Memories bridge the past to the future in treacherous fashion.  There are several records of memories being marred by private or public prejudices.  As we rely on patterns to guide actions, so do our memories, which can reappear to fit our daily assumptions [1]. People can collectively conceal false memories, misremembering histories or names of cuddly cartoon bears [2]. These memories may have been implanted in alien universes, or by societal conventions linking people together. Either way, memories are fluid and penetrable, even for those with the most superior memories [3].

Being afraid of our mind’s infidelity with the past is no excuse for succumbing to it. Though memories are vulnerable to change upon retrieval, their original colour can be preserved with perseverance. Soaking memories in attention, rather than respite, will prime crisp details for permanence, no matter how wrong they may be.

Attention may be the currency needed for exchanging or enabling memories. More attention will be paid to situations that elicit emotional cues or survival tactics for obvious evolutionary reasons. How this attention is made is unclear, though increased activity in certain brain regions (specifically the prefrontal cortex) is likely responsible for its inception [4]. I realize that is still a very vague, unhelpful, explanation. How and why we pay attention are questions that stumble into a tangle of physiological, psychological, and philosophical webs that yield little clarity.

Attention alone is insufficient for explaining memory retention. I am certain babies pay attention to me when I make funny faces at them, but I am also certain they won’t include these episodes in any memoirs they later monetize.

Infantile amnesia is the natural loss of early childhood memories. It explains why I can’t recall my own birth, which may be a blessing for the delicate. One research team proposes a model that calls for neurogenesis as a conduit for this amnesia [5]. Neurogenesis (the growth of new brain cells) after memory formation may support the loss of older, infantile memories [5]. This same neurogenesis is what will later support memory formation in the hippocampus, a primary brain region found in memory pathways. The researchers warn, however, that although reducing neurogenesis may better retain infant memories, it is also associated with several cognitive problems.

Infantile amnesia perhaps should be seen as a by-product of the baby who grows more outside the womb.  The mechanisms for expansive human development cannot be set until after birth, where there is more room.

Or it has something to do with your mom, as Freud would say.


Check it out:


Schacter’s words inform this clean recount of memory traps.






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