How Does the Brain Recall a Memory?

Contributed by: Dennis Fortier, President, Medical Care Corporation

Perspective is a useful tool in understanding.

An article published today by the Orange County Register gives some excellent perspective on how to conceptualize the function of the brain. Especially with regards to recall of faint memories.

In a recent study published in Neuron, scientists used functional MRI imaging (fMRI) to visualize brain activity in subjects who were recalling a specific event. They found that the pattern of brain activity was similar during recall to the pattern of brain activity during the original experience.

This suggests that recall of a specific memory is achieved by re-activating the brain in a particular pattern. In this regard, it becomes easier to understand why recall can be difficult when one is distracted by many stimuli. After all, if the brain is reacting to many signals, it cannot recreate the specific pattern needed to recall the sought-after memory.

I thought this was a nice description of the science that may be helpful in understanding why recall may be more or less difficult at certain times or in certain situations. Too many people fear the worst when they cannot instantly recall an old piece of information when, instead, they should realize that perhaps there are just too many other signals at the moment interfering with their attempt to remember.

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