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How our brain learns and why we forget things?

Updated at: Nov 04, 2017
Mental Health
Written by: Himanshu SharmaPublished at: Sep 18, 2017
How our brain learns and why we forget things?

Everyone wishes that their memory stay active for many years. But, our brain loses the ability to remember with time. Here's how our brain learns and why we forget things.

Memory is a god-given gift. We soak up information and some get subconsciously stored in the memory box. Everyone wishes that their memory stay active for many years, however, our brain loses the ability to remember with time.

How our brain learns

The human brain is where conscious and subconscious behaviours reside. The brain consists of two types of cells – neurons (nerve cells) and Glial cells. The nerve cells are involved in learning and memory, while glial cells provide former with structural support.

A neuron is separated from other neurons by a small space called a synapse. Each neuron forms many synapses with many different neurons. It is during this process that the brain actually learns (keyword). When neurons interact with each other, a chemical called a neurotransmitter is released. The neurotransmitter crosses that synapse and activates the next neuron.

To form short-term memories, greater quantities of neurotransmitters across the synapse are required. Long-term memory formation requires brain to create more synaptic connections along the active pathway.

Why we forget things

The conversion of short-term memories into long-term memories is easy in youth. The transition wanes with time and makes it harder for one to learn and remember things.

After surpassing the age of 40, people have "benign forgetfulness". You can't remember where you put your keys or forget tasks, names or dates. By the age of 65-70, there can be significant memory loss issues.

In old age, short-term memory formation doesn’t usually suffer but our ability to convert experiences into long-term memories is not as good as before. A decrease in the number and activity of synapses in the memory-forming regions of the brain is the reason why we forget.

Boost your memory

Exercise: When you exercise, oxygen supply to your brain increases and there is an increased protection of brain cells. It also reduces risk for disorders that lead to memory loss.

Sleep well: Your brain can’t function at full capacity when you are sleep-deprived. Lack of sleep compromises creativity, problem-solving and critical thinking abilities.

Keep stress away: Keeping stress away can improve focus, concentration, memory and learning.

Eat right: Brain needs fuel just like the body. A diet based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, “healthy” fats (such as olive oil, nuts, fish) and lean protein boosts brain power.


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