Does our brain store everything?

techs

Lifer
Sep 26, 2000
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There are some things that I have seem to forgotten. Yet, sometimes days, months or even years later I have an "a ha" moment and remember.

So, is our brain actually "recording" everything and we just have difficulty finding many things, or does our brain only store part of what we experience?
 

bradley

Diamond Member
Jan 9, 2000
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Marilu Henner's brain stores everything. She is one of the world's rare handful with an autobiographical memory.

 
Feb 24, 2001
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Marilu Henner's brain stores everything. She is one of the world's rare handful with an autobiographical memory.

Yeah I've seen interviews with her and other folks with that ability. Pretty strange stuff. Can remember every day, the weather, what they had for breakfast, the clothes they wore, etc.

While it sounds cool, I've also heard that they can remember tragedies in full detail as well, so they don't really ever "forget" or heal as well as others as time passes.
 

Markbnj

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I read recently that you don't remember what happened; you remember the last time you remembered what happened.
 

lxskllr

No Lifer
Nov 30, 2004
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I read recently that you don't remember what happened; you remember the last time you remembered what happened.
I've heard that also, and it introduces errors that accumulate over time. Your whole life's a lie man! :^O
 

Braznor

Diamond Member
Oct 9, 2005
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All of our memories are encoded in our brains in terms of clusters of specific neurons. When we experience something, the brain records the event through means of firing and connections gained between those specific combination of neurons.

When we try to remember back the same event, for the memory to be recollected correctly, those specific set of neurons (which got connected together as the result of the past experience) must get reactivated and refire again in terms of those connections.

Sometimes what could happen is that these connections (amongst the specific neurons coded together) can get reactivated by means of an experience very similar to that of the past recorded experience. This leads to your AHA moment which we experience as memory regained of some past event.

All of this is in my own opinion and as for the question whether the brain records everything, my opinion again is that the brain uses some kind of naturalistic processing to encode experience and decode memories within itself. By naturalistic processing, I mean somekind of fundamental biological signaling mechanism that can be quite universal in terms of neurons possessed by the human race or perhaps even other species. No two brain will encode and decode something using the same cluster or pattern of neurons, but both these clusters will be quite similar to each other after taking into account various factors such as personality, neurochemistry etc. All of this is again in my own opinion.
 

John Connor

Lifer
Nov 30, 2012
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The brain is a very associative thing. If you want to remember something you have to come up with an association. I wanted to be a fireman and read to study guides and you have to remember things like apartment numbers and floor layouts.

I do find that all of a sudden I will remember some instance that happened years ago. It just happens when you are thinking of something and there is something to associate to it. That's you a ha moment.
 
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DrPizza

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Your brain couldn't possibly remember everything. Look around the room - realize how many details you can see. Try to think about all the things you've looked at in your lifetime - your visual memory can't possibly remember all of the sights, sounds, etc. that you've ever experienced.
 

John Connor

Lifer
Nov 30, 2012
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I make it a hobby to remember all the actors in commercials. I find that I see one actor or actress play in several other commercials.
 

Ketchup

Elite Member
Sep 1, 2002
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My opinion: the brain remembers things in different ways, and doesn't remember everything. The "training" (through genes or training on your own part) of your brain will tell it what information to pass through the hippocampus into long term memory, and what to disregard.

My mother is a good example of this. When she was in her 20's, there was a bank being built on the road she drove to work. She did not even notice it until it was finished.

I think I am also a good example of this. My right hippocampus was removed last year, and things I remembered before have become difficult to bring back. But, as my brain creates the new connections, things do come back, just takes a while, as you mentioned techs.

Actually, there was a decent Star Trek TNG episode about this with Will Riker on trial for murder. He and the others all remembered the incident differently.
 

Jeff7

Lifer
Jan 4, 2001
41,599
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Your brain couldn't possibly remember everything. Look around the room - realize how many details you can see. Try to think about all the things you've looked at in your lifetime - your visual memory can't possibly remember all of the sights, sounds, etc. that you've ever experienced.
And of course, there's the other easy way to tell that it can't store everything: It has a finite volume, a finite number of neurons, and a finite number of component molecules. That all places a limit on how much information can possibly be crammed in there.

Your brain is running a JPEG compression engine, but the image quality is controlled by a random number generator which is heavily biased toward the 1-5 range, out of a possible range of 1-100.
 

Rubycon

Madame President
Aug 10, 2005
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Yes it does.

Not everyone has been given full R/W permission everywhere. ;)
 

Juddog

Diamond Member
Dec 11, 2006
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The best way to think of it, in my opinion, is to picture each cell in your brain as a very slow CPU and RAM stuck together (e.g. a single bit of memory combined with a CPU that can flip the switch). When I say slow, I mean in comparison to a computer that can flip calculations billions of times a second. The neural pathways transmit at roughly 80 meters a second, which means that the impulses in your brain are much slower than the electrical impulses in a computer, so this is normal. Because your brain has so many cells, however, it is incredibly powerful in terms of multiprocessing.

Each neuron can be connected to multiple other neurons, so the way that the brain thinks, stores knowledge, and operates is associative; that is to say, extremely long-chained branch logic. In order to recall an event stored in some area of your brain, you normally think of one thing associated with something else that is associated with something connected with that event.

When you recall that event, you re-write it in your brain simply be recalling it. The emotions and feelings you are thinking while you recall the memory can thus color the memory itself, so in time memories of the past can change emotional tone from what you may have been feeling at the time your brain recorded the event.

The brain is fully capable of remembering details from every day in your life, but doing so could be detrimental; it's most likely that we evolved a forgetting mechanism on purpose in order to not dwell in the past. The cannaboid receptors that are used when you smoke the mj are actually used for forgetful purposes as well; in other words, were you to remember every painful event, your brain would quickly become overwhelmed.

Therefore for a healthy and functioning brain, forgetting itself becomes purposeful. Over time, your brain tends to forget the painful events, and remember favorable events. As you travel in the present, your brain slowly categories and catalogues the events of each day via REM state / sleeping, and shuffles things from the forefront of your mind into storage. That storage is recalled by remembering events associated with the other events you are trying to remember, thus forming a logic branch that reaches the destination in your brain where the memory has been stored.

To sum up, your brain is constantly changing, re-writing your old memories and shuffling in new memories, but has to suppress memories at least somewhat otherwise people would become too distracted to survive in a world where constant dangers are present - moving cars, wild animals, etc.. If one had perfect memory and constantly dwelt in the past, one might miss things going on in the present and this would potentially result in injury / death, thus "perfect" memory mechanisms were bred out of humans over time.

Over the past several thousand years, with the advent of agriculture, etc., these memory mechanisms have slowly been re-introduced into the species by no longer requiring people to constantly attentive of the present, and also selectively breeding back in this characteristic by making those with exceptional memories become rich, thus having a greater likelyhood of passing those genetic traits on to their young.
 

Rakehellion

Lifer
Jan 15, 2013
12,181
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There are some things that I have seem to forgotten. Yet, sometimes days, months or even years later I have an "a ha" moment and remember.

So, is our brain actually "recording" everything and we just have difficulty finding many things, or does our brain only store part of what we experience?
It remembers the important stuff. You have a finite number of connections in your brain and the ones that aren't reinforced degrade over time.


Marilu Henner's brain stores everything. She is one of the world's rare handful with an autobiographical memory.

Yeah, but your brain doesn't have infinite storage. People like that are usually aspies and have trouble processing other things in life.
 

bradley

Diamond Member
Jan 9, 2000
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Yeah, but your brain doesn't have infinite storage. People like that are usually aspies and have trouble processing other things in life.
Which is why I labeled Marilu the "world's rare handful with an autobiographical memory"??? I believe only 20+ such cases of hyperthymesia are documented with six currently being studied.

Most average humans (like us) grow to an incurious adulthood with massive egos, which also makes one recalcitrant and resistant to new information not originating with them. Humans actually know little about their puny one dimension, and even less the capacity of the human brain.

Though Marilu is quite functional both mentally and physically, if her illustrative career, family life and engaging personality is any indication.

Marilu Henner's Superior Autobiographical Memory
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlNB7dAXQEc

CBSNewsOnline: Endless Memory, Part 1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHeEQ85m79I
 
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Rakehellion

Lifer
Jan 15, 2013
12,181
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Most average humans (like us) grow to an incurious adulthood with massive egos, which also makes one recalcitrant and resistant to new information not originating with them. Humans actually know little about their puny one dimension, and even less the capacity of the human brain.
Apparently, she's just as unremarkable as an average human too because her memory is autobiographical.
 

bradley

Diamond Member
Jan 9, 2000
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Apparently, she's just as unremarkable as an average human too because her memory is autobiographical.
Her autobiography doesn't include living in a box, but interacting and living amongst other people. Many of Marilu's memories revolve around other people and events, of which she truly remembers 100 percent past 11yo.

Anyway, if you are at all curious about hyperthymesia, then Marilu (who also lived an extremely full life) is a fascinatingly prime example. Though usually, in so many words, the average human is his/her own worst enemy on every level.
 

techs

Lifer
Sep 26, 2000
28,561
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So, is Henner unusual because she has all those memories or because unlike most people she can access them all?
 

bradley

Diamond Member
Jan 9, 2000
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Either the human brain (or the human ego in bad faith) prunes and protects itself from an informational overload. Though it might appear the potential for total recall is an untapped one.
 

Jaskalas

Lifer
Jun 23, 2004
31,129
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Your brain couldn't possibly remember everything. Look around the room - realize how many details you can see. Try to think about all the things you've looked at in your lifetime - your visual memory can't possibly remember all of the sights, sounds, etc. that you've ever experienced.
And that is what would make genetic clones different from one another. Even if they were raised in cells / cages of identical conditions, the analog nature of the human brain renders perfect replication impossible. There will be differences through imperfections.
 

SphinxnihpS

Diamond Member
Feb 17, 2005
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I want to know what software we are running, what operating system?

I want to know how we overcome lag.
 

Red Squirrel

No Lifer
May 24, 2003
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The brain probably does store quite a lot more than what we can actively "access". Sometimes it takes a trigger to remember more stuff.

For example say you see a toy that you played with as a little kid, then it will trigger a memory of that time, then you might remember other stuff not related to that toy, but it still triggered it.
 

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