The key to photographic memory may not be the ability of remarkable brains to learn; on the contrary, it may be the loss of the ability to forget. If this is true, then perhaps photographic memory is not such a mysterious thing after all.
The new study was done by the scientists at the Scripps Research Institute in Florida, who were working with fruit flies. They found an interesting way in which these fruit flies learn, which may overturn cherished idea of how memories are formed and forgotten. The fruit flies were exposed to different smells and were given positive reinforcement (with food) or negative reinforcement (with electric shocks).
These scientists knew that the neurotransmitter dopamine was important to form memories. To their surprise, they found that dopamine actively regulates both the formation and forgetting of new memories. In the process of creating new memories, the dCA1 receptor was activated. By contrast, forgetting was initiated by the activation of the DAMB receptor.
Previously, it was thought that forgetting might be simply the degradation of memories with time, which happens passively by itself. This new study shows that forgetting is an active process, requiring intervention by dopamine.
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