Forgetting can be the result of an active deletion process in the brain rather than a failure to remember —a mechanism that helps us adapt our behaviour according to the surroundings, says a new study. The findings could point towards new ways of tackling memory loss associated with conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.
“Our study looks at the biological processes that happen in the brain when we forget something,” said Oliver Hardt from University of Edinburgh in Scotland. “The next step is to work out why some memories survive whilst others are erased. If we can understand how these memories are protected, it could one day lead to new therapies that stop or slow pathological memory loss,” Hardt said.
The findings were published in The Journal of Neuroscience. The study conducted in rats could also help scientists to understand why some unwanted memories are so long-lasting such as those of people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders.
Memories are maintained by chemical signalling between brain cells that rely on specialised receptors called AMPA receptors. The more AMPA receptors are on the surface where brain cells
connect, the stronger the memory.