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New research shows why too much memory may be a bad thing

NEW YORK -- New research from Columbia University Medical Center may explain why people who are able to easily and accurately recall historical dates or long-ago events, may have a harder time with word recall or remembering the days current events. They may have too much memory making it harder to filter out information and increasing the time it takes for new short-term memories to be processed and stored.

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (March 13, 2007 issue), the research reinforces the old adage that too much of anything even something good for you can actually be detrimental. In this case, the good thing is the growth of new neurons, a process called neurogenesis, in the hippocampus, the region of the brain responsible for learning and memory.

Results of the study, conducted with mice, found that the absence of neurogenesis in the hippocampus improves working memory, a specific form of short-term memory that relates to the ability to store task-specific information for a limited timeframe, e.g., where your car is parked in a huge mall lot or remembering a phone number for few seconds before writing it down. Because working memory is highly sensitive to interference from information previously stored in memory, forgetting such information may therefore be necessary for performing everyday working memory tasks, such as balancing your check book or decision making.

"We were surprised to find that halting neurogenesis caused an improvement of working memory, which suggests that too much memory is not always a good thing, and that forgetting is important for normal cognition and behavior," said Gal Malleret, Ph.D., a research scientist at the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior at Columbia University Medical Center and the papers co-first author. "Altogether, our findings suggest that new neurons in the hippocampus have different, and in some cases, opposite roles in distinct types of memory stor
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Contact: Elizabeth Streich
eas2125@columbia.edu
212-305-6535
Columbia University Medical Center
28-Mar-2007


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