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Neuroscientists Call Forgetfulness an Advantage

As we age, many of us become distressed about our inability to recall names, words, or ideas as quickly as maybe we used to. But according to a new study, perhaps there is good reason for us not to be so upset.

Drs. Ryan and Frankland summarize, in an article on SciTechDaily.com, “Changes in our ability to access specific memories are based on environmental feedback and predictability. Rather than being a bug, forgetting may be a functional feature of the brain, allowing it to interact dynamically with the environment.”

Even so, what we think of as “forgetting” is not a permanent state of being.

Memories are stored in ensembles of neurons called ‘engram cells’ … and forgetting occurs when engram cells cannot be reactivated. The memories themselves are still there, but … it’s as if the memories are stored in a safe but you can’t remember the code to unlock it.

In other words, as a way of adapting to new circumstances, our brains automatically learn to prioritize certain memories and allow others go into cold storage. This cognitive adaptation, though occasionally embarrassing, has an upside.

In a changing world, forgetting some memories can be beneficial as this can lead to more flexible behavior and better decision-making. If memories were gained in circumstances that are not wholly relevant to the current environment, forgetting them can be a positive change that improves our wellbeing.

Possible Preaching Angle:

God wants us to be free from the crippling bondage of our former mistakes. Even a God whose memory is eternal and infallible, promises “I will remember their sins no more” (Heb. 8:12).

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