How memories form and how we lose them – Catharine Young

How memories form and how we lose them – Catharine Young


Think back to a really vivid memory. Got it? Okay, now try to remember what
you had for lunch three weeks ago. That second memory
probably isn’t as strong, but why not? Why do we remember some things,
and not others? And why do memories eventually fade? Let’s look at how memories form
in the first place. When you experience something,
like dialing a phone number, the experience is converted
into a pulse of electrical energy that zips along a network of neurons. Information first lands
in short term memory, where it’s available
from anywhere from a few seconds to a couple of minutes. It’s then transferred to long-term memory
through areas such as the hippocampus, and finally to several storage regions
across the brain. Neurons throughout the brain
communicate at dedicated sites called synapses using specialized neurotransmitters. If two neurons communicate repeatedly,
a remarkable thing happens: the efficiency of communication
between them increases. This process,
called long term potentiation, is considered to be a mechanism
by which memories are stored long-term, but how do some memories get lost? Age is one factor. As we get older,
synapses begin to falter and weaken, affecting how easily
we can retrieve memories. Scientists have several theories about
what’s behind this deterioration, from actual brain shrinkage, the hippocampus
loses 5% of its neurons every decade for a total loss of 20% by the time
you’re 80 years old to the drop in the production
of neurotransmitters, like acetylcholine,
which is vital to learning and memory. These changes seem to affect how people
retrieve stored information. Age also affects
our memory-making abilities. Memories are encoded most strongly
when we’re paying attention, when we’re deeply engaged,
and when information is meaningful to us. Mental and physical health problems,
which tend to increase as we age, interfere with our ability
to pay attention, and thus act as memory thieves. Another leading cause of memory problems
is chronic stress. When we’re constantly overloaded with work
and personal responsibilites, our bodies are on hyperalert. This response has evolved from
the physiological mechanism designed to make sure
we can survive in a crisis. Stress chemicals help mobilize energy
and increase alertness. However, with chronic stress our bodies
become flooded with these chemicals, resulting in a loss of brain cells
and an inability to form new ones, which affects our ability
to retain new information. Depression is another culprit. People who are depressed are 40%
more likely to develop memory problems. Low levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter connected to arousal, may make depressed individuals
less attentive to new information. Dwelling on sad events in the past,
another symptom of depression, makes it difficult to pay
attention to the present, affecting the ability to store
short-term memories. Isolation, which is tied to depression,
is another memory thief. A study by the Harvard School
of Public Health found that older people
with high levels of social integration had a slower rate of memory decline
over a six-year period. The exact reason remains unclear, but experts suspect that social interaction
gives our brain a mental workout. Just like muscle strength, we have to use our brain
or risk losing it. But don’t despair. There are several steps you can take to aid your brain
in preserving your memories. Make sure you keep physically active. Increased blood flow
to the brain is helpful. And eat well. Your brain needs all the right nutrients
to keep functioning correctly. And finally, give your brain a workout. Exposing your brain to challenges,
like learning a new language, is one of the best defenses for keeping
your memories intact.

47 thoughts on “How memories form and how we lose them – Catharine Young

  1. The oldest memory I have is about my father, I was playing with my toys on the balcony and I looked inside my house and I saw a cat walking towards me then my father appeared, caught the cat by its neck and threw him against the wall, the cat hit the ground dead, I can clearly remember the look at the cat's face, blood running through its mouth and ears, that was the only memory I have about my father, I was 3-4 years old, my father died when I was 5. I have a bad memory for me to remember something I have to review it by time to time, but I'll never forget about it, imagine your friends asking questions about your father, Where he's? where does he work? where is your father? what do you remember about him?

  2. Good memory: Having my birthday party at the pool with my friends and forming a conga line of one of my friends trying to attack it
    Bad memory: Opening the fridge to get some strawberries but realising that they were mouldy and having a panic attack
    What I ate for dinner a week ago: I dunno

  3. Why do I keep mixing memories? How does brain work while mixing them.
    Example: sometimes there are some events that happened to my friend or was told by my friend, I tend to remember them as my own. If I don't give long thought to it, like what Happened before, what happened after, how was I lead to this event; I could not tell if it is true or false. It feels real to me. Sometimes things not told to me come up to me and it really feels that that event had happened to me. When I confront people with whom I shared that event, they all tell nothing of this sort happened. What is happening in my brain?

  4. This video is meaningful to me .. I have to train my brain every day , learning new language , and doing exercises 😁☠

  5. If we say that light is necessary to fall on our retina to form the image in our eyes and brain ,then how do we imagine things in our brain or during the dreams? How do images get formed in the dream since no light is received by retina that time.?..

  6. I get random memories of my childhood. one for example is going to a store to get rice. I know, it’s odd. It isn’t significant. I can also see myself RIGHT before I hit my head on a concrete mailbox. It’s a concussion which is still shown on my forehead. I’m 19 and am on the autism spectrum. My psychiatrist says I’ve got bad anxiety and depression. It’s doing the opposite to me? is this normal? I’m kinda worried, because one second I’m drawing a landscape, the other I’m back in my hometown.

  7. Ever since I had depression I noticed that I tend to forget things a lot and cannot memorize like I do before. Now I know why

  8. Very interesting. I came to YouTube to search about memory because I was watching an episode on Netflix regarding planet Earth where they were talking about fish and other things, and I was trying to remember the name of a food that the seals and bigger fishes eat, that is a plant which is kind of a star. I was memorising the name again And in doing that it was giving me a lot of stress. Suddenly at some point I forgot the name of that food that the fish eat and my mind became very relaxed. So I got curious about the ability of human beings to forget. I think it is amazing. It helps reduce stress and keeps your brain normal in my opinion. Just googled and found out that plant is Urchins.

  9. I think I remembered something that while I was really liking the card game called "Tongits" and while I was at the bathroom to take a bath I was thinking about the rules of the game and couldn't focus on taking a bath.I then thought that taking a bath and the rules of the game were the same

    Wtf is wrong with me

  10. Interesting how the inability or weakened ability of humans to store memories seems to have so many roots in attention problems, more so than like actual memory problems. It makes it seem like a big part of keeping our memories for longer may be to make sure we can efficiently pay attention when we are forming them today

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