However, current study indicates that deliberately attempting to forget an unwelcome memory might aid in the removal of this unconscious remnant...It is therefore possible to erase one's own memory.
It's as if by wiping memories in the brain, we can erase painful experiences and pretend they never happened. Everything is gone, and everything is better. This is essentially a chemical lobotomy to obliterate memories. Even without a medical ice pick, the lobotomy dream never seems to die. There are still people who have this nightmare many years after their actual surgery.
In reality, memory loss is one of the risks of getting a lobotomy. The surgeon removes any visible parts of the brain responsible for memory function. But even though you cannot see these parts, they are still there. The brain uses several different methods to store information about what we experience. Some parts of the brain are always active so they must be storing something. After a lobotomy, these parts no longer play any role in helping us remember things, so they can be removed with no lasting effect.
The part of the brain that controls memory also connects to other parts of the brain that control emotions. So by removing parts of the memory center, the surgeon also removes any feelings associated with that memory. A patient could lose all memory of someone they love, but would have no way of knowing unless someone told them so directly.
Even if the patient has no memory of the incident that caused them pain in the first place, they will still suffer pain because another part of the brain is still being affected by the original injury.
Everyone has memories they'd prefer forget, and they may be aware of the triggers that bring them back. Neuroimaging research have revealed which brain circuits are involved in purposeful forgetting, and investigations have revealed that humans may consciously hide memories from consciousness. However many memories remain inaccessible even to self-report.
It is possible to forget a memory. Memories can be forgotten through time or intentional revisioning by the brain as we learn new information that conflicts with old memories. It is estimated that up to 75% of our long-term memories are lost within days of their formation. Some memories are difficult to forget due to their emotional value, while others are simply too important to forget.
The ability to forget memories comes at a cost: if you remember everything, you will never progress beyond simple learning behaviors. So, like all other skills, memory development requires practice; when memories are repeated over and over again, they become easier to recall later on.
There are several ways in which we can intentionally forget a memory. The most common method is to completely delete a file from your hard drive. This action removes any trace of the memory from your computer, so you cannot find it using standard search tools. Of course, this does not mean that the memory has been erased from your mind, but rather that you have made an effort to avoid thinking about it.
Scientists have sought to eliminate these memories through suppression by interfering with memory reconsolidation. Memory consolidation happens when a person recalls a one, generally a traumatic memory, and it becomes sensitive to change before being stored again. When a memory is recalled, the neurons that were active during its formation become more reactive to stimuli that are similar to what was happening at the time of exposure. If you suppress the memory while it's still being consolidated, then it will not be available for recall later on.
How do you erase a memory? This is possible but difficult. The easiest way to delete a memory is to simply not think about it or not expose yourself to cues that trigger a recollection of the event. However, if you really want to erase a memory, there are several techniques used by psychologists to remove unwanted memories.
The first method involves telling the patient that they are incorrect about the memory being true and that their brain has somehow confused the two events. For example, someone who remembers being attacked might be told that they were actually imagining the attack in order to protect themselves from further trauma. The patient is then asked to repeat the procedure with other memories that may be conflicting with the first one.
The second method uses logic to conclude that the memory must be false because otherwise it would be impossible to forget it.
"Decades of studies have revealed that we have the ability to intentionally forget something, but how our brains do so remains a mystery." Much of the past research on purposeful forgetting has been on brain activity in the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus, the brain's memory area. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for controlling impulsive behaviors and thinking ahead; it also plays a role in determining what information we pay attention to. The hippocampus is important for learning and memory.
According to one theory, trying to forget something makes the brain suppress its memory by changing the way it stores information. This process requires energy, so people who try to forget often need more sleep. During sleep, the brain does not function as quickly or as efficiently as when they are awake, which may be why many people who try to forget remember it later in their dreams. A study published in 2004 showed that people who tried to forget a list of words was more likely to recall those words later when they were asleep than when they were awake. However, other studies have found no difference between remembering things while awake or sleeping.
Intentional forgetting can help us deal with unwanted memories or thoughts. For example, if you witness a violent act, trying to forget about it might make you feel better able to cope with its aftermath.