The brain processes memories through a combination of several factors and mechanisms. According to Dr. Wendy Suzuki, there are four key elements that make things memorable:
- Novelty: Our brains are drawn to new experiences or objects.
- Repetition: Seeing or experiencing something repeatedly helps us remember it.
- Association: If something or someone is connected to people or things we already know, it's easier to remember.
- Emotional resonance: We tend to remember the happiest, saddest, and most surprising moments of our lives.
These elements interact with key brain structures like the amygdala, which processes emotional situations, and the hippocampus, which is crucial for long-term memory formation.
Dr. Eddie Chang further explains that memory is distributed across multiple areas of the brain, not just one specific area. This distribution helps protect our long-term memories and motor skills, even in the event of brain injury.
Finally, as I've discussed, the hippocampus is particularly involved in the formation of memories. It's a highly plastic area of the brain, capable of adding new memories, and even generating new neurons, especially when we're trying to learn and acquire new information.