It is quite easy to launch into great detail just how many buckets of tears you cried over a heartbreak or how you felt like you’re on Cloud Nine when your man proposed to you. But can you remember how you felt like when you had your first tummy time or when you burped a storm on your mom?
There have been many theories about “infantile amnesia” or the lack of baby memories that everyone seems to have. However, it is not because young children do not know how to keep memories. It is mainly because baby brains are still unable to gather information together to form complex neural patterns that are also called as memories.
Young kids do know how to retain memories, particularly semantic memories, which include the faces of their parents and family or how their parents taught them to say “thank you” and “please” to get what they want.
It is the part about the episodic memories, which include a detailed memory of certain events, that young children do not have before they reach two to four years old.
According to scientists, baby memories are missing, possibly because young brains are busy growing new cells that they outdo the process of forming memories. They are so busy making new memories that they destroy the old ones in the process.
In fact, it is not only the human brains that seem to have missing memories. Neuroscientists Sheena Josselyn and Paul Frankland of the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto conducted a research about infantile amnesia. They did not agree with the lack of language, self-perception, or brain power among young kids as the cause of the phenomena. And Freud’s theory about how it may be caused by repressed sexual experiences has been discredited.
Their research involved monkeys and mice, which were also found to have no memories of their childhood. During their experiment, they controlled the rate at which neurons in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that gathers scattered pieces to form autobiographical memories, grow in both the young and adult mice. The experiment showed that the young mice with slow growing neurons retained better long-term memory, while the old ones with fast growing neurons suffered from memory loss.
The results were even published in the journal Science and the scientists Josselyn and Frankland suggested that rapid neuron growth in young brains disrupts the circuits that retain old memories, causing the memory loss. It could also be because young children do not have a fully developed prefrontal cortex, which also helps store memories.
It is only as the brain matures that it is able to multitask forming new memories and retaining old ones. However, some things are still forgotten, which Frankland commended as something critical, since the brain has to do away with the mundane things and remember only the significant ones. Well, the former may include baby memories like crying, sleeping, or burping, crawling, or making a mess with mashed potatoes as a baby?