June 4, 2007

Competing memories

Interesting post via BB
A new study suggests that there is a benefit to forgetting irrelevant or similar but less useful memories. According to Stanford University neuroscientist Brice Kuhl and his colleagues, suppressing certain memories reduces the cognitive load of remembering something else later on. Using fMRI to scan the brains of subjects as they performed memory tests, the researchers gained insight into the neural processing of competing memories. They published the results of the study in the current issue of the scientific journal Nature Neuroscience.

From New Scientist:
"Whenever you’re engaging in remembering, the brain adapts. It’s constantly re-weighting memories," says Kuhl. "In this simple test, we see it reverse memory to weaken competing memories. This is something that probably happens a lot in the real world."

A good example is the confusion that arises when we change passwords on our computers or email accounts. We often mix up old and new passwords at first, but through repetition we develop a strong memory of the new password and forget the old one.
Previously on BB:
• Naps improve declarative memory Link
• Better visual working memory stems from ignoring stuff Link
• Memory glasses Link

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