The Human Hard Drive: How We Make (And Lose) Memories

David Hirschman in Big Think:

Memory Dr. Antonio Damasio, a behavioral neurobiologist at the University of Southern California who has studied the neural systems behind memory for years, says that memory is actually a complex process where the brain scatters information across its neurons and then reconnects it using sequential cues. Our brains are not at all like video cameras, he says; they don't have the capacity to keep exact film-like representations of everything that happens in our lives. Instead, the brain records conjunctions of details and events in what Damasio calls “convergence/divergence zones.” When we experience something, our neurons create a code to represent a series of disparate facts about the scene or idea that live in different areas of our brains. Recalling specific events or “memories” is actually a process of pulling together these details to essentially reconstruct a version of reality.

“When you are asked to remember a certain experience that you had today in which you’re talking with person A, listening to the person’s voice, but you also are in a certain context, B, which is the context of a certain room in a certain building,” says Damasio, as an example. “You are going to have the separate recordings of the voice of the person, the sight of the person, the place—but those recordings are going to be reactivated only if another recording of the simultaneity of the event has been made in a convergence/divergence zone.”

More, including video, here.