Forgetting is a Form of Learning
Humans create countless memories. Some we recall and some others hide deep within our mind. We all are accustomed to the general assumption that memories simply decay with time, and forgetting happens as we grow old. But the researchers from Trinity College, Dublin suggest that ‘forgetting’ might not be a bad thing and instead they say that forgetting may be a functional feature of the brain, allowing it to interact dynamically with the environment.
In today’s changing world, forgetting some memories can be beneficial as this can lead to more flexible behaviour and enables better decision-making. If memories were gained in circumstances that are not wholly relevant to the current environment, forgetting them can be a positive change that improves our wellbeing. Forgetting is due to altered memory access rather than memory loss. Our memories are stored in ‘engram cells’ which are an ensemble of neurons. It is our ability to activate these cells that result in our capacity to remember or forget something. The theory proposes that forgetting is due to circuit remodeling that switches engram cells from access to an inaccessible state. Because the rate of forgetting is impacted by environmental conditions, we propose that forgetting is actually a form of learning that alters memory accessibility in line with the environment and how predictable it is.