Can we forget something on purpose?

Studies have shown that we can voluntarily block unwanted memories in order to forget them or replace them with better ones.

During life, we go through various painful situations and circumstances that remain in our brain in the form of memories that we cannot forget, and which determine our behavior and character. Such painful situations can be different: the death of a loved one, breakup, failure at work, etc.

However, our mind does not give up and uses different strategies to suppress and forget it. According to a study conducted by neurologist Roland Benoit from the University of Cambridge, sometimes we directly try to suppress memories. Thus, the prefrontal cortex is activated, which suspends the function of the hippocampus, an area that is necessary for us to remember previous events.

Another way is to try to replace that disturbing memory with someone else’s. Benoit noticed that the prefrontal cortex was activated in a group of volunteers who opted for this technique. This mechanism is effective as a locking system.

Another study from the University of Birmingham and Cambridge, published by Nature Neuroscience, provided an answer to how the subjects managed to isolate the mechanisms in the brain, by which we can forget and remember something. Through magnetic resonance imaging, the brain activity of a group of volunteers was measured, and they were asked to recall the images they were shown. With this technique, scientists were able to recognize memories that would be erased and which would not.

Michael Anderson, one of the co-authors of the study, says: People are used to seeing oblivion as something passive. Our research reveals that people are more committed to what they perceive than to what they remember from their lives. The idea that the act of remembering can lead to oblivion is surprising and could reveal something more about selective memory.

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