Sunday, July 15, 2007

Memories fade, but the blog still lingers

There's a theory that goes like this: each time you remember something, your mind is actually recreating it.

From scratch. Meaning, there is no place in your mind for memories. You, me, Autumn, none of us actually have a real memory of something. What happens is that our minds recreate the event for us.

It all started with experiments to block memories. Researchers taught a rat that a sound will be followed by a shock. The next time the rat hears the sound, it braces for the shock.

That's a memory. (It's also learning, but learning really can be defined as remembering certain criteria).

Anyway, researchers repeat the experiment, but this time give the rat a drug that stops the memory from happening. The next time the sound comes, no bracing for the shock.

It was thought though, that once the memory got in there, once in became ingrained in the little rat, the memory would be there. For good. Admittedly, no one really knew where 'there' was, but that doesn't mean there wasn't a 'there' there. Then along came an idea.

What if they gave the rat the drug right when they made the sound? Would that rid the rat of the memory? Turns out, it does. And not only in rats. It's been tested on humans. A woman who was raped was asked to remember, and while remembering, given the drug. It didn't erase the memory, but it weakened the emotion impact of the memory.

So, the theory goes like this: you experience something. The next time you 'remember' it, you mind rebuilds the experience. From scratch.

Your brain already plays goofy tricks on you. My favorite is blinking. Every time we blink, we should see black. But we don't. Our brain takes a snapshot of what we're looking at, and pretends it's there. No black. In essence, our brain tricks, well, our brain. The recreation of memories is another trick.

The thing is though, the more we pull up a memory, so the theory goes, the more it will likely change -- and thus not be an exact replica of the original event. Strangely, the most pure event we could remember is one we never remember.

However. This blog, and the digital images and file we have of Autumn will aid our apparently faulty memories. We'll be able to remember events. She'll be able to look back at events. With apologies to Tears for Fears, if the memory fades, the blog will still linger.

I learned all this on my new favorite radio show. Take a listen.

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