Can't remember anything from when you were a baby? Here's why
Posted August 14, 2016
The significant learning experiences a child receives in the first few years of life are linked to infantile amnesia, a phenomenon in which the memories are quickly forgotten, according to a recent study from researchers at New York University.
"Early in life, while the brain cannot efficiently form long-term memories, it is 'learning' how to do so, making it possible to establish the abilities to memorize long-term," said Cristina Alberini, a professor in NYU's Center for Neural Science who led the study, in a press release featured on Science Daily. "However, the brain needs stimulation through learning so that it can get in the practice of memory formation — without these experiences, the ability of the neurological system to learn will be impaired."
According to BBC, babies tend to be "sponges for new information, forming 700 new neural connections every second and wielding language-learning skills."
BBC explained the importance of speech development when it comes to forming long-term memories. "Language helps provide a structure, or organization, for our memories, that is a narrative," Robyn Fivush, an Emory University psychologist, told BBC.
BBC noted that the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for emotion and memory, is extremely underdeveloped in babies. Babies are continually adding neurons to the hippocampus in the first few years of life and are unable to create long-term memories until they stop creating neurons.
However, an Atlantic article explained that while babies have a good memory system, forming a long-term memory may be difficult if there was no emotion associated with the memory or if the memory was incoherent and could not be easily brought up later in life.
A separate study found the recollection of infantile memories and the emotion associated with those memories may vary cross-culturally.
The study required 256 American and Chinese college students to report their earliest childhood memory on a memory questionnaire. The average age the American students reported to have their first memory was about six months earlier than the Chinese students. Also, the American students reported memories that were more emotional and lengthy, while the Chinese students' were shorter and more factual.