Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Medical Memory regarding specific instances.

  1. Dec 29, 2008 #1
    It's a common observation that sometimes the slightest occurrances are remebered by us for entires lives while we forget relatively important things quite soon. Why is this so? Why can't we remember other things just like these trivial things? Is our brain working at some extraordinary efficienty at those instances? Does medical science explain this phenomenon?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 29, 2008 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    From an evolutionary point of view - you are built to remember important things.
    It's just the question of what is important.

    You are here because your ancestors remembered things about where lions hunt or food gathered, so you are built to remember odd, unusual or surprising things happening around you. Siting in a physics lecture you are warm safe and comfortable so there is no evolutionary advantage in remembering anything happening - it isn't important.
  4. Dec 29, 2008 #3
    You're right about us remembering important things but what I want to discuss is our remembering things which is NOT important at all while forgetting things which are RELATIVELY more important. Doesn't such things happen? We remember things/instances which have no importance whatsoever from past (like a glimpse that I was writing on a book in my KG class or that I was standing in street while a kid) while forgetting almost completely those things which, at least, are more important than these trivial instances.
  5. Jan 1, 2009 #4
    It could be based of various endocrine mechanisms or catching a cell at the right time and place. That's my guess and two cents.
  6. Jan 2, 2009 #5

    jim mcnamara

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Altered emotional or sensory states - which actually may be totally unrelated to the trivial happening you remember - affect how well you remember it. And a similar stimulus may prompt the recall.

    Example: In the US, some older people often recall Christmas mornings as children when peeling an orange. The strong smell of orange oil is associated with Christmas because 70 years ago, Christmas was the only time during the year when Northern US stores stocked oranges. So kids got them in their Christmas stocking. And peeled and ate them right away. Almost every person has one or more "pointless" memories evoked by a strong scent or smell.
  7. Jan 3, 2009 #6
    Smell and taste are associated with many memories because the neural pathways link them directly to the hippocampus area of the brain.
  8. Jan 3, 2009 #7
    So I guess a wide array of different smells and tastes will cause someone to seize?

    Seriously, that's a downright misleading oversimplification.
  9. Jan 3, 2009 #8
    A normal person would not have seizures due to smells and tastes. Abnormal areas of the brain can send storms of neurons that may trigger seizures in people with epileptic seizures.
    Science spent many years looking for the source of memory, what they called the Grandmother neuron. It was believed that one neuron held the memory of her face, another her laugh. Now they think differently. Now its believed memories are in the changed pathways of the neural net.
    If one of the neurons dies {they die from the moment your born} in a pathway, the memory stored there become incomplete, or may vanish all together.
    All memories, even vivid ones, are more or less accurate reconstructions. But memories often change.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook