Why is Forgetting Important?
Every day from the minute we wake up in the morning to when we fall asleep each night, we are constantly bombarded by information. How do we determine what’s important to remember and what should be forgotten? The ability to forget is a key aspect of successful memory by discarding information that is no longer relevant or useful to us. This includes forgetting processes that are automatic, but also other types of forgetting that we have more deliberate control over – in some instances, we have the ability to intentionally weaken specific memories. For example - to better serve those times you need to remember a current password, it's more helpful to have forgotten earlier, outdated and irrelevant former passwords. Forgetting is useful and adaptive - so ... how do does our brain do this?
Research from the Lewis-Peacock lab (Lewis-Peacock and Norman XXX), studying unintentional forgetting found that there's a critical period of attentional awareness that reflects a "goldilocks" amount of neural activation that affects whether something is forgotten later. More plainly, when you pay a lot of attention to something and keep thinking about it, you remember it very well. If you pay attention to something and then set it aside, you also remember it very well. But if you don't keep your attention on it, or set it aside for later, but apply a more medium amount of attention, you're more likely to forget it. We call this phenomenon to follow the "non-monotonic plasticity hypothesis" or NMPH (Norman and XXX) - where you get a U-shaped curve to describe the relationship between memory performance and the brain activity underlying the behavior. If we get this for forgetting that's not intentional, what happens when you WANT to forget something?
from Lewis-Peacock and Norman XXX.
How do we intentionally weaken memories in the brain? Using NMPH, is there a U-shaped relationship between memory performance and brain activity?
Academic Research Timeline 2015 - 2018
Subject Recruitment and Data Collection - 6 months
Data Analysis - 9 months
Write-up, Journal submission and reanalysis - 2.5 years