NPR

Could The Best Memory System Be One That Forgets?

Forget thinking about forgetting as failure. Researchers now say that ridding our brains of irrelevant details and outdated information helps us better navigate our ever-changing world.
Our brains can store huge amounts of information, but forgetting some of that information may actually make us smarter. / Jedrzej Kaminski / EyeEm / Getty Images

Intuitively, we tend to think of forgetting as failure, as something gone wrong in our ability to remember.

Now, Canadian neuroscientists with the University of Toronto are challenging that notion. In a paper published Wednesday in the journal Neuron, they review the current research into the neurobiology of forgetting and hypothesize that our brains purposefully work to forget information in order to help us live our lives.

I spoke with Blake Richards, one of the co-authors of the paper, who applies artificial intelligence theories to his study of how the brain

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from NPR

NPR3 min readPsychology
'Tip Of The Iceberg' — 1 In 16 Women Reports First Sexual Experience As Rape
The average age of those who were raped was around 15, and their assailants were typically older partners. Women who were raped had a greater likelihood of long-term health problems.
NPR2 min readPolitics
Oil Prices Jump Following Drone Attack On Saudi Oil Facility
The price surge comes after weekend strikes on the kingdom's Abqaiq oil processing plant and Khurais oil field. Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed responsibility, but the U.S. says Iran played a key role.
NPR2 min read
New York Set To Join Michigan In Banning Some E-Cigarettes
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state will issue an emergency regulation banning certain flavored products. The move comes amid advances toward a similar federal ban.