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 Researchers now say that ridding our brains of irrelevant details and outdated information helps us better navigate our ever-changing world.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

NPR4 min read
Notre Dame Fire Revives Demand For Skilled Stone Carvers In France
"With stone carving, we give life to an edifice and perpetuate history. We're also creating a link with the past and transmitting values that are important to conserve in society," one student says.
NPR5 min read
The Fallout From A Seemingly Sweet Oil Deal For Venezuela's Neighbors
The PetroCaribe program provided fuel to Venezuela's neighbors on long-term credit to spur economic growth. What has happened now that Venezuela is in free fall?
NPR7 min readTech
Space Spinoffs: The Technology To Reach The Moon Was Put To Use Back On Earth
Project Apollo spurred on a technological revolution — everything from advances in food packaging to computers. Fifty years later, we are still reaping the rewards.