You’ve Been Taught to Use Your Brain Wrong: Human Brains Are Not Designed to Remember Things
The human brain is known the world over as the most complex neurological computer that exists. It weighs a shade over a kilo on average but runs the complex functions unparalleled by all advances in artificial intelligence. In fact, the only way AI supersedes the human brain is by the amount of information storage it can actively process. We all have wondered at some point about the possible memory capacity in our brains and how well can we manage it.
Despite the dogma that our brain has reels of memories from our entire life stored inside, the truth seems like a more harshly tuned reality. Turns out the brains actual capacity is more along the lines of 8 gigabytes. Yes, that was read correctly; and this means that all those data drives we ever walked around wearing around our necks were the specific capacity of our brains. So while you wander the Byzantine labyrinths of your thoughts, do remember that when memorizing a book for your exams and cramming song lyrics, you’re doing this out of the grand (sarcasm) total of just eight gigs. Bummer.
The feeble brain is weaker!
Just when you thought that a naturally low memory retentiveness was the worst of it, the dilemma of memory retentiveness prepares to amplify. When the brain feels like it has filled to the brim with the recorded memories of your thought catalog, it begins to store any newly made memories by overwriting the old ones itself. So basically every time you remember something new after a certain time, you start to forget old information to remember the new one. Ever wonder why when you prepare for a test with loads of knowledge, you often end up forgetting everything learned for the past test? You are overwriting the learned information with new one. So a word to the wise: always try to live and remember your most cherished memories to the fullest!
Brain in a compression nutshell
A few retentive capabilities in your brain only mean that the memories that are saved have to be toned down. Imagine having an 8gb drive in your pc that ALL your relevant data has to save to. It seems like a bitter certainty that it will have to be compressed, to the point of being trimmed to the utter significant bits and no sidelines. So if you have an outstanding picture in your memory, it will be blurred to a lower resolution and trimmed, so you remember the constituents and colors but barely make out the vague shapes sometime after remembrance. Isn’t the brain a buzzkill?
Mismatch with evolution
The world is globalizing at neck breaking speeds, and the human mind develops with the rate of a caveman processing Netflix. In more exact terms, the 86 billion nerve cells in our brain have remained constant in number and power relative to humanity’s progress as a supremely sophisticated being that has to digest several languages, cultures, memories, and roles during a lifetime. That, combined with the development of job complexity means an enhancement of individual skills, which again require mental retention. To call a spade a spade, we’re lagging regarding mental development.
Difference between retaining and accessing information
The rapid advances have also ensued that while the internet, mass media and electronic publications have made information widely accessible to all segments of society, the access and retention have resultantly grown alarmingly disproportionate. This only implies that advancement in information collectivization is not necessarily making us smarter and thus requires relentless research focus in this field to bring it to par with the advanced information collectivization. Bet you cannot wait to use a bionic brain enhancer.
The stand-alone brain cannot function efficiently
Given that despite its 8gb of retention, the average human encounters over 50gb of information daily coupled with 50,000 thoughts; it becomes fairly apparent that in itself, the brain consists of the insufficient capacity to assist us in our everyday lives efficiently. Thus people often have to resort to outsourcing this mental work by installing the use of flash cards, hand notes, and post-its. These utilities have over time developed from novelty dependency tools to basic spiritual necessities.
Mutually exclusive brain specialties
The fact of the (brain) matter is that our brains are specifically wired to be operative in one functional sphere at a time: that of processing and memorizing. This probably explains why we are much less likely to remember details of a task while we are doing it and more likely to learn it from a brochure or training classes. This is in part attributed to the common strain on our brain when we try to do both simultaneously.
Studies have found that the brain is far from perfect. It is imperfect. As some University of Basel researchers found, our brain only stores information that we implicitly think of as important or vital and this is a mere safeguarding mechanism designed to keep our mind clutter free and open so that we can keep a segment empty to replace idle information over repeated cycles. Contrarily, in the rare case that a person suffers from eidetic memory, they risk going insane with the stress of an overloaded brain.
Our brain is meant for generating ideas, not storing them
As self-explanatory as it sounds, this implies that the gray matter in our brains was never intended biologically as a long term intensive storage device and instead was meant to be a catalyst for ideas that originate in the mind. Over time the thinking bit was moved to the nerd scientists in society and thus we reverted to the weaker role of the brain while blaming it on being insufficient to our needs. How intelligent.
Brains are memory blenders
Because of the way memories are stored in the brain, we’ve been misusing it as a memorizing mechanism all this time. Due to their fluidity, memories can cross over to merge with similar memories and the resultant memory, whenever retrieved is more often than not, a cocktail of vague and hazy events. Pretty worthless. The neural mechanisms of the brain just prove at our abuse of its functionality in itself.
Memory’s spillover in the brain
The uncanny similarity in the treatment of two different processes of the brain’s activity means that the brain can fail to individualize the two memories and they can cancel each other out. This means that by straining our brain with the burden of memories, we only make our existing similar memories fail because confusion occurs. For, eg, imagine learning German and English. Because of the similarity of several words, there is bound to be severe learning conflicts that hamper the learning curve.
The ticket lies in the short term memory, where capacity filling occurs in a jiffy and overloading is common. While the brain is great at external decision making, it fails to juggle internal memory pickings which means that it comes as no surprise that many people forget the names of people they just met for the prime reason that they absorbed too many memories.
Targeted experiments to gauge the brain’s weakness
With a test in which the samples were given a target memory and competing memories, the samples found target memories stored in the short analytical section of the brain much easier to recover than the competing memories dumped in the Orthodox hippocampus that is imperatively more prone to memory loss.
Need for mental decluttering
In actuality, the hippocampus is the search engine from which our memories are retrieved, whereas the prefrontal cortex (decision-making thingamajig) is the search filter that qualifies our search parameters and shows the specific memory searches then. While they work in unison, to access the relevant information and not adulterate it with similar memories, the brain needs to be decluttered of wasted space made by bloat memories.
Teamwork memory learning
The human mind is naturally supposed to learn and develop with the assistance of associative technology whereby new things are learned by drawing links and associations with present knowledge. Thus when the brain tries to retrieve one portion of the memory, it drags the entire memory thread to the fore and often clusters unnecessary information, thus affecting the coherence of your memories.
The odd case out
A rare condition known as hyperthymesia syndrome exists. Albeit being very rare, it represents the affected having very developed brain sectors for memorizing that allows them to pinpoint memories with pinhead precision. According to the affectees, while this ability seems like a boon, it represents a burdensome bane due to it’s mentally taxing nature.
Bye bye decision making prowess
In a memory filled brain, the more choices we have to make, the more we abuse our unnaturally hot wired brain. Because of the tradeoff between the two, decision making suffers a slump when put face to face against memorizing and after the latter, the mental neuro links required to make decisions are few and can’t be pulled to make constant multiple decisions. The energy is like a spiritual reservoir, which rapidly gets tapped by using the memory always. This represents a grinding abuse on the brain on our part.
We live in a hectic world and tasks relentless fly towards us. This presents our brain with an unprecedented challenge in the scenario where we have to memorize decisions as well, rather than forming personalized ones at the spot. However, when these tasks switch from one to another, or if there is parallel processing, then our brain must halt one process completely and begin the framework for the next task. This constant cycle in simultaneous working takes its toll on mental duress and thus stresses the sufferers.
The great mental games
It seems on its face that there appeared to be a short run tradeoff between decision making and analytical skills, and memorizing information. This is in lines with the age old educational debate that argues over the instilling of cramming or actual interest and learning in a school’s curriculum. On the whole, critical information can be articulated into much smaller and richer text to apply in mental simulation rather than cramming entire books that destroy what little functionality in decision making our brain offers.
Retention circuit breaker
Researchers at the Centre for Neural Decision Making found through resonance imaging that the flow of blood to the brain increased as information flow increased but suddenly the moment respondents started to memorize the information, the prefrontal cortex shut down indicating that the brains fuse had effectively blown. That mean that people suddenly start making bad decisions as the decision making part of the brain shuts down too.