Head space: why our ado­les­cent mem­o­ries are so clear

The Guardian Australia - - Science / Technology - Daniel Glaser

Re­cently I was asked to choose a track that changed my life, as part of an event called OneTrack­Minds. With­out hes­i­ta­tion I chose the one I first heard when I was 17, ef­fort­lessly skip­ping back over decades to hook into a song from my late ado­les­cence. I had my rea­sons for se­lect­ing this par­tic­u­lar piece, but a neu­ro­bi­o­log­i­cal phe­nom­e­non was at work here, too.

The so-called rem­i­nis­cence bump, based on many well-es­tab­lished studies about mem­ory, refers to the way we re­call mem­o­ries from ado­les­cence and early adult­hood more vividly as we grow older – com­pared to, say, re­mem­ber­ing some­thing from last week. So much of what we re­mem­ber isn’t to do with our men­tal state now, but about the state of our brain when the mem­ory was first ‘pro­cessed’.

It could be down to the emo­tional in­ten­sity of our ear­lier years, or the lack of ba­nal dis­trac­tion which plagues so many adult lives, no one knows for sure. Ei­ther way, it seems it’s not grow­ing old that stops us re­mem­ber­ing events from last year, it’s just that they weren’t ex­pe­ri­enced or laid down that strongly in the first place.

Dr Daniel Glaser is di­rec­tor ofS­cience Gallery at King’s Col­lege Lon­don

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