights, smells, sounds, conversations, weather, even

    • I recently encountered a theory that claims that our brains are essentially holograms. From wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:

      ...information about an image point is distributed throughout the hologram, such that each piece of the hologram contains some information about the entire image...

      And from The Holographic Universe [crystalinks.com] (which may or may not be hogwash):

      Our uncanny ability to quickly retrieve whatever information we need from the enormous store of our memories becomes more understandable if the brain functions according to holographic principles. If a friend asks you to tell him what comes to mind when he says the word "zebra", you do not have to clumsily sort back through one gigantic and cerebral alphabetic file to arrive at an answer. Instead, associations like "striped", "horselike", and "animal native to Africa" all pop into your head instantly.

      Indeed, one of the most amazing things about the human thinking process is that every piece of information seems instantly cross-correlated with every other piece of information--another feature intrinsic to the hologram. Because every portion of a hologram is infinitely interconnected with ever other portion, it is perhaps nature's supreme example of a cross-correlated system.

      (I know next to nothing about holograms and neuroscience, so take this for the speculative quote-cribbing it is)

  • by Timesprout (579035) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @11:18PM (#19419855)
    I'm sure I will have remembered by the time the dupe gets here though
  • The only thing that I have to remember is that my password is in my top drawer written on a sticky note.
  • by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @11:25PM (#19419889) Journal
    This is all stuff I figured out. Despite the fact I thought it up, it could still be wrong.

    If you spend processes on thinking, you can lose your process of memory. Ie: You can get distracted if something comes up and you forget what you were doing. Or you walk into a room thinking about the football game, and forget why you came into the room to begin with. I think smart people who are in a constant line of thought as such they sacrifice less important parts of their memory and only remember big things. Now this article makes me even happier because I always think and hardly take time to remember.

    Want to hear the funny part? I don't remember what the article actually says. I think it said that if you forget trivial stuff that the more important stuff will be easier to remember. I'll go re-read it now.
  • how that mushy grey matter in the skull can "record" memories.. the brain is just a bunch of nerve cells right? can a slice of the brain be put under a microscope and analyzed to see what memories it holds? My instinct says no.. all you'll see is a bunch of dead cells. What the fuck is a memory anyways? Shit, I gotta lay off the ganja for the night.
    • by Lehk228 (705449)
      i don't know if they have verified it, but one thing i heard was that memories are encoded in RNA by the neurons
    • how that mushy grey matter in the skull can "record" memories..

      not too dissimilarly from how that magnetic dust on your HDD "records" a movie.

      Imagine an OS that can edit its own hardware, and that continually customizes its own file allotment system. that's the brain.
    • holographic memories (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nido (102070)
      I read of a researcher who spent his entire career trying to find out where memories were stored in mice brains. He'd teach the mouse to run a maze, then cut out a portion of the mouse brain, with the assumption that the mouse's mental map of the maze was stored in some specific location, and by removing the mouse's maze map, it would be unable to navigate the passages. But after having chopped every region of the brain out, the mice always remembered how to run the maze.

      The book offered that memories are
      • by mikael (484)
        Navigation is supposed to be done by the hippocampus. [wikipedia.org]

        A study at University College London by Maguire et (2000) showed that part of the hippocampus is larger in taxi drivers than in the general public, and that more experienced drivers have bigger hippocampi.[4] Whether having a bigger hippocampus helps an individual to become a cab driver or finding shortcuts for a living makes an individual's hippocampus grow is yet to be elucidated. However, in that study Maguire et al. examined the correlation between si
  • The theory of the "antibrain" was first articulated in the 1980s by lazy, tripping Deadheads in LI, NY. It says that bad habits, wrong ideas, stupidity is incarnated in braincells/connections just like the brain stuff we think is better. So selective brain damage of the brain material that makes us dumb is worth an equal amount in brain growth. Destroying the antibrain is as good as growing the brain.

    Now we're seeing some confirmation by actual scientists.

    Antibrain theorists also believed that abusing drugs
  • by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @11:29PM (#19419911) Homepage Journal

    An old couple both have Alzheimer's. One day they're watching TV and an ad for a burger place comes on.
    Man says: "Hey, want to make some burgers?"
    Woman says: "Sure, what to you want on yours?
    Man: "I want lettuce, tomatoes and onions. Don't forget; lettuce, tomatoes and onions."
    Woman: "Got it. Lettuce, tomatoes and onions."
    A good hour goes by and she finally comes from the kitchen and hands her husband a plate of bacon and eggs. He says "You idiot! You forgot the toast!"

  • I have hundreds of Yodabytes of data stored in BRAIN format. However, the media tends to crash giving me a huge headache! Next comes bouts of depression.

    Maybe I should forget more often on purpose, then I would have less to worry about when I lose my data on purpose.

    Now that I think about it, I should apply this lesson to my computer data too :)
  • Simpsons (Score:4, Funny)

    by _pi-away (308135) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @11:30PM (#19419917) Homepage
    "Remember when I took that home wine-making course and forgot how to drive?"

    "That's because you were drunk!"

    "And how!"
  • by syousef (465911)
    Man I must've "fogotten" one very different time in my life. My fiancee will be very upset.

  • The more efficiently that study participants were tuning out irrelevant words during a word-memorization test, the sharper the drop in activity in areas of their brains involved in recollection.

    Phrased the other way: Participants who concentrated on relevant words had an easier time remembering them.

  • An interesting article [journaloftheoretics.com] on the role sleep plays in saving/discarding memories. Even if it seems like you've forgotten an event during the day, it isn't really gone until your next period of REM sleep.
    • by buswolley (591500)
      Consolidation during REM. There isn't much in the literature. For that matter, consolidation is on shaky ground itself.
  • by rlp (11898) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @11:51PM (#19420091)
    Personally, I think that ...

    Exception in thread "Surf" java.lang.NullPointerException
    at Slashdot.Post(Slashdot.java:1061)
    at Slashdot.Read(Slashdot.java:75)
    at MyBrain.main(MyBrain.java:4038)

  • by Nutty_Irishman (729030) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @11:54PM (#19420105)
    Learning to forget is probably more beneficial to humanity in the long run. How many times have you sat around and wasted time thinking about things you wish you could forget (ex's, deceased family members, disturbing conversations, etc.). At times, learning to forget is exactly what we need to move on with our lives.
    • by StikyPad (445176)
      Ah, not having to forget about ex's. I'm going to add that to my list of rationalizations for not having a girlfriend. :(
    • by CBravo (35450)
      I wish that those were the worst problems in the world. War, hunger and diseases are imho far worse.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Tablizer (95088)
      How many times have you sat around and wasted time thinking about things you wish you could forget (ex's, deceased family members, disturbing conversations, etc.).

      Goatse
           
    • by gnu-sucks (561404)
      The day I broke up with my x about 6 years ago, I decided to forget her phone number.

      Besides not calling her, whenever I would think of the number, I diverted my thoughts to anything else.

      Throughout the years, I would half-tempt myself to try and recall the number. Each time, I diverted the thought.

      At this moment, if I try to remember the number, I have this feeling that the number is inside my head somewhere, but all those years of training have removed any possibility of recalling it.

      I also think if I wer
    • There are many thing you consiously wish to forget, and potentially many worse than your examples, but I think the process here is not about those things, rather about removing the useless stuff that fill 99%+ of what you perceived.

      Imagine you could accurately remember everything you've seen, heard, smelled, felt and touched since you were born but needed two hours to find back the exact moment you learn that 2+2=4, that's the real point here.
  • Contradiction (Score:4, Informative)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @11:58PM (#19420125) Journal
    The primary study quoted supposedly shows less brain activity (in reality it shows less oxy/CO2 swapping, which is frequently mistaken for a measure of brain activity) when some memories are suppressed. Then they quote Anderson (U. of Oregon) who more properly identifies such suppression as active inhibition. Active inhibition is a form of activity. It should show up as a "lighting up" on the fMRI scan. In light of this, what the primary study shows is nothing. It's a failure to find active inhibition. Some results are notable by their absence. Saying your results show something when they in fact fail to is entirely different.

    "Recall" itself is a misleading term. We don't recall anything. We reconstruct. All memories are in some part false because they're generally fast-as-possible good-enough guesses by the brain. Keeping that in mind helps one understand that the creation of memories requires both active agglomeration of relevant components and active inhibition of the irrelevant. Once you grasp that, then you can try to figure out how the hell that lump of meat knows what's relevant and what's irrelevant when it's trying to put together what we perceive as memories before we get to perceive them, and you can then be as woefully ignorant about what's really going on as the people in the article as well as myself.
  • Not for me! (Score:4, Funny)

    by frrrrrspl (1112559) on Thursday June 07, 2007 @12:07AM (#19420197)
    I cannot remember that I have ever forgotten anything.
  • by syphoon (619506) on Thursday June 07, 2007 @12:58AM (#19420453)

    Jorge Luis Borges wrote this story about a man who had an accident that left him unable to forget anything. He ended up living the rest of his life in a darkened room, unable to cope with the deluge of detail the outside world had for him, and unable to file the memories he had accumulated and put them in a context in his mind.

    Funes, the Memorious

    By Jorge Luis Borges

    I remember him (I scarcely have the right to use this ghostly verb; only one man on earth deserved the right, and he is dead), I remember him with a dark passionflower in his hand, looking at it as no one has ever looked at such a flower, though they might look from the twilight of day until the twilight of night, for a whole life long. I remember him, his face immobile and Indian-like, and singularly remote, behind his cigarette. I remember (I believe) the strong delicate fingers of the plainsman who can braid leather. I remember, near those hands, a vessel in which to make maté tea, bearing the arms of the Banda Oriental; I remember, in the window of the house, a yellow rush mat, and beyond, a vague marshy landscape. I remember clearly his voice, the deliberate, resentful nasal voice of the old Eastern Shore man, without the Italianate syllables of today. I did not see him more than three times; the last time, in 1887. . . .

    That all those who knew him should write something about him seems to me a very felicitous idea; my testimony may perhaps be the briefest and without doubt the poorest, and it will not be the least impartial. The deplorable fact of my being an Argentinian will hinder me from falling into a dithyramb - an obligatory form in the Uruguay, when the theme is an Uruguayan.

    Littérateur, slicker, Buenos Airean: Funes did not use these insulting phrases, but I am sufficiently aware that for him I represented these unfortunate categories. Pedro Leandro Ipuche has written that Funes was a precursor of the superman, "an untamed and vernacular Zarathustra"; I do not doubt it, but one must not forget, either, that he was a countryman from the town of Fray Bentos, with certain incurable limitations.

    My first recollection of Funes is quite clear: I see him at dusk, sometime in March or February of the year '84. That year, my father had taken me to spend the summer at Fray Bentos. I was on my way back from the farm at San Francisco with my cousin Bernardo Haedo. We came back singing, on horseback; and this last fact was not the only reason for my joy. After a sultry day, an enormous slate-grey-storm had obscured the sky. It was driven on by a wind from the south; the trees were already tossing like madmen; and I had the apprehension (the secret hope) that the elemental downpour would catch us out in the open. We were running a kind of race with the tempest. We rode into a narrow lane which wound down between two enormously high brick footpaths. It had grown black of a sudden; I now heard rapid almost secret steps above; I raised my eyes and saw a boy running along the narrow, cracked path as if he were running along a narrow, broken wall. I remember the loose trousers, tight at the bottom, the hemp sandals; I remember the cigarette in the hard visage, standing out against the by now limitless darkness. Bernardo unexpectedly yelled to him: "What's the time, Ireneo?" Without looking up, without stopping, Ireneo replied: "In ten minutes it will be eight o'clock, child Bernardo Juan Francisco." The voice was sharp, mocking.

    I am so absentminded that the dialogue which I have just cited would not have penetrated my attention if it had not been repeated by my cousin, who was stimulated, I think, by a certain local pride and by a desire to show himself indifferent to the other's three-sided reply.

    He told me that the boy above us in the pass was a certain Ireneo Funes, renowned for a number of eccentricities, such as that of having nothing to do with people and of always knowing the time, like a watch. He added that Ireneo was the son of Maria Clementina Funes, an ironi

    • by jd (1658)
      ...do forget, deluges of information do occur. People on the Autistic Spectrum suffer from massive sensory overload. The "lower" the functioning, the less able they are to filter information out. Slowing down the information flow does not wholly or even mostly mitigate the problem, but it does reduce it quite considerably nonetheless. Much of the perceived "slowness" of someone who is autistic is a product of their brain working overtime to deal with the volume of data. If you liken the brain to a computer,
  • by MarkWatson (189759) on Thursday June 07, 2007 @12:58AM (#19420455) Homepage
    In the late 1980s, I participated for about a year on the DARPA neural network tools panel. If I remember correctly (ha :-) it was Francis Crick who suggested that REM sleep was like simulated annealing; that is, serving the function of adding some randomness to a neural network so that we could forget meaningless things that happened to us during the day.
  • The Finite Mind (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Cosmic AC (1094985)
    That forgetfulness has a legitimate function in the mind should come as no surprise to anyone who understands that all brains are finite organs with limited capacity. When there is not enough room to store a set of memories, some of them need to be pushed out.

    The findings should also reduce some of the anxiety surrounding "senior moments," researchers say. Some names, numbers and details are hard to retrieve not because memory is faltering, but because it is functioning just as it should.

    Actually , it is likely both. As we age, this part of memory (forgetfulness) is functioning as it should, but it is carrying out this function more often because overall memory capacity is reduced.

  • Sometime ago I had a t-shirt that had this written:

    The more I study, the more I know.

    The more I know, the more I forget...

    The more I forget, the less I know.

    So why study?

  • I can still remember every step involved with installing a M-61A1 20MM Gatling gun into a Block 52 F-16. Every single step. I can recite from memory all the steps needed in functional checking a LAU-128 for an AIM-9\M missile, switch positions in the cockpit as well as the settings on the tester. However, I can not recall simple names for objects and tools I use on a day to day basis.

    It has been twelve years since I got out of the USAF, but it seems a large portion of my memory is being used up by things I
  • by Bellum Aeternus (891584) on Thursday June 07, 2007 @03:35AM (#19421017)
    Finally, a good excuse for forgetting my girlfriend's birthday: I'm remembering something "more important". Wait... that won't work.

    Yes, I post on slashdot. Yes, I have a real, live, breathing girlfriend. :-P
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Is she human?
      • From my imperfect memory of a Sexy Loser strip (sorry, can't access it from work to check).

        Narator: Will Mike have sex with a real human being?
        Left Hand Mike: What? I'm not a real human being?!?
    • Yes, I post on slashdot. Yes, I have a real, live, breathing girlfriend. :-P

      And is she human?
  • If I quit trying to figure out how to save the world, I'll be able to find my keys? I think I'm going to go hibernate for a few months. See y'all at New Year's. :)
  • Woman: Why did you forget to do X?

    Man: Ph! I read a great article on that the other day. It turns out the brain AUTOMATICALLY pushes less important memories for more important ones. So it turns out it is not my fault at all.

    Woman: So.. what you are saying is the things I ask you to do are not important?

    Man: Yes! Umm... er...

  • After you do this, you will always remember it the next years.

    You won't forget, and neither will she.
  • Homer: Every time I learn something new I forget something. Like that time I forgot how to drive.

    Marge: Homer, you were drunk!

    Homer And how...

  • I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may h
  • It's true. (Score:2, Informative)

    by jonadab (583620)
    As someone who has done a lot of memorization (specifically, a national-level Bible quizzer -- we memorize whole books until we can quote chapter after chapter; as you can imagine, there is a substantial time investment involved), I could have told you that forgetting is an important part of remembering.

    You can't permanently memorize something in one go. Well, maybe if you've got an extremely unusual photographic memory or savant syndrome you can, but most of us cannot. We have to take it in multiple pass

Life. Don't talk to me about life. - Marvin the Paranoid Anroid

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