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Forgetting May be Part of the Remembering Process

samzenpus posted more than 7 years ago | from the what-was-I-talking-about dept.

Science 191

CFTM writes "The New York Times is running an interesting article about how human memory works and the theorized adaptive nature of forgetfulness". From the article, "Whether drawing a mental blank on a new A.T.M. password, a favorite recipe or an old boyfriend, people have ample opportunity every day to curse their own forgetfulness. But forgetting is also a blessing, and researchers reported on Sunday that the ability to block certain memories reduces the demands on the brain when it is trying to recall something important. The study, appearing in the journal Nature Neuroscience, is the first to record visual images of people's brains as they suppress distracting memories. The more efficiently that study participants were tuning out irrelevant words during a word-memorization test, the sharper the drop in activity in areas of their brains involved in recollection. Accurate remembering became easier, in terms of the energy required."

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191 comments

Why is my mouse pointer over the submit button? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19419841)

I hope I remember to smoke more pot.

Re:Why is my mouse pointer over the submit button? (3, Funny)

bobo mahoney (1098593) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420201)

If you can remember where your bong is, wait I can't remeber where my lighter is.

Damn! I woulda had FP (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19420311)

But I forgot to click the mouse.

The Fletcher Memorial Home for Incurable Talents (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19420331)

Take all your overgrown infants away somewhere
and build them a home a little place of their own
the Fletcher memorial
home for incurable tyrants and kings

And they can appear to themselves every day
on closed circuit T.V.
To make sure they're still real
It's the only connection they feel
"ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Reagan and Haig
Mr. begin and friends Mrs. Thatcher and paisley
Mr. Brezhnev and party
the ghost of McCarthy
the memories of Nixon
and now adding colour a group of anonymous Latin-
American meat packing glitterati"

did they expect us to treat them with any respect

they can polish their medals and sharpen their
smiles, and amuse themselves playing games for a while
boom boom, bang bang, lie down you're dead

safe in the permanent gaze of a gold glass eye
with their favourite toys
they'll be good girls and boys
in the Fletcher memorial home for colonial
wasters of life and limb

is everyone in?
are you having a nice time?
now the final solution can be applied

Re:The Fletcher Memorial Home for Incurable Talent (0, Offtopic)

jombeewoof (1107009) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420733)

Obscure, if not entirely off topic Pink Floyd reference...
If I had a mod point I'd give it to you.

Re:The Fletcher Memorial Home for Incurable Talent (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19420797)

Lime and limpid green, a second scene
A fight between the blue you once knew.
Floating down, the sound resounds
Around the icy waters underground.
Jupiter and Saturn, Oberon, Miranda
And Titania, Neptune, Titan.
Stars can frighten.

Blinding signs flap,
Flicker, flicker, flicker blam. Pow, pow.
Stairway scare Dan Dare who's there?
Lime and limpid green
The sounds surrounds the icy waters underground
Lime and limpid green
The sounds surrounds the icy waters underground.

At least I know that someone is on my side.

Re:Why is my mouse pointer over the submit button? (2, Funny)

__NR_kill (1018116) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420353)

We really don't need to remember everything..

Danger, Will Robinson! You didn't log in! You apparently put in the wrong password, or the wrong nickname. Either try again, or have your password mailed to you if you forgot your password. Logging in will allow you to post comments as yourself. If you don't log in, you will only be able to post as Anonymous Coward.

Alberto Gonzales? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19420421)

Gonzales, is that you?

I don't think that forgetting even more things will help you remember more at this point in time...

Give me a break Slashdot editors (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19419847)

Stop making excuses for dupes.

Re:Give me a break Slashdot editors (2, Insightful)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420731)

I think the article is implying that your memory of similiar, repetetive tasks goes to reduce to "index" of totals when trying to recall one. So if you only ever sky-dived once, you're gonna remember exactly how it went. But if you're a sky diving instructor, you'll have a hard time remembering any one jump in particular. So yeah, sumbitting stories does get A LITTLE repetetive after a few years and thus hard to remember lol

The question I've always had about memory... (5, Interesting)

Scoth (879800) | more than 7 years ago | (#19419851)

The question I've always had is more along the lines of the filing system - there are times that I can't remember any part of something until someone reminds me of some small part, and it all comes flooding back. That means it was all in there somewhere, I just couldn't find it. I'm wondering what might cause that, and what might be done to improve it. Or, as the article is saying, perhaps we're not meant to?

Re:The question I've always had about memory... (3, Insightful)

dabraun (626287) | more than 7 years ago | (#19419869)

there are times that I can't remember any part of something until someone reminds me of some small part, and it all comes flooding back.

You needed the value of the index column, then you were able to retrieve the entire row. Simple as that.

Re:The question I've always had about memory... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19419905)

Damn, I knew I was forgetting to do something. Tomorrow, I will index my brain, if I can remember.

Re:The question I've always had about memory... (5, Funny)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 7 years ago | (#19419971)

Yeah but usally when I do a

SELECT what_happened FROM drunken_weekend_haze WHERE night = 'saturday';

It's followed immediately by OMG I did what!!!!!! Followed in turn by

DELETE FROM drunken_weekend_haze WHERE embarrassing_episode = True;

Then when people say "Good weekend?" I can almost truthfully respond "Yeah but I got pissed and I can't remember a whole lot of it"

Re:The question I've always had about memory... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19420037)

Fortunately your friend has a transaction log and can help you rebuild the deleted records later.

Re:The question I've always had about memory... (2, Interesting)

The Master Control P (655590) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420021)

I don't think it's as simple as searching a database along one dimension. It's more of a SELECT * WHERE a=b AND c=d AND e=f ... and you have to know enough parameters to narrow it down to one specific memory. When you get a reminder of a small part, it gives enough reference points that your brain can track down the whole memory.

Re:The question I've always had about memory... (5, Insightful)

Jarjarthejedi (996957) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420471)

Only on /. does a joke comparing the brain to an Array, or anything in programming, get modding insightful...

Re:The question I've always had about memory... (1, Offtopic)

fireman sam (662213) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420493)

Yeah, everyone knows it is a series of tubes.

Re:The question I've always had about memory... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19421081)

It's more like comparing it to a filing cabinet or a database. And it's highly likely that the brain uses some kind of indexing system.

Re:The question I've always had about memory... (1)

FMota91 (1050752) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420587)

Actually, it's probably more like you're being given a few characters in the middle of a string (which are supposedly unique to that string), and you need to find the rest of the string. I wonder if there's any data structure that does that...

Re:The question I've always had about memory... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19419959)

perhaps we're not meant to?

Meant to by whom? God?

Personally, I prefer intelligent adaptation. This discovery (though it hardly sounds modern, I remember reading a summary of a hypothesis along these lines written by Freud) suggests that the problem isn't one if reducing a limitation or pushing a boundary so much as more intelligently directing a heuristic. The brain suppresses memories that it deems irrelevant to the task at hand, which is a good thing. The problem comes when it mis-assesses the relevance value of certain bits of information. The questions we should be asking are, "what might cause that mis-assessment, and how can it be remedied once it is caused?"

My hypothesis would be that there are two causes of the mis-assessment:

1) Some unrelated thoughts that are simultaneously happening in the brain cause the recall operation to favor a different set of relevancies.
2) Some inappropriate associations are linking the desired information with something that is very irrelevant to the data at hand, thus causing it to be "drug down."

Based on this hypothesis, responding to a drawn-blank would involve two steps:

1) Consciously clear your mind (this takes practice...study zen...it helps) and re-state the question you are trying to answer (state it out loud, that helps too).

2) Try to think of (and out loud ask yourself) questions about things that would clearly be associated with the desired bit of information. If you are trying to remember a phone number, think of things like the face of the person who you are trying to call, the image of a telephone on which you previously called the person, perhaps the image of the place where you stored the number previously (post-it note or PDA or whatever).

Don't work harder, work smarter!

Re:The question I've always had about memory... (5, Interesting)

buswolley (591500) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420171)

I happen to be a memory researcher at a major University. I also happen to be on a project very similar to the one in the article. However, we are doing the fMRI imaging with children of different ages, as a developmental study. We also piloted adults, and replicating results similar to the ones in the article. Interesting. Of course, I cannot speak about the research in much detail. Journals don't like that much.

As to your question, I could tell you a lot about why this is so. 1st, cued recall is much easier than free recall. The cue helps stimulate the appropriate associative networks facilitating recall. In particular, a primary focus of mine is cued recall, or recognition. I use the dual process model of recognition: Recollection and Familiarity.

Familiarity, as experienced, is the feeling of familiarity we get when we see something that we've seen before, aside from actually remembering anything about it, which is recollection.

I highly recommend the seminal: Yonelinas. A.P. (2002). The nature of recollection and familiarity: A review of 30 years of research. Journal of Memory and Language, 46, 441-517.

You can get it here: http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/labs/Yonelinas/index _files/page0003.htm [ucdavis.edu]

Re:The question I've always had about memory... (2, Interesting)

slickwillie (34689) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420397)

Are you aware of any research in this area concerning memory and ADD? It could be (from personal experience) that ADD is actually failure to prune enough memories.

Re:The question I've always had about memory... (1)

buswolley (591500) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420461)

No. Sorry.

Re:The question I've always had about memory... (3, Interesting)

Torvaun (1040898) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420859)

Now, that makes all sorts of sense. My brother, my father and I are all ADHD. We are also the kings of pretty much any trivia contest you care to mention. I can recall massive selections of dialogue from movies verbatim after a single viewing. I've been going off of the assumption that it was the result of random hyperfocusing, but it could be the failure to forget.

Re:The question I've always had about memory... (4, Insightful)

syousef (465911) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420623)

Of course, I cannot speak about the research in much detail. Journals don't like that much

You're a scientist and a researcher working at a (public??) university but can't speak about what you do. What's wrong with this picture? Rampant unchecked capitalism is little better than rampant unchecked communism.

Re:The question I've always had about memory... (3, Interesting)

buswolley (591500) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420713)

Of course, I agree wholeheartedly. Researchers could speak of it all they want, but doing so may jeopardize their chances of being published. Journals like to have the first press release.

Re:The question I've always had about memory... (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420839)

Forgive me if I sounded at all harsh or condescending. I've had a gut full of the medical profession just at the moment. It's a long story but a loved one suffers a rare condition that sees her present at the ER (as she did 2 days ago) and half the time it is misdiagnosed (incorrect technique) and she is labelled a mallingerer despite having a history with this condition. I've resorted to digging up medical articles on it but I don't like my chances of them actually listening even with the documentation.

A number of our institutions are badly broken and only getting worse. Chief among these are medicine, education and law. For all our advances aspects of these professions behave like they're still operating in 1600.

Re:The question I've always had about memory... (5, Informative)

yali (209015) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420793)

You're a scientist and a researcher working at a (public??) university but can't speak about what you do.

That's an overstatement. The poster was referring to a specific study that has been submitted to a journal. Journals consider their mission to publish original data and findings, and won't accept stuff that has been previously published. Some interpret "prior publication" quite broadly to include many forms of dissemination of findings, including stuff posted on the web. (This is prevalent in psychology [apa.org] , where there is no equivalent to arXiv.org [arxiv.org] for preprints.) It's not right, and it's changing slowly, but until it gets better researchers have to play along.

Moreover, there are potential ethical issues with disseminating findings that have not yet been subjected to peer review. Many scientists consider peer review to be an integral part of the scientific process, because it provides a form of quality control and ensures a minimum standard for findings and conclusions that the scientific community will communicate the the public. Some publicity-hungry researchers violate this, but many others do care about it.

Once the study in question has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication, I'm sure the poster will be happy to tell you all about it.

Re:The question I've always had about memory... (3, Interesting)

smallfries (601545) | more than 7 years ago | (#19421015)

Although it also depends on the subject. In CS it is common to publish work three times, firstly at a workshop, then at a conference, and finally at a journal. Each level of the pyramid is happy as long as the work hasn't been that high before. Even before any of these it is common to release a tech report or an eprint to "get a flag in the ground". Part of the difference in culture comes from the turn around time on research.

The ethical issues are still the same though. Most "blind" review is not blind after a little googling, although preprints of the work do make that a little easier. Work in CS doesn't have such a binary quality control. There is an ordering between the different types of publications, but it isn't as important as the quality of the venue. I can think of some really prestigious workshops with 60:1 acceptance ratios against some pretty crappy journals that are 3:1.

Re:The question I've always had about memory... (1)

kklein (900361) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420943)

Thanks for the link! I am thinking switching out of the SLA ghetto into cogsci since most of my research questions (regarding L2 vocab acquisition) ultimately seem better suited to that field. Got any other great seminal links you'd like to pass to a newbie?

Re:The question I've always had about memory... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19420285)

I don't think the nature allows me to selectively kill brain cells with alcohol, which is probably the main cause for forgetting things nowadays.

Re:The question I've always had about memory... (5, Interesting)

SeekerDarksteel (896422) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420289)

In artificial neural networks, there are structures called auto-associative memory networks. The networks are "trained" on certain patterns, then when it receives one of those patterns as input, it outputs a pattern closer to the pattern it was trained on. If you make it recursive (and your network is good enough), you can take as input a pattern that contains only a fragment of one of the patterns it was trained on and get as output the pattern you trained on. It's quite likely that something like that is going on inside our brains to store memories in some fashion, but on a far more complex scale than we can describe at this point.

I forgot what I was going to post (4, Funny)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 7 years ago | (#19419855)

I'm sure I will have remembered by the time the dupe gets here though

Re:I forgot what I was going to post (-1, Offtopic)

427_ci_505 (1009677) | more than 7 years ago | (#19419881)

Eh? What are you talking about?

Re:I forgot what I was going to post (0, Offtopic)

Goalie_Ca (584234) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420655)

This WILL be duped but the editors never learn.

Cause of dupes? (-1, Redundant)

Burdell (228580) | more than 7 years ago | (#19419857)

So are /. editors are just better than most at suppressing distracting stories?

Déjà Vu (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19419859)

I can't remember where I saw this earlier. Oh, me and my forgetful memory!

Memory (1)

snowraver1 (1052510) | more than 7 years ago | (#19419863)

The only thing that I have to remember is that my password is in my top drawer written on a sticky note.

Re:Memory (-1, Offtopic)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 7 years ago | (#19419871)

Dammit man try washing your underwear sometime. It removes the stickiness.

Re:Memory (0, Offtopic)

fbjon (692006) | more than 7 years ago | (#19421087)

I find that avoiding to wash my underwear gives them a nice, crusted, rigid shape so they can be stacked inside each other when not in use.

another controversy (0, Offtopic)

Ep0xi (1093943) | more than 7 years ago | (#19419883)

remembering is somehow similar to dismembering?

Re:another controversy (1, Funny)

Skidge (316075) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420473)

Remembering is the opposite of dismembering. It's just that sometimes you forget that you left one of the legs in the freezer.

Re:another controversy (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19420479)

I forgot what i was going to say, visit www.ukjames.co.uk

that should help,

Psychology I gleaned from Computer Science (3, Interesting)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 7 years ago | (#19419889)

This is all stuff I figured out. Despite the fact I thought it up, it could still be wrong.

If you spend processes on thinking, you can lose your process of memory. Ie: You can get distracted if something comes up and you forget what you were doing. Or you walk into a room thinking about the football game, and forget why you came into the room to begin with. I think smart people who are in a constant line of thought as such they sacrifice less important parts of their memory and only remember big things. Now this article makes me even happier because I always think and hardly take time to remember.

Want to hear the funny part? I don't remember what the article actually says. I think it said that if you forget trivial stuff that the more important stuff will be easier to remember. I'll go re-read it now.

Re:Psychology I gleaned from Computer Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19420961)

I have the same thing, walking into a room (to get a soda) and not remembering why I'm there.
And I think a lot. But I also forget on purpose, I only try to remember the important stuff, while getting rid of all the all the rest.
Like: I can not remember what I eat 2 days ago, and I hardly remember what I eat last night. Some people find that weird, but I use my memory for other things.
How the brain works can be changed by practise, that's wonderful

Now, my life is filled (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19419895)

Finally, I hear a news story on Bob & Tom in the morning, then read about it at night on /.!

i don't even understand (2, Insightful)

Adult film producer (866485) | more than 7 years ago | (#19419901)

how that mushy grey matter in the skull can "record" memories.. the brain is just a bunch of nerve cells right? can a slice of the brain be put under a microscope and analyzed to see what memories it holds? My instinct says no.. all you'll see is a bunch of dead cells. What the fuck is a memory anyways? Shit, I gotta lay off the ganja for the night.

Re:i don't even understand (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 7 years ago | (#19419941)

i don't know if they have verified it, but one thing i heard was that memories are encoded in RNA by the neurons

Re:i don't even understand (1)

Adult film producer (866485) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420047)

although that sounds interesting, i don't really understand how RNA encodings can manifest themselves as memories to the conscience mind... all of it seems very spooky.

Re:i don't even understand (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420239)

the RNA is within the cells, and the cells read it as part of the process of interacting electrochemically with other cells. it's not going in and being stored in the nucleus

Re:i don't even understand (3, Informative)

SocratesJedi (986460) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420321)

Wikipedia reports that that theory is currently discredited: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memory_RNA/ [wikipedia.org] .

Re:i don't even understand (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19421025)

My memory reports that Wikipedia is currently discredited.

Re:i don't even understand (1)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420133)

how that mushy grey matter in the skull can "record" memories..

not too dissimilarly from how that magnetic dust on your HDD "records" a movie.

Imagine an OS that can edit its own hardware, and that continually customizes its own file allotment system. that's the brain.

holographic memories (2, Interesting)

nido (102070) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420977)

I read of a researcher who spent his entire career trying to find out where memories were stored in mice brains. He'd teach the mouse to run a maze, then cut out a portion of the mouse brain, with the assumption that the mouse's mental map of the maze was stored in some specific location, and by removing the mouse's maze map, it would be unable to navigate the passages. But after having chopped every region of the brain out, the mice always remembered how to run the maze.

The book offered that memories are stored as holograms - everywhere all at once, and not just in the physical structures of the brain. I'm away from my library at the moment, and the title eluded me for quite some time, but I was able to pick up the thread (as words to search for on Amazon), and I think it was Radin's Entangled Minds. Upon further consideration, I'm certain that it was this book.

Killing Antibrain = Growing Brain (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#19419907)

The theory of the "antibrain" was first articulated in the 1980s by lazy, tripping Deadheads in LI, NY. It says that bad habits, wrong ideas, stupidity is incarnated in braincells/connections just like the brain stuff we think is better. So selective brain damage of the brain material that makes us dumb is worth an equal amount in brain growth. Destroying the antibrain is as good as growing the brain.

Now we're seeing some confirmation by actual scientists.

Antibrain theorists also believed that abusing drugs and alcohol that kill braincells or break connections while exercising that antibrain matter could direct the damage at that antibrain matter. Probably by increasing bloodflow. So "drinking to forget" while wallowing in bad memories while drunk could work. Luckily we have lots of volunteers for this line of research.

State recall (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19420661)

I am(not officially) a subject for memory studies having to do with alcholol. The wierd thing is that when I am completely sober I cannot remember many things from when I was previously drunk off my ass, but, if that drunk off my ass state is re-introduced, I can remember everthing.

Re:State recall (4, Informative)

dabraun (626287) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420957)

I am(not officially) a subject for memory studies having to do with alcholol. The wierd thing is that when I am completely sober I cannot remember many things from when I was previously drunk off my ass, but, if that drunk off my ass state is re-introduced, I can remember everthing.

It's called state dependent learning and it's a widely known concept.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State-dependent_learn ing [wikipedia.org]

I believe you can, in fact, learn to be a better drunk driver.

Reminds me of an old joke (5, Funny)

grub (11606) | more than 7 years ago | (#19419911)


An old couple both have Alzheimer's. One day they're watching TV and an ad for a burger place comes on.
Man says: "Hey, want to make some burgers?"
Woman says: "Sure, what to you want on yours?
Man: "I want lettuce, tomatoes and onions. Don't forget; lettuce, tomatoes and onions."
Woman: "Got it. Lettuce, tomatoes and onions."
A good hour goes by and she finally comes from the kitchen and hands her husband a plate of bacon and eggs. He says "You idiot! You forgot the toast!"

Re:Reminds me of an old joke (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19420721)

What?! There is no moderation option for "Immense Sadness"?

Good advice. (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 7 years ago | (#19419915)

I have hundreds of Yodabytes of data stored in BRAIN format. However, the media tends to crash giving me a huge headache! Next comes bouts of depression.

Maybe I should forget more often on purpose, then I would have less to worry about when I lose my data on purpose.

Now that I think about it, I should apply this lesson to my computer data too :)

Re:Good advice. (1)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420885)

Forget you will, yes.

Simpsons (4, Funny)

_pi-away (308135) | more than 7 years ago | (#19419917)

"Remember when I took that home wine-making course and forgot how to drive?"

"That's because you were drunk!"

"And how!"

Old boyfriend? (1, Funny)

syousef (465911) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420013)

Man I must've "fogotten" one very different time in my life. My fiancee will be very upset.

Relevant words (1)

weinrich (414267) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420069)

The more efficiently that study participants were tuning out irrelevant words during a word-memorization test, the sharper the drop in activity in areas of their brains involved in recollection.

Phrased the other way: Participants who concentrated on relevant words had an easier time remembering them.

Sleep plays an important role (2, Interesting)

cb_is_cool (1084665) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420077)

An interesting article [journaloftheoretics.com] on the role sleep plays in saving/discarding memories. Even if it seems like you've forgotten an event during the day, it isn't really gone until your next period of REM sleep.

Re:Sleep plays an important role (1)

buswolley (591500) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420743)

Consolidation during REM. There isn't much in the literature. For that matter, consolidation is on shaky ground itself.

Important Post (3, Funny)

rlp (11898) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420091)

Personally, I think that ...

Exception in thread "Surf" java.lang.NullPointerException
at Slashdot.Post(Slashdot.java:1061)
at Slashdot.Read(Slashdot.java:75)
at MyBrain.main(MyBrain.java:4038)

It's a recursive Meme! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19420403)

Exception in thread "Read Important Post" java.lang.OutOfMemoryError
at Slashdot.Post(Slashdot.java:1062)
at Slashdot.Read(Slashdot.java:75)
at MyBrain.main(MyBrain.java:4038)

Evolutionary Adaption? (4, Insightful)

Nutty_Irishman (729030) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420105)

Learning to forget is probably more beneficial to humanity in the long run. How many times have you sat around and wasted time thinking about things you wish you could forget (ex's, deceased family members, disturbing conversations, etc.). At times, learning to forget is exactly what we need to move on with our lives.

Re:Evolutionary Adaption? (1)

joshier (957448) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420323)

well, there's two sides of the coin in all situations.. is thinking of loved ones really a bad thing?.. you can't have it both ways.. remembering things is very important, otherwise people would run around starting fires, putting their hand in flames, leaving the gas on etc.. You need a balance..

Re:Evolutionary Adaption? (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420415)

Ah, not having to forget about ex's. I'm going to add that to my list of rationalizations for not having a girlfriend. :(

Re:Evolutionary Adaption? (1)

CBravo (35450) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420423)

I wish that those were the worst problems in the world. War, hunger and diseases are imho far worse.

Re:Evolutionary Adaption? (3, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420501)

How many times have you sat around and wasted time thinking about things you wish you could forget (ex's, deceased family members, disturbing conversations, etc.).

Goatse
     

Re:Evolutionary Adaption? (1)

Torvaun (1040898) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420895)

Goatse
Damn you.

Re:Evolutionary Adaption? (1)

gnu-sucks (561404) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420519)

The day I broke up with my x about 6 years ago, I decided to forget her phone number.

Besides not calling her, whenever I would think of the number, I diverted my thoughts to anything else.

Throughout the years, I would half-tempt myself to try and recall the number. Each time, I diverted the thought.

At this moment, if I try to remember the number, I have this feeling that the number is inside my head somewhere, but all those years of training have removed any possibility of recalling it.

I also think if I were to be given the first three digits, I would instantly recall the rest.

Anyone else here have interesting methods of forgetting or recalling?

Re:Evolutionary Adaption? (1)

dintech (998802) | more than 7 years ago | (#19421003)

Hopefully by now she's moved house and you don't have to worry about slipping up. :)

Re:Evolutionary Adaption? (1)

JonathanR (852748) | more than 7 years ago | (#19421047)

Don't date a girl who's phone is connected to the same exchange...

Contradiction (3, Informative)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420125)

The primary study quoted supposedly shows less brain activity (in reality it shows less oxy/CO2 swapping, which is frequently mistaken for a measure of brain activity) when some memories are suppressed. Then they quote Anderson (U. of Oregon) who more properly identifies such suppression as active inhibition. Active inhibition is a form of activity. It should show up as a "lighting up" on the fMRI scan. In light of this, what the primary study shows is nothing. It's a failure to find active inhibition. Some results are notable by their absence. Saying your results show something when they in fact fail to is entirely different.

"Recall" itself is a misleading term. We don't recall anything. We reconstruct. All memories are in some part false because they're generally fast-as-possible good-enough guesses by the brain. Keeping that in mind helps one understand that the creation of memories requires both active agglomeration of relevant components and active inhibition of the irrelevant. Once you grasp that, then you can try to figure out how the hell that lump of meat knows what's relevant and what's irrelevant when it's trying to put together what we perceive as memories before we get to perceive them, and you can then be as woefully ignorant about what's really going on as the people in the article as well as myself.

Re:Contradiction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19420767)

Dear pompous moron:

Active inhibition is a form of activity. It should show up as a "lighting up" on the fMRI scan. In light of this, what the primary study shows is nothing. It's a failure to find active inhibition. Some results are notable by their absence. Saying your results show something when they in fact fail to is entirely different.

They found activation in anterior cingulate cortex. Contemplate what this means.

"Recall" itself is a misleading term. We don't recall anything. We reconstruct.

"Recall" is a technical term in this context -- it refers to a particular paradigm for studying declarative long-term memory. See also "recognition", "recollection", and "familiarity".

This educational moment courtesy of those who know. You're welcome.

It might not be EXACTLY what TFA is on about.... (1)

grimdawg (954902) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420143)

...but I've always found a link between forgetting and remembering.

Say I'm studying for an exam (like I should be doing right now...): when I come up against a problem whose concept I've forgotten, and it stumps me, I need to look it up.

Often it's those concepts I'd forgotten in the time between learning and the exam that I remember best down the line.

Not for me! (4, Funny)

frrrrrspl (1112559) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420197)

I cannot remember that I have ever forgotten anything.

Re: Forgetting May be Part of the Remembering Proc (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19420251)

Forgetting May be Part of the Remembering Process

You have to forget something to remember it.

There, another stupid problem worth a whole(!) article(!) solved by someone who stopped to bother to login long, long ago.

does brain do forensics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19420271)

having not read the (original) FA, i can't comment on it, but my personal experience is the way my brain operates somewhat like this:

- i put some data into the thing

- the data gets written and overwritten many times, whether in the same places or not i can't tell,
but probably not.

- the many writes help me build a rough mental model of the particular phenomenon

- when i need more data i either look at the particular instance and try to retrofit it into my model or
my brain does some forensics and tries to dig up details that still remain

just as with regular forensics, there is little predictability in what can be recovered, and sometimes data relevant to one phenomenon are there when I think of something completely different. likely saved in the same brain "sector"?

what i do remember though is either something i have drilled enough times through to build a model of, or something that has given me a vivid enough impression so that it just jumps out there. I suppose that has to do with the evolution -- you either pay attention to things that startle you, or are there enough times to be of significance.

so ... forgetting is IMHO more like overwriting, and remembering is more like forensics to me.

whatever ...

Really? (1)

Eli Gottlieb (917758) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420381)

Well doesn't that take the cake? ...

Why was I talking about cake just now?

Sigh... (0, Troll)

alisson (1040324) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420413)

This really shouldn't be news to any first year psych students. Even if it's just current concern, it's best to not remember everything.

me-brain-so-powerful (1)

oshii'sdog (1112047) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420419)

And just How, do they measure the 'energy' used for remembering something?

Reminds me of a short story (2, Interesting)

syphoon (619506) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420453)

Jorge Luis Borges wrote this story about a man who had an accident that left him unable to forget anything. He ended up living the rest of his life in a darkened room, unable to cope with the deluge of detail the outside world had for him, and unable to file the memories he had accumulated and put them in a context in his mind.

Funes, the Memorious

By Jorge Luis Borges

I remember him (I scarcely have the right to use this ghostly verb; only one man on earth deserved the right, and he is dead), I remember him with a dark passionflower in his hand, looking at it as no one has ever looked at such a flower, though they might look from the twilight of day until the twilight of night, for a whole life long. I remember him, his face immobile and Indian-like, and singularly remote, behind his cigarette. I remember (I believe) the strong delicate fingers of the plainsman who can braid leather. I remember, near those hands, a vessel in which to make maté tea, bearing the arms of the Banda Oriental; I remember, in the window of the house, a yellow rush mat, and beyond, a vague marshy landscape. I remember clearly his voice, the deliberate, resentful nasal voice of the old Eastern Shore man, without the Italianate syllables of today. I did not see him more than three times; the last time, in 1887. . . .

That all those who knew him should write something about him seems to me a very felicitous idea; my testimony may perhaps be the briefest and without doubt the poorest, and it will not be the least impartial. The deplorable fact of my being an Argentinian will hinder me from falling into a dithyramb - an obligatory form in the Uruguay, when the theme is an Uruguayan.

Littérateur, slicker, Buenos Airean: Funes did not use these insulting phrases, but I am sufficiently aware that for him I represented these unfortunate categories. Pedro Leandro Ipuche has written that Funes was a precursor of the superman, "an untamed and vernacular Zarathustra"; I do not doubt it, but one must not forget, either, that he was a countryman from the town of Fray Bentos, with certain incurable limitations.

My first recollection of Funes is quite clear: I see him at dusk, sometime in March or February of the year '84. That year, my father had taken me to spend the summer at Fray Bentos. I was on my way back from the farm at San Francisco with my cousin Bernardo Haedo. We came back singing, on horseback; and this last fact was not the only reason for my joy. After a sultry day, an enormous slate-grey-storm had obscured the sky. It was driven on by a wind from the south; the trees were already tossing like madmen; and I had the apprehension (the secret hope) that the elemental downpour would catch us out in the open. We were running a kind of race with the tempest. We rode into a narrow lane which wound down between two enormously high brick footpaths. It had grown black of a sudden; I now heard rapid almost secret steps above; I raised my eyes and saw a boy running along the narrow, cracked path as if he were running along a narrow, broken wall. I remember the loose trousers, tight at the bottom, the hemp sandals; I remember the cigarette in the hard visage, standing out against the by now limitless darkness. Bernardo unexpectedly yelled to him: "What's the time, Ireneo?" Without looking up, without stopping, Ireneo replied: "In ten minutes it will be eight o'clock, child Bernardo Juan Francisco." The voice was sharp, mocking.

I am so absentminded that the dialogue which I have just cited would not have penetrated my attention if it had not been repeated by my cousin, who was stimulated, I think, by a certain local pride and by a desire to show himself indifferent to the other's three-sided reply.

He told me that the boy above us in the pass was a certain Ireneo Funes, renowned for a number of eccentricities, such as that of having nothing to do with people and of always knowing the time, like a watch. He added that Ireneo was the son of Maria Clementina Funes, an ironing woman in the town, and that his father, some people said, was an "Englishman" named O'Connor, a doctor in the salting fields, though some said the father was a horse-breaker, or scout, from the province of El Salto. Ireneo lived with his mother, at the edge of the country house of the Laurels.

In the years '85 and '86 we spent the summer in the city of Montevideo. We returned to Fray Bentos in '87. As was natural, I inquired after all my acquaintances, and finally, about "the chronometer Funes." I was told that he had been thrown by a wild horse at the San Francisco ranch, and that he had been hopelessly crippled. I remember the impression of uneasy magic which the news provoked in me: the only time I had seen him we were on horseback, coming from San Francisco, and he was in a high place; from the lips of my cousin Bernardo the affair sounded like a dream elaborated with elements out of the past. They told me that Ireneo did not move now from his cot, but remained with his eyes fixed on the backyard fig tree, or on a cobweb. At sunset he allowed himself to be brought to the window. He carried pride to the extreme of pretending that the blow which had befallen him was a good thing. . . . Twice I saw him behind the iron grate which sternly delineated his eternal imprisonment: unmoving, once, his eyes closed; unmoving also, another time, absorbed in the contemplation of a sweet-smelling sprig of lavender cotton.

At the time I had begun, not without some ostentation, the methodical study of Latin. My valise contained the De viris illustribus of Lhomond, the Thesaurus of Quicherat, Caesar's Commentaries, and an odd-numbered volume of the Historia Naturalis of Pliny, which exceeded (and still exceeds) my modest talents as a Latinist. Everything is noised around in a small town; Ireneo, at his small farm on the outskirts, was not long in learning of the arrival of these anomalous books. He sent me a flowery, ceremonious letter, in which he recalled our encounter, unfortunately brief, "on the seventh day of February of the year '84," and alluded to the glorious services which Don Gregorio Haedo, my uncle, dead the same year, "had rendered to the Two Fatherlands in the glorious campaign of Ituzaingó," and he solicited the loan of any one of the volumes, to be accompanied by a dictionary "for the better intelligence of the original text, for I do not know Latin as yet." He promised to return them in good condition, almost immediately. The letter was perfect, very nicely constructed; the orthography was of the type sponsored by Andrés Bello: i for y, j for g. At first I naturally suspected a jest. My cousins assured me it was not so, that these were the ways of Ireneo. I did not know whether to attribute to impudence, ignorance, or stupidity the idea that the difficult Latin required no other instrument than a dictionary; in order fully to undeceive him I sent the Gradus ad Parnassum of Quicherat, and the Pliny.

On 14 February, I received a telegram from Buenos Aires telling me to return immediately, for my father was "in no way well." God forgive me, but the prestige of being the recipient of an urgent telegram, the desire to point out to all of Fray Bentos the contradiction between the negative form of the news and the positive adverb, the temptation to dramatize my sorrow as I feigned a virile stoicism, all no doubt distracted me from the possibility of anguish. As I packed my valise, I noticed that I was missing the Gradus and the volume of the Historia Naturalis. The "Saturn" was to weigh anchor on the morning of the next day; that night, after supper, I made my way to the house of Funes. Outside, I was surprised to find the night no less oppressive than the day.

Ireneo's mother received me at the modest ranch.

She told me that Ireneo was in the back room and that I should not be disturbed to find him in the dark, for he knew how to pass the dead hours without lighting the candle. I crossed the cobblestone patio, the small corridor; I came to the second patio. A great vine covered everything, so that the darkness seemed complete. Of a sudden I heard the high-pitched, mocking voice of Ireneo. The voice spoke in Latin; the voice (which came out of the obscurity) was reading, with obvious delight, a treatise or prayer or incantation. The Roman syllables resounded in the earthen patio; my suspicion made them seem undecipherable, interminable; afterwards, in the enormous dialogue of that night, I learned that they made up the first paragraph of the twenty-fourth chapter of the seventh book of the Historia Naturalis. The subject of this chapter is memory; the last words are ujt nihil non iisdem verbis redderetur auditum.

Without the least change in his voice, Ireneo bade me come in. He was lying on the cot, smoking. It seems to me that I did not see his face until dawn; I seem to recall the momentary glow of the cigarette. The room smelled vaguely of dampness. I sat down, and repeated the story of the telegram and my father's illness.

I come now to the most difficult point in my narrative. For the entire story has no other point (the reader might as well know it by now) than this dialogue of almost a half-century ago. I shall not attempt to reproduce his words, now irrecoverable. I prefer truthfully to make a résumé of the many things Ireneo told me. The indirect style is remote and weak; I know that I sacrifice the effectiveness of my narrative; but let my readers imagine the nebulous sentences which coulded that night.

Ireneo began by enumerating, in Latin and Spanish, the cases of prodigious memory cited in the Historia Naturalis: Cyrus, king of the Persians, who could call every soldier in his armies by name; Mithridates Eupator, who administered justice in the twenty-two languages of his empire; Simonides, inventory of mnemotechny; Metrodorus, who practised the art of repeating faithfully what he heard once. With evident good faith Funes marvelled that such things should be considered marvellous. He told me that previous to the rainy afternoon when the blue-tinted horse threw him, he had been - like any Christian - blind, deaf-mute, somnambulistic, memoryless. (I tried to remind him of his precise perception of time, his memory for proper names; he paid no attention to me.) For nineteen years, he said, he had lived like a person in a dream: he looked without seeing, heard without hearing, forgot everything - almost everything. On falling from the horse, he lost consciousness; when he recovered it, the present was almost intolerable it was so rich and bright; the same was true of the most ancient and most trivial memories. A little later he realized that he was crippled. This fact scarcely interested him. He reasoned (or felt) that immobility was a minimum price to pay. And now, his perception and his memory were infallible.

We, in a glance, perceive three wine glasses on the table; Funes saw all the shoots, clusters, and grapes of the vine. He remembered the shapes of the clouds in the south at dawn on the 30th of April of 1882, and he could compare them in his recollection with the marbled grain in the design of a leather-bound book which he had seen only once, and with the lines in the spray which an oar raised in the Rio Negro on the eve of the battle of the Quebracho. These recollections were not simple; each visual image was linked to muscular sensations, thermal sensations, etc. He could reconstruct all his dreams, all his fancies. Two or three times he had reconstructed an entire day. He told me: I have more memories in myself alone than all men have had since the world was a world. And again: My dreams are like your vigils. And again, toward dawn: My memory, sir, is like a garbage disposal.

A circumference on a blackboard, a rectangular triangle, a rhomb, are forms which we can fully intuit; the same held true with Ireneo for the tempestuous mane of a stallion, a herd of cattle in a pass, the ever-changing flame or the innumerable ash, the many faces of a dead man during the course of a protracted wake. He could perceive I do not know how many stars in the sky.

These things he told me; neither then nor at any time later did they seem doubtful. In those days neither the cinema nor the phonograph yet existed; nevertheless, it seems strange, almost incredible, that no one should have experimented on Funes. The truth is that we all live by leaving behind; no doubt we all profoundly know that we are immortal and that sooner or later every man will do all things and know everything.

The voice of Funes, out of the darkness, continued. He told me that toward 1886 he had devised a new system of enumeration and that in a very few days he had gone before twenty-four thousand. He had not written it down, for what he once meditated would not be erased. The first stimulus to his work, I believe, had been his discontent with the fact that "thirty-three Uruguayans" required two symbols and three words, rather than a single word and a single symbol. Later he applied his extravagant principle to the other numbers. In place of seven thousand thirteen, he would say (for example) Máximo Perez; in place of seven thousand fourteen, The Train; other numbers were Luis Melián Lafinur, Olimar, Brimstone, Clubs, The Whale, Gas, The Cauldron, Napoleon, Agustín de Vedia. In lieu of five hundred, he would say nine. Each word had a particular sign, a species of mark; the last were very complicated. . . . I attempted to explain that this rhapsody of unconnected terms was precisely the contrary of a system of enumeration. I said that to say three hundred and sixty-five was to say three hundreds, six tens, five units: an analysis which does not exist in such numbers as The Negro Timoteo or The Flesh Blanket. Funes did not understand me, or did not wish to understand me.

Locke, in the seventeenth century, postulated (and rejected) an impossible idiom in which each individual object, each stone, each bird and branch had an individual name; Funes had once projected an analogous idiom, but he had renounced it as being too general, too ambiguous. In effect, Funes not only remembered every leaf on every tree of every wood, but even every one of the times he had perceived or imagined it. He determined to reduce all of his past experience to some seventy thousand recollections, which he would later define numerically. Two considerations dissuaded him: the thought that the task was interminable and the thought that it was useless. He knew that at the hour of his death he would scarcely have finished classifying even all the memories of his childhood.

The two projects I have indicated (an infinite vocabulary for the natural series of numbers, and a usable mental catalogue of all the images of memory) are lacking in sense, but they reveal a certain stammering greatness. They allow us to make out dimly, or to infer, the dizzying world of Funes. He was, let us not forget, almost incapable of general, platonic ideas. It was not only difficult for him to understand that the generic term dog embraced so many unlike specimens of differing sizes and different forms; he was disturbed by the fact that a dog at three-fourteen (seen in profile) should have the same name as the dog at three-fifteen (seen from the front). His own face in the mirror, his own hands, surprised him on every occasion. Swift writes that the emperor of Lilliput could discern the movement of the minute hand; Funes could continuously make out the tranquil advances of corruption, of caries, of fatigue. He noted the progress of death, of moisture. He was the solitary and lucid spectator of a multiform world which was instantaneously and almost intolerably exact. Babylon, London, and New York have overawed the imagination of men with their ferocious splendour; no one, in those populous towers or upon those surging avenues, has felt the heat and pressure of a reality as indefatigable as that which day and night converged upon the unfortunate Ireneo in his humble South American farmhouse. It was very difficult for him to sleep. To sleep is to be abstracted from the world; Funes, on his back in his cot, in the shadows, imagined every crevice and every moulding of the various houses which surrounded him. (I repeat, the least important of his recollections was more minutely precise and more lively than our perception of a physical pleasure or a physical torment.) Toward the east, in a section which was not yet cut into blocks of homes, there were some new unknown houses. Funes imagined them black, compact, made of a single obscurity; he would turn his face in this direction in order to sleep. He would also imagine himself at the bottom of the river, being rocked and annihilated by the current.

Without effort, he had learned English, French, Portuguese, Latin. I suspect, nevertheless, that he was not very capable of thought. To think is to forget a difference, to generalize, to abstract. In the overly replete world of Funes there were nothing but details, almost contiguous details.

The equivocal clarity of dawn penetrated along the earthen patio.

Then it was that I saw the face of the voice which had spoken all through the night. Ireneo was nineteen years old; he had been born in 1868; he seemed as monumental as bronze, more ancient than Egypt, anterior to the prophecies and the pyramids. It occurred to me that each one of my words (each one of my gestures) would live on in his implacable memory; I was benumbed by the fear of multiplying superfluous gestures.

Ireneo Funes died in 1889, of a pulmonary congestion.

Although real people... (2, Insightful)

jd (1658) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420893)

...do forget, deluges of information do occur. People on the Autistic Spectrum suffer from massive sensory overload. The "lower" the functioning, the less able they are to filter information out. Slowing down the information flow does not wholly or even mostly mitigate the problem, but it does reduce it quite considerably nonetheless. Much of the perceived "slowness" of someone who is autistic is a product of their brain working overtime to deal with the volume of data. If you liken the brain to a computer, the CPU is spending all its time processing sensory interrupts and has no time left to actually run anything.

People with synesthesia suffer from cross-wired senses and ergo get more information than is actually present and in effect this can rapidly become massively overloading. (It is unclear to me what happens when someone is both autistic AND a synesthete, although it's certain it happens. My guess is that the extreme overloading would be almost impossible for the person.)

Those with tetrachromatic vision have an enlarged visual cortex to deal with the extra data, but the increased volume of visual data must place some stress on the rest of the brain, though it's unclear if anyone has ever done the research to find out what.

Other disorders that increase sensory data certainly exist and again there's going to be a point where that data is beyond overwhelming and supersaturates the brain's ability to model the world and process the data.

Getting back to the original article, if forgetting is as important as is implied, then it must be MORE important for those with any of the above disorders, because you would need to temporarily block more in order to free up an equivalent level of mental capacity. Is this what we find, in practice?

The answer, at first glance, is maybe no. Computer programmers are frequently on the autistic spectrum but have phenomenal memories for technical stuff and usually an astonishing learning speed. These are indications of efficient relationship mapping (something anyone who uses mnemonic memorization techniques can attest to) and minimal stacking (the brain has a hard limit of about 7 items on the mental stack at a time. Those who can recite long strings of numbers, such as the digits of Pi, do so by placing a mnemonic at the end of the stack that links onto another stack).

In science, you learn more by examining the exceptions than by looking at the rule. Besides, the rule is just a simplification of a greater rule that includes those exceptions. If you want to truly understand remembering and forgetting, you are wasting your time to look at when they "work". You must study when things break down, when normal mechanisms fail, when you cannot extrapolate that far from the standard model. It is then that you will be able to draw meaningful conclusions and upgrade the standard model to a more accurate depiction of reality.

Francis Crick: REM sleep like simulated annealing (4, Interesting)

MarkWatson (189759) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420455)

In the late 1980s, I participated for about a year on the DARPA neural network tools panel. If I remember correctly (ha :-) it was Francis Crick who suggested that REM sleep was like simulated annealing; that is, serving the function of adding some randomness to a neural network so that we could forget meaningless things that happened to us during the day.

The Finite Mind (2, Interesting)

Cosmic AC (1094985) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420477)

That forgetfulness has a legitimate function in the mind should come as no surprise to anyone who understands that all brains are finite organs with limited capacity. When there is not enough room to store a set of memories, some of them need to be pushed out.

The findings should also reduce some of the anxiety surrounding "senior moments," researchers say. Some names, numbers and details are hard to retrieve not because memory is faltering, but because it is functioning just as it should.
Actually , it is likely both. As we age, this part of memory (forgetfulness) is functioning as it should, but it is carrying out this function more often because overall memory capacity is reduced.

Re:The Finite Mind (1)

jombeewoof (1107009) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420849)

That forgetfulness has a legitimate function in the mind should come as no surprise to anyone who understands that all brains are finite organs with limited capacity. When there is not enough room to store a set of memories, some of them need to be pushed out.
So if we do have this finite capacity for knowledge, what happens to those memories.
They cannot simply disappear, can they?
example.
Last weekend... or was it the weekend before, I don't remember. (hehe)
I caught up with an old friend from high school. I haven't seen him in almost 11 years. Just by being with him and having a few drinks talking etc... I remembered very specific incidents. Things that happened in biology class, or that time we cut class to go get high, or whatever. dozens of very specific detailed events. I haven't thought about most of those things since they happened. My brother was there as well, and he remembered still more very specific events that I had forgotten all about. Until I was reminded.

Now, I'm certainly not indicating that I have reached my capacity for information, but i would assume that those memories that haven't been accessed in 10 years would have been erased during my MCSE, or CCNA training. Who knows, that training might have moved those memories to "backup media" or offline storage, but they certainly were not completely erased.

i vaugley remember something about information being stored in our brains in the folds and curves. and even that Einsteins brain although much smaller than the average humans had many more of these curves and folds than average indicating that he had more stored knowledge. I can't remember where I heard/learned this or even if it was a reliable source. But it made sense to me at the time, and still does.

IANAPsychologist, but I would think that our capacity for near infinite knowledge is what gives us that competitive edge against all other species. The fact that we can learn more, and live long enough to not only use that knowledge, but to pass the majority of it along to the next generation is to me the only real thing that separates humans from the more primitive species... you know like mexicans... (haha j/k I love the Mexicans yay for Carlos Mencia)

In other news... (0, Offtopic)

Teknoguy (10551) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420673)

Scientists have found living to be part of the dying process..

The more I know (2, Funny)

franksands (938435) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420749)

Sometime ago I had a t-shirt that had this written:

The more I study, the more I know.

The more I know, the more I forget...

The more I forget, the less I know.

So why study?

I wish I could remember (-1, Offtopic)

RedElf (249078) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420751)

why does everyone keep modding me down?

*scratches head*

Maybe I should see about getting my brain replaced.

*scratches head again*

Wait. What was the question again?

*scratches head yet again*

Hmm, 42. That's the answer, but what was the question?

Boudreaux's old saying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19420801)

One of our old Maintenance Electricians would always tell me "Let me know what I need to forget so you can teach me something new". The old boy had it right. Who knew? :)

Boudreaux's gone now, but I'll never forget that. :)

Memory vs. Useless information vs. Muscle Memory (2, Insightful)

Rank_Tyro (721935) | more than 7 years ago | (#19420807)

I can still remember every step involved with installing a M-61A1 20MM Gatling gun into a Block 52 F-16. Every single step. I can recite from memory all the steps needed in functional checking a LAU-128 for an AIM-9\M missile, switch positions in the cockpit as well as the settings on the tester. However, I can not recall simple names for objects and tools I use on a day to day basis.

It has been twelve years since I got out of the USAF, but it seems a large portion of my memory is being used up by things I will never use again.

One thing I noticed in the article was one of the researchers noting that brain activity decreased as tasks got more repetitive. Muscle memory is something that practice makes permanent, not perfect. If you practice a movement long enough, and you do it wrong, you will always do it that way. Be it shooting a rifle, hitting a golf ball, using Chopsticks, or typing.

Take touch typing for example, I am a decent typist (80 WPM), but I learned how to type without formal training, so I tend to use the "wrong" fingers for hitting certain keys. I suppose I could retrain myself but it would take alot of time and effort.

Memory is pretty complicated, I hope that they can do more research and shed more light on the process.

Finally, a good excuse... (3, Funny)

Bellum Aeternus (891584) | more than 7 years ago | (#19421017)

Finally, a good excuse for forgetting my girlfriend's birthday: I'm remembering something "more important". Wait... that won't work.

Yes, I post on slashdot. Yes, I have a real, live, breathing girlfriend. :-P

Re:Finally, a good excuse... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19421095)

Is she human?

very old (1)

bucket_brigade (1079247) | more than 7 years ago | (#19421055)

That is far from 'discovery' it's in any psychology textbook known to man
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