I’ve noted before that our memories corrupt over time, and that we’re constantly forgetting things. All things we should try to…remember when recalling events or evaluating eyewitness testimony.
Anyway, it turns out that if something goes wrong with our forgetting mechanism, it has serious consequences.
In order to function properly, the human brain requires the ability not only to store but also to forget: Through memory loss, unnecessary information is deleted and the nervous system retains its plasticity. A disruption of this process can lead to serious mental disorders. Scientists have now discovered a molecular mechanism that actively regulates the process of forgetting.
The fact that the brain has a mechanism to forget things reminds me of the garbage collectors in computer software. The purpose of those garbage collectors is to free up memory by deleting unneeded data or releasing unused resources. Just like the brain’s forgetting mechanism, if those garbage collectors stopped working for any reason, the software wouldn’t function well for long.