Will your child remember being a baby?

15 July 2014

As any caring parent would, you put all your effort into creating the perfect birthday cake for your little two-year-old, hoping this will be one of their earliest memories. Unfortunately there’s a very good chance your child will have no memories of this event at all. And now scientists know why.

As any caring parent would, you put all your effort into creating the perfect birthday cake for your little two-year-old, hoping this will be one of their earliest memories. You spend hours planning the party, from the helium-filled balloons to the party packs. Unfortunately there’s a very good chance your child will have no memories of this event at all. And now scientists know why.

Infants’ memories may be wiped clean by the genesis of new brain cells. The process, neurogenesis, entails the creation of new brain cells so children typically only start making long-term memories around the time they start speaking, when the creation of new cells begins to slow down.

In infants of mammals, including humans, new neurons are produced in the hippocampus, the area of the brain that deals with learning and memory, at a high rate. The hippocampus houses a cell-making factory about the size of a few blueberries. This small factory is one of the only parts of the brain that creates new neurons.

Scientists have performed a study in rodents who, like humans, have blank spots in their early memories. They found that as neurons are born, the mice’s memory was at its worst, but as they aged, the birth rate of neurons slowed down and their memory improved.

The study was published in the journal Science.

-Megan Bursey

Sources: sciencenews.org, sciencemag.org

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