The Neurocritic has a fascinating report on recent research exploring memory interference. One of the primary problems with memory is deciding what to remember and what to forget. As an example of the scale of the problem, if we recorded every image we ever saw in its raw format, we’d soon exhaust our memory reserves. And what if we remembered every word we’d ever read, instead of recalling the larger sense of what we learn? Again, eventually we’d run out of space.
When we encounter new images or words, we must decide which memories should be discarded, and which we should keep. Memory interference is one mechanism we use, and one type of memory interference is one that privileges older memories over new ones. It can make sense: if we’ve retained an item in memory, there’s probably a good reason. It’s more likely that the new information is just noise.
The new research has identified the region of the brain that’s responsible for this type of interference: