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Could Forgetfulness Actually Make Your Brain Smarter?

6 minute read


People believe or view forgetfulness as a failure or a problem related to the nerves responsible for memory in our bodies. According to a journal paper published in the Neuron journal in the University of Toronto in this issue, some Canadian neuroscientists who published it tend to differ with this common belief.

According to the research they conducted regarding the science of the brain, they stated that our brains work to forget information intentionally so as to help us live our lives. One of the co-authors of the journal, Blake Richard, explained further by applying artificial intelligence theories to his study regarding how the brain functions. Blake said that in the AI world if an event happened there is a machine in the brain that stores information.

If the machine takes in a lot of information, also referred to as "overfitting", this act hinders the ability of our brains to behave with intelligence. Therefore, to improve the function of the AI systems, the brain has to be able to understand what information is necessary to keep and what to forget so they are able to make critical decisions about what we do.

The following is an excerpt of an interview with Blake Richard:

There are a lot of studies regarding memory, but is this study about forgetting a new survey?

When it comes to the study in the psychology field, most have focused on the case of forgetting and therefore it is not new research. What makes it seem like a new topic is the fact that a lot of neuroscientists who focus on the biology of the brain functioning have not put more emphasizes on studying the issue of forgetting. A lot of studies in the past few decades have been conducted on how the brain cells change to store information and remember it as well. But with time some neuroscientists have developed the urge to know more about what happens in the brain that makes people forget.

Some people have a high level of memory, but some believe that a portion of the information retained in the brain is irrelevant. What is your take on that?

According to a study carried out in Russia a neuropsychologist had a patient who could remember everything in his life. But the issue is the patient was not able to identify the everyday activities and patterns that were happening in the current life which helps humans in making solid decisions. Therefore our brain's primary role is to help us make intelligent decisions about our lives but not to store all the information about our lives.

A lot of people tend to experience forgetfulness ones they have a kid. Does this apply to your hypothesis?

It has not been scientifically proven although a lot of people speculate that individuals who have kids have a secondary memory as compared to others without kids. The fact remains that forgetting about our childhood plays a significant role in motivating us to have children as we are eager to see a child grow and go through all stages of life.

Can forgetting be termed as a function of the brains?

Well, that is what precisely the journal is trying to emphasize. If you wish to avoid any problem or misfortune in your life, then you have to make sure that you remember everything in your life. But if the major goal of the brain is to help us in making critical decisions about our lives and the world in general, then the best strategy to apply in the memory system is the policy of forgetting some information.

So, we can conclude that a normal and healthy functioning brain is the one that ignores some information. Do not be discouraged when you can’t remember some things because you are better off than an individual who tends to remember everything about their lives regarding making decisions. My colleague Paul Frankland, stated that the primary function of the brain is not to retain all the information for an extended period, but rather to use part of the information collected to make intelligent decisions in life.

Benefits of Forgetting

Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t remember your entire childhood. Instead, you should consider it as an advantage as it will help you in focusing on the important occurrences that are happening in the present time.

Other benefits associated with forgetfulness is that one can adapt to the new situations by letting go of the past situations which might help you to move on or make the right judgment.

Forgetting also enables us to forget particular cases about our past lives and yet retain the primary and the big picture about these situations so it can guide us in making intelligent decisions. So, forgetfulness has a significant positive impact in our decision making, and how we view life in the present world, we are living in.

The Bottom Line

So if you find yourself forgetting a person you met two months ago or where you put your car key, don’t be too hard on yourself. Forgetting should not be viewed as a cognitive mind health concern. The brain cannot be able to perform well in making the decision if it is retaining each detailed information you come across.

Should you seek medical help regarding forgetfulness?

Although the article supports the mind not remembering all the information, when you find yourself forgetting everything, then you should probably seek medical attention. But if you forget occasional details you should not worry about it as it is part of the brain system work. You can engage in various activities or workout sessions to keep your mind engaged and clean up your memory system as well.



  1. http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/06/23/534001592/could-the-best-memory-system-be-one-that-forgets
  2. http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/30/health/poor-memory-smarter-study-partner/index.html

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