In a new study, researchers found that forgetfulness may be a sign of brain efficiency.
The research was conducted by a team at Bond University.
In the study, the team looked specifically at how the brain reacts when people encounter a person or object out of context for the first time.
Students lying in an MRI brain scanner were asked to memorize multiple images of objects (such as a backpack, clock or cupcake) against backgrounds (including a gym, laundromat and garden).
Half of the objects had been shown to the students a day earlier. This made it possible to look at differences in brain responses when objects were familiar or had been encountered only once.
In the subsequent testing stage, researchers swapped the backgrounds of some objects and found this led to difficulty in remembering the unfamiliar objects.
The forgetfulness was accompanied by changes in activity in the hippocampus, one of the core human memory areas.
The team says the findings provide insight into how our memory system strives for efficiency and only encodes what it absolutely needs.
Forgetting can be seen as a feature because people shouldn’t encode more than they need and more is not always better.
People with Hyperthymesia remember almost everything in their life and while that seems like a neat feat, it comes with a downside because they have this huge mass of information present and it becomes very difficult to focus on a task.
Forgetting helps declutter our mental space and it’s all about efficiency.
The researchers say that the study could be a small step towards brain implants that restore memory.
People have retinal and cochlear implants now, and maybe in 100, 200 years they could have memory implants and be able to artificially interface the memory system.
This is one little building block in the endeavor to fully understand how the memory system works.
One author of the study is Assistant Professor Oliver Baumann.
The study is published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.
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