Can we restore memories we’ve lost?

You ask what is happening when we store away a memory, and when we remember it. In the past 30 years, we’ve begun to understand. To transform a moment into an actual short-term memory, we store that memory in pieces — each piece stored in a different brain region. The different pieces contain the sight, the sound, the emotional reaction we had at the time, the place that it happened, and when it happened relative to other memories. Collectively, all of these pieces of the memory are knitted together into a what is called a memory engram — a coherent combination of all the pieces. The “knitting” is accomplished by strengthening the connections between brain cells: moments judged important prompt stronger connections.

To recall a specific memory, a part of the brain called the hippocampus retrieves the engram, the index of the different brain regions where the pieces of that memory are stored.

Recent experiments in mice show that if the hippocampus is temporarily impaired, access to a memory will be temporarily lost: the hippocampus briefly “forgets” the engram that links together the pieces of the memory. But the memory is still there, stored away in those brain regions. When this research was published, some wondered if it meant that some lost memories could be restored in humans.

A cognitive scientist, my colleague Dr. Andrew Budson, says there are two ways that memories can be “lost” as we get older. One is simply that we haven’t found the right cue to access the memory. With the right cue — seeing the right person, hearing the right music, or smelling the right odor — we can suddenly recall the entire memory. The memory engram is intact. But memories can also degrade over time, which unfortunately happens to most old memories. Most lost memories in Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are degraded and probably can never be retrieved.

We are beginning to understand the physical and chemical connections that occur in the brain when memories are formed and recalled. Memory isn’t magic: science is figuring it out. That’s exciting. But not as exciting as being able, whenever I want, to summon the memory of my wife’s face at the moment we were wed.

We remember just a tiny fraction of the events of our lives. The sights and sounds of every conscious moment could become a memory. But only when a moment seems important do we remember it, at least for a while. I remember the radiant beauty of my wife’s face on our wedding day, at the moment she lifted the veil.

You ask what is happening when we store away a memory, and when we remember it. In the past 30 years, we’ve begun to understand. To transform a moment into an actual short-term memory, we store that memory in pieces — each piece stored in a different brain region. The different pieces contain the sight, the sound, the emotional reaction we had at the time, the place that it happened, and when it happened relative to other memories. Collectively, all of these pieces of the memory are knitted together into a what is called a memory engram — a coherent combination of all the pieces. The “knitting” is accomplished by strengthening the connections between brain cells: moments judged important prompt stronger connections.

To recall a specific memory, a part of the brain called the hippocampus retrieves the engram, the index of the different brain regions where the pieces of that memory are stored.

Recent experiments in mice show that if the hippocampus is temporarily impaired, access to a memory will be temporarily lost: the hippocampus briefly “forgets” the engram that links together the pieces of the memory. But the memory is still there, stored away in those brain regions. When this research was published, some wondered if it meant that some lost memories could be restored in humans.

A cognitive scientist, my colleague Dr. Andrew Budson, says there are two ways that memories can be “lost” as we get older. One is simply that we haven’t found the right cue to access the memory. With the right cue — seeing the right person, hearing the right music, or smelling the right odor — we can suddenly recall the entire memory. The memory engram is intact. But memories can also degrade over time, which unfortunately happens to most old memories. Most lost memories in Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are degraded and probably can never be retrieved.

We are beginning to understand the physical and chemical connections that occur in the brain when memories are formed and recalled. Memory isn’t magic: science is figuring it out. That’s exciting. But not as exciting as being able, whenever I want, to summon the memory of my wife’s face at the moment we were wed.

Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren

Acts 4:18-31 And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”     

2 Chronicles 25:19 “You said, ‘Behold, you have defeated Edom.’ And your heart has become proud in boasting. Now stay at home; for why should you provoke trouble so that you, even you, would fall and Judah with you?”

1 Samuel 2:3 “Boast no more so very proudly, Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth; For the LORD is a God of knowledge, And with Him actions are weighed.

Proverbs 11:2 When pride comes, then comes dishonor, But with the humble is wisdom.

Proverbs 16:5 Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; Assuredly, he will not be unpunished.

Micah 2:3 Therefore thus says the LORD, “Behold, I am planning against this family a calamity From which you cannot remove your necks; And you will not walk haughtily, For it will be an evil time.

Recommended contacts for prayer request and Bible study

www.agapetemplesda.com

www.adventistontario.org

https://www.hopechannel.com/au/learn/courses

breathoflife.tv/

https://3abn.org/all-streams/3abn.html

http://www.nadadventist.org/article/15/contact-us

https://www.adventist.org/en/utility/contact/

It Is Written

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