Can we make room in our brains for new information?

Have you ever wanted to further your studies but feel your head is too full of information to take on new learning? According to a recent study, our brain can selectively replace old information with new information. So, is our brain capacity endless?

Published in an article in The Conversation, the study details how our brain’s capacity to learn and store information seems endless, however we prioritise memories for a reason. When people do remember everything, in a condition called Hyperthymestic Syndrome, too much information can become a problem. People with this condition are unable to forget anything and find that irrelevant memories interfere with accessing relevant information, making recall difficult.

Fortunately for most people it seems that our brains use remembering and forgetting to sort information, holding on to what we need most.

It’s all about relevance

According to a study conducted by Nature Neuroscience, when new knowledge is stored, similar old information can interfere with correctly recalling new information. When the new information is accessed frequently however, brain activity associated with the new information is strengthened and activity associated with the old, competing information is weakened. The hippocampus is associated with remembering and forgetting—however this study shows that the prefrontal cortex, the centre for planning and decision making, acts as a filter. It works with the hippocampus to selectively store and retrieve the most relevant information.

Updating your knowledge

This coordination between the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus means that we can effectively replace old information with newer more relevant information. The more frequently the new information is accessed, the more efficiently it is recalled. This ability is useful in undertaking further study as it will enable new relevant information which is used on a regular basis to replace old information that is no longer needed.

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