The findings, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, suggest that in order to forget an unwanted experience, more attention should be focused on it.
The study extends prior research on intentional forgetting, which focused on reducing attention to the unwanted information through redirecting attention away from unwanted experiences or suppressing the memory's retrieval.
"We may want to discard memories that trigger maladaptive responses, such as traumatic memories, so that we can respond to new experiences in more adaptive ways," said Jarrod Lewis-Peacock, an assistant professor at The University of Texas at Austin in the US.
"Once we can figure out how memories are weakened and devise ways to control this, we can design treatment to help people rid themselves of unwanted memories," Lewis-Peacock.
Memories are are dynamic constructions of the brain that regularly get updated, modified and reorganised through experience.
The brain is constantly remembering and forgetting information - and much of this happens automatically during sleep.
Prior studies focused on locating "hotspots" of activity in the brain's control structures, such as the prefrontal cortex, and long-term memory structures, such as the hippocampus.
The latest study focuses, instead, on the sensory and perceptual areas of the brain, specifically the ventral temporal cortex, and the patterns of activity there that correspond to memory representations of complex visual stimuli.
"We are looking not at the source of attention in the brain, but the sight of it," said Lewis-Peacock.
Using neuroimaging to track patterns of brain activity, the researchers showed a group of healthy adults images of scenes and faces, instructing them to either remember or forget each image.
Their findings not only confirmed that humans have the ability to control what they forget, but that successful intentional forgetting required "moderate levels" of brain activity in these sensory and perceptual areas -- more activity than what was required to remember.
"A moderate level of brain activity is critical to this forgetting mechanism. Too strong, and it will strengthen the memory; too weak, and you won't modify it," said Tracy Wang, lead author of the study and a psychology postdoctoral fellow at UT Austin.
"Importantly, it is the intention to forget that increases the activation of the memory, and when this activation hits the 'moderate level' sweet spot, that is when it leads to later forgetting of that experience," Wang said.
The researchers also found that participants were more likely to forget scenes than faces, which can carry much more emotional information, the researchers said.
"This will make way for future studies on how we process, and hopefully get rid of, those really strong, sticky emotional memories, which can have a powerful impact on our health and well-being," Lewis-Peacock said.
Next Horizon Of Science: AI To Diagnose Brain Haemorrhage, Spacecraft For Intergalactic Tra...
7 Sep, 2018From AI that can diagnose stroke to scientists taking antimatter for a truck ride, here’s everything exciting about technologies that are going to shape our future. (Text: Rajarshi Bhattacharjee)
A Machine To Stop Climate Change
7 Sep, 2018Hate carbon dioxide for heating up the planet? Switzerland has a giant machine that sucks carbon dioxide from air and performs better than plants. In essence, it’s a gigantic artificial tree. Zurichbased Climeworks AG is the world’s first ever commercial plant that can capture CO2 from the air on an industrial level. The amount (900 tonnes) of carbon dioxide the plant draws annually is approximately the same as the amount emitted by 200 cars in the same time. (Image: www.climeworks.com)
A Faster Diagnosis Of Brain Haemorrhage With AI
7 Sep, 2018Scientists at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in US have developed an artificial intelligence platform that can identify disease in brain CT scans in 1.2 seconds, and diagnose a range of acute neurological illnesses, such as stroke, and haemorrhage. The study shows that the system was faster than human diagnosis. This is the first study to utilise AI for detecting acute neurologic events and demonstrate a direct clinical application.
A Spacecraft For Intergalactic Travel
7 Sep, 2018Remember the pursuit craft driven by Valerian (Dane DeHaan) in the 2017 movie Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets? US design and technology company Lexus has a concept of the futuristic single-seat craft called Skyjet that will take the future humans on intergalactic trips. Powered by a compact fuel-cell capsule, the Skyjet will fly on clean, renewable energy for space travel, sometime around 2740. (Image: www.lexus.co.uk)
A Little Space For More Memory
7 Sep, 2018The most dense, solidstate memory in history is here. It could soon exceed the capabilities of current hard drives by 1,000 times. Scientists at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada say they can use hydrogen atoms to boost storage capacity. They were able to reach a storage density of 128TB per square inch. That’s much ahead of current 10TB hard disks which have approximately 512GB per square inch. (Image: www.ualberta.ca)