The conversations of life

Always losing your keys? It could actually be a sign that your brain is working properly

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A University of Toronto study has discovered that we may be designed to forget old memories in order to make room for new ones.

They found that the growth of new neurons in the memory centre of the brain – the hippocampus – seemed to encourage forgetting.

This allows our brains to get rid of outdated or wrong information when we come into contact with new information – making it easier for us to make decisions.

Smarter choices

“We always idealise the person who can smash a trivia game, but the point of memory is to make you an intelligent person who can make decisions given the circumstances, and an important aspect in helping you do that is being able to forget some information,” lead author Professor Blake Richards said.

It makes sense. Then your brain can hold onto the memories and information that are more important – like where you’ve hidden that secret block of chocolate from hubby and the kids.

Not sure how to tell the difference between normal forgetfulness and dementia? Alzheimer’s Australia has a great list of the early warning signs of dementia here.

Their top warning signs?

Memory loss that affects day-to-day function: they say it’s normal to occasionally forget appointments or a friend’s phone number and remember them later. A person with dementia may forget things more often and not remember them at all.

Problems performing familiar tasks: everyone gets distracted from time to time, for example, forgetting to serve part of a meal. A person with dementia may have difficulty with all steps in preparing a meal.

Confusion about time and place: it’s normal to forget the day of the week – for a moment. But a person with dementia may have trouble finding their way to a familiar place, or feel confused about where they are.

National Dementia Helpline: 1800 100 500 (interpreter service available)

Annie Donaldson

With a background in nursing, Annie has spent over 20 years working in the health industry, including the coordination of medical support for international TV productions and major stadium events, plus education campaigns with a number of national health organisations. In recent years, she has also taken time out of the workforce to be a full-time carer, giving her first-hand experience of the challenges and rewards of this role.


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