Monday, April 24, 2017

Two Chances to get it Right

It seems our memories get stored first in the hippocampus (short-term memory) and in the cortex (long-term memory). That’s right we make double memories, according to an article in the BBC.

A team of US and Japanese scientists performed memory tasks on mice to discover that two parts of the brain are involved in creating memories. It’s as if we get two chances to get it right. Yet how do we continue to “mis-remember”?

Certain shocks can intervene or short-circuit the hippocampus and we have to revert to the memories stored in the cortex. By the same measure the cortex can be compromised or damaged and we are left only with the immediate memories.

The researchers also showed the long-term memory never matured if the connection between the hippocampus and the cortex was blocked.

I was stopped by that word “mature.” Just like with cheese, a good memory ages or matures, which might explain why an immediate reaction might differ from one that has been allowed to sit. After finishing my JOGLE bike ride, from the northern point of England to the southern most, I said I would never consider doing it again, but in retrospect I’ve found myself recalling with fondness a trip that killed me physically. Or at least challenged me beyond what I thought possible.

It also explains how when I was asked last summer how I liked Portland I disparaged the town—provoking an immediate reaction from my daughter. Granted I should have tempered my response. I think I was responding from an emotional center rather than a rational place. It had to do with saying goodbye and letting her live her own life. A life not in Chicago near us.

Now 6 months later, and I am planning my next bike trip: to Portland, ME.

Thank God for two chances at memories. We need both to guide us, though the likelihood that either one is reliable cannot be tested at this point.

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