Forget About It: How We Purge Thoughts From Our Mind

If you have ever tried to erase that annoying earworm from your mind or stop thinking about whether you locked the door after leaving the house, you know how disruptive it can be to think about something irrelevant to the task at hand.

While much work in cognitive neuroscience focuses on how the human brain remembers and retains information, some cognitive neuroscientists have instead turned to forgetting – working to track exactly how we forget a piece of information and what it means for patients suffering from neurocognitive disorders.

“It may sound surprising that people can control what and how they forget,” says Marie Banich of the University of Colorado, Boulder, who is chairing a session about new research on forgetting at the Cognitive Neuroscience Society (CNS) annual meeting today in San Francisco.

“But control over working memory is critical for switching between and re-prioritizing tasks. So in many ways, it is not surprising that we have control over the ability to remove information from the focus of our thoughts.”

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