Even though we forget early memories, they help our brain develop

Even though we forget early memories, they help our brain develop

Early memories help brain develop
As adults we can recall memorable events for years. However most of us forget early memories, a phenomenon referred to as ‘infantile amnesia’. Where do those memories go?

A new study suggests our brain does retain those memories, and early life events are important for the development of the hippocampus — a part of the brain’s limbic system responsible for memory.

A team of scientists led by Cristina Alberini, professor of neural science at New York University, was intrigued by the paradox of what happens to early, forgotten memories, as it is known that traumatic early life experiences can have a profound impact on the physiology of our brains and mental health later in life.

So they set out to investigate what happens to early memories in rat brains.

Using an animal model to create and then test a specific event, the researchers discovered long-lasting traces of early memories in the hippocampus. Rats were exposed to footshock on a shock grid, and later reminders of the event elicited a clear response, indicating retention of the initial learning experience.

The researchers claim these findings support and extend previous evidence that early life experiences, even though we don’t remember them, affect us later in life.

Alberini’s group further identified that the biochemical mechanisms by which the memories were stored are developmentally specific — i.e. they are only enacted during critical windows of development. That means if an infant is not stimulated by early events during specific developmental time periods, the hippocampus may not develop properly.

The authors suggest this “may fundamentally contribute to the etiology of developmental learning disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder, mental retardation and neuropsychiatric disorders in general.”

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons