Why I cannot remember family events

I pride myself on my ability to remember (and impress my friends with) all sorts of obscure facts and information.  On the other hand, Kim insists that I am always forgetting things that actually happened to me and our family.  She suggests that with my brain filled with trivia, there's no room left for remembering personally important stuff.  Some recent brain research suggests there may be some truth to that:

Whether drawing a mental blank on a new A.T.M. password, a favorite
recipe or an old boyfriend, people have ample opportunity every day to
curse their own forgetfulness. But forgetting is also a blessing, and
researchers reported on Sunday that the ability to block certain
memories reduces the demands on the brain when it is trying to recall
something important.

The study,
appearing in the journal Nature Neuroscience, is the first to record
visual images of people?s brains as they suppress distracting memories.
The more efficiently that study participants were tuning out irrelevant
words during a word-memorization test, the sharper the drop in activity
in areas of their brains involved in recollection. Accurate remembering
became easier, in terms of the energy required.

Blocking out a
distracting memory is something like ignoring an old (and perhaps
distracting) acquaintance, experts say: it makes it that much harder to
reconnect the next time around. But recent studies suggest that the
brain plays favorites with memories in exactly this way, snubbing some
to better capture others. A lightning memory, in short, is not so much
a matter of capacity as it is of ruthless pruning ? and the new study
catches the trace of this process at it happens.

So, going by this, it would suggest that my brain has decided to suppress personal memories to make room for impersonal arcana.  I don't know that I like what this says about me :-).

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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