comScore Science Figured out How Your Brain Forgets Things on Purpose | The Mary Sue

Science Has Figured out Why You Don’t Have Total Recall and How Your Brain Deletes Information on Purpose

So that means—wait, where was I going with this?



We know a decent amount about how the brain works, but forgetting was a fittingly mysterious process until now. New research shows that forgetting isn’t just something that happens accidentally and unfortunately and leaves you locked out of your apartment. No, it’s something your brain does deliberately, because it’s apparently a complete jerk.

In new research recently published in Cell, a team of researchers in Switzerland has announced that they’ve found a protein that the brain uses to delete information. Forgetting is generally regarded as a passive process, so finding out that there’s a specific protein that helps the brain methodically delete data is a pretty big deal.

But, before things get all Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or Men in Black, more research needs to be done. The protein that they found, called musashi, because apparently Swiss scientists are huge PlayStation nerds, was shown to destabilize the connection between neurons in roundworms and prevent memories from forming.

When musashi was removed, the roundworms’ memory capabilities increased substantially, and a protein called adicin that strengthens the connection between neurons and helps memories form was also discovered.

But why do living things need the ability to forget? Well, imagine if all the results of every Google search you ever made were constantly available to you all at the same time. I mean, who even goes past the first page? There’s just too much stuff out there. That’s pretty much what it would be like if you had total recall, and then you’d wind up like this:


So, our brains make sure we don’t remember everything and only maintain what’s important. Unfortunately, what we think is important (work schedules, things our significant others asked us to do) and what our brains think is important (not getting eaten by predators, food) are pretty different, and sometimes we still forget things we’d rather remember.

It’s better than the alternative, though, and this research could help make advancements in treating Alzheimer’s and other conditions that affect the memory. I mean, I understand if we tackle those big issues first, but spending most of my time on the Internet, I’ve seen plenty of stuff I’d like be able to unsee, so some Eternal Sunsine memory deleting machines would be much appreciated when you’re done curing sick people, science.

(Cell via Gizmodo, image via Arvins Strauhmanis)

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Dan is a video game modding hobbyist and secret ninja who lives in North Carolina with his wife, Lisa Brown, and his dog, Liz Lemon, both of whom are the best.