“Where did I put that?” “What’s her name again?” “What did I come in here for?” We have all experienced that frustrating feeling, at one point or another, when we just cannot recall someone’s name or the reason for entering a room.
And, while forgetfulness has been linked to everything from dementia to ageing and other cognitive issues, it turns out that some memory loss could actually be a sign of intelligence. Yes, really.
A recent study published in the Neuron Journal by researchers from the University of Toronto will be music to the ears of anyone who’s ever misplaced a set of keys, forgotten someone’s name or had an embarrassing lapse of memory. If the findings are anything to go by, some types of forgetfulness could actually point to intellect.
While many people believe someone with a perfect memory is the very picture of cleverness, researchers don’t think this is necessarily the case. If anything, it could be the complete opposite.
The findings question whether remembering major details and forgetting smaller ones is actually the brain’s way of keeping bodies safer. The hippocampus, better known as the part of the brain where memories are stored, gets rid of unimportant memories as a way of remembering the important things to help people alive and safe. According to the study, this process of constantly replacing older memories with new ones can have evolutionary benefits but helping people adapt to new situations.
As the research pointed out, this process of letting go of old facts and memories and replacing them with fresh information helps people make decisions in the real world. The findings were the result of researchers analysing years of data on memory, memory loss and brain activity on humans and animals.
“We all admire the person who can smash Trivial Pursuit or win at Jeopardy, but the fact is that evolution shaped our memory not to win a trivia game, but to make intelligent decisions,” research author Blake Richards from the University of Toronto told CNN. “And when you look at what’s needed to make intelligent decisions, we would argue that it’s healthy to forget some things.”
While it may be good news for some, researchers are still warning people to pay attention to their memory and cognitive function. Forgetting the occasional detail from time to time could be considered more healthy and is likely the body and memory’s natural function.
Forgetting too much or more than normal could be cause for concern and these issues should be raised with a GP or health professional as they could point to dementia or other health issues.