- Brain cells that fire together during an experience can form permanent connections.
- Those connections let the same network of brain cells refire later on, which we experience as memory.
- New experiences can lead a network of cells to develop further connections, adding to a memory and helping us learn but sometimes modifying a recollection and creating false memories.
- Because knowledge derives from connections, the optimal strategy for learning involves making meaningful associations among topics.
Many people wish their memory worked like a video recording. How handy would that be? Finding your car keys would simply be a matter of zipping back to the last time you had them and hitting “play.” You would never miss an appointment or forget to pay a bill. You would remember everyone’s birthday. You would ace every exam.
Or so you might think. In fact, a memory like that would snare mostly useless data and mix them willy-nilly with the information you really needed. It would not let you prioritize or create the links between events that give them meaning. For the very few people who have true photographic recall—eidetic memory, in the parlance of the field—it is more burden than blessing.
This article was originally published with the title Making Connections.