Being forgetful is the reality for many of us, especially as we age over the years. As we get older, our memory often fades which makes us wonder if our brains are actually able to remember everything. Researchers have been looking at if our memories simply fade as our brain deteriorates or if our brain simply doesn't have enough room for a lifetime of memories?
A Memorable Study
Heather Bailey, from Washington University in St. Louis, suggests that there is an atrophy in the medial temporal lobe in the brain. This atrophy leads to the inability to process everyday events.
For example, when you struggle to remember what you had for breakfast yesterday morning, you know it's different from lunch because you're able to chunk the events of your day properly. People with this atrophy can't do that.
This study used older individuals, some with dementia and some without, and had them watch movies of people doing everyday tasks. They had to distinguish these "chunks" by splitting the movie where they saw one task ended and a new part beginning. Later, the individuals were asked to recall the movie.
MRI's Role In This Study
Using an MRI scan, the researchers found that those with atrophy in the medial temporal lobe did not have strong memories and they couldn't properly segment the events in the movie. They looked for the comparable size of the medial temporal lobe.
This is a big step for memory research because now it's not simply a problem with recollection of events but also how we process/absorb that information as well.
We love how MRI's can help give us the answers to important questions. If you'd like to learn more about how the brain stores memories, here's the article about this MRI brain study.