Memory Making

Saturday, September 6th, 2008

Glenn Reynolds muses about memory:

My question is, why is there so much room? I was listening to Santana’s Moonflower in the car a while ago, which I’ve barely listened to since college, and not only did I realize that all the licks were stored in my brain, I actually found myself noticing when skips that were present on my original vinyl version didn’t appear in the new one. What a waste of brain cells! And yet, I often have trouble remembering more mundane things, and always have. Seems like the storage part is easier than the retrieval part. (In high-school, we used to joke about Write-Only Memory). This might prove a major handicap if people live longer, requiring some sort of memory training. Or we could do what the Google generation does, and not try to remember anything, since you can just look it up . . . .

It seems like everything gets laid down somewhere, compressed for efficiency, and then retrieved but maybe, like Google, brought up in an unrelated but associated place. The brain has some sort of hierarchy for deciding what is important, but what is it?

And memories are like reliving the actual event, which is a reason why I question the helpfulness of abuse victims going to therapy and talking about the abuse. Are we sure that doing such a thing is helpful?

Experts said the study had all but closed the case: For the brain, remembering is a lot like doing (at least in the short term, as the research says nothing about more distant memories).

On the other hand, reliving a memory can be helpful. My high school basketball coach instructed us to shoot 100 free throws before we went to sleep every night. We were a better than 90% free throw shooting team. I think it worked. (This also prompted basketball dreams, too.)