Ever wish you could banish a painfully embarrassing moment from your brain forever? Good news! Now you can actually trick yourself into erasing a memory, science says.
Experts call this mind hack “synaptic pruning,” but Fast Company dubbed it a “delete” button for short. So, how does it work? Imagine your brain as a garden, where synaptic connections between neurons grow instead of flowers or vegetables. As you learn and experience things, your brain builds more and more neurological connections.
“Glial cells” are the gardeners of your brain, Fast Company says; they both speed up the signals between neurons as well as erase the ones that are no longer needed. Your brain does all of this while you sleep, creating more space in your brain to build new and stronger connections in the future. Hence the reason why a good, deep night’s sleep is so important.
While we won’t get too much into the weeds (pun intended) on that topic here, the fact of the matter is this: Experts say that you actually have some control over what your brain decides to delete while you sleep. Since the unused synaptic connections get chucked, what you think about the most will stick around. Focusing most of your thoughts on the necessary stuff—a happy memory or an upcoming test—will increase the likelihood that you remember it down the road. That also explains why things you haven’t thought about in years (high school calculus, anyone?) might as well be a foreign language now.
“To take advantage of your brain’s natural gardening system, simply think about the things that are important to you,” Fast Company said. “Your gardeners will strengthen those connections and prune the ones that you care about less. It’s how you help the garden of your brain flower.”
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