A poet once said – you are nothing but a sum of all your memories; did you live each memory well? How did your memories form and how did you decide which ones to remember and which ones to forget. Why do memories get triggered by a smell or a word or even a song. What is a memory really?
Your memory unlike your arm or leg is not a physical thing. Instead your memory is the process by which your brain registers information in what is a fairly complex process. Recollect the first time you fell in love and the soft brown eyes and twitch of the lips that caused it. Your son or daughter’s I mean. Its a sight you are unlikely to forget in a hurry. Along with it would be associated the smell, the sounds and the hurly burly that probably got associated when you first glanced. This collective experience travelled to your hippocampus which along with your cortex evaluated its usefulness. If useful, and its fairly ruthless in deciding this, the experience is then stored through out your brain.
The exact process by which it is stored still eludes science to date. What is known is that the memory is stored in the language of electricity and chemicals. The point at which your nerves connect to each other are called synapses. When an electrical pulse is fired between your cells, it creates a chemical called neurotransmitters which fills the space between your cells. It is this repeated firing that causes memories to be formed and the more often this process is repeated the deeper and more intricate your memory. This is the reason listening to a song or repeating A,B,C D forms a memory. Your brain has over 100 trillion synapses.
No one knows for sure how your brain decides which memories to retain and which ones to discard. Of course, if you are anything like me, you have a super efficient brain that just eliminates everything.