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cookieman's avatar

Do you have gaps in your memory?

Asked by cookieman (36736points) May 16th, 2009

My daughter (whose just finishing kindergarten) asks a lot of questions about when we (my wife and I) were in school.

So, recently I was recounting all my teachers to her from kindergarten through high school. Strangely, when I got to middle school (7th and 8th grade), I could only remember one teacher’s name (out of about 12 teachers).

What’s more, I remember very few details about the entire academic experience. Classes I took, other students, what the inside of the building looked like. I can barely recall any of it.

Meanwhile, my memory of grade school and high school is crystal clear.

personally, this was a very rough time for me – so it may be related

Have you experienced similar gaps in memory?
What do you think causes this?

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26 Answers

OpryLeigh's avatar

There are a lot of people (teachers, old friends etc) that I have forgotten about since leaving school. It’s weird when someone adds me as a friend on Facebook and I can see that we have a certain amount of mutual friends, all of whom I went to school with and yet I cannot remember this particular person. I look at their photos, read whatever they have put on Facebook about themselves and yet, nothing. That has happened to me on quite a few occassions.

elijah's avatar

I’ve actually been worried about how I forget so many things. It’s like I can remember I’ve done something, been somewhere, read a book or seen a movie, yet remember barely any information about it. In school I could read something once and remember every detail, now I can barely remember a plot line in a book I read a month ago. It’s scary. It’s also embarrassing because if you say you’ve experienced something and get into a discussion about it with someone, then can’t actually discuss details, it looks like you are lying or crazy.

shacolourdes's avatar

Although I am only a college student, I’ve experienced the same thing. I remember all of elementary school, little of six through tenth, and everything else is fine. I personally never abused any illegal substances, so that could not be responsible. Perhaps the mind naturally disregards a certain portion of life’s memories for whatever reason.

cookieman's avatar

@Leanne1986: I’ve had that happen in person. Someone starts chatting me up and I’m thinking, “I have no idea who you are”.

@elijah: I also find this scary. I worry there is an awful reason I am not remembering this chunk of time.

@shacolourdes: Same here. No extensive alcohol or drug use.

casheroo's avatar

@elijah I feel the same way.

I don’t remember most of my childhood, let alone the names of teachers I had. Lucky for me, I’m very sentimental and save everything. I’ve been going through old yearbooks and it’s reminding me of names of teachers.
I do recall who I was friends with during different grades, but specifics of my childhood are a mystery to me. Nothing traumatic ever happened (other than moving after 3rd grade, and I took this much harder than my parents expected, they still say to this day they wish they hadn’t moved and maybe I wouldn’t have changed)
I keep a journal now, so I can recall things during this period for my children later in life. It’s not all good stuff, but I still write about it.

Blondesjon's avatar

I have alot of gaps in my memory. For some odd reason that last thing I do remember, in these instances, is cracking open a beer…

ubersiren's avatar

I can’t say I have too much of this problem. I swear I’m not trying to brag, but I really do have a pretty good memory. Sometimes I have to pretend that I don’t remember things from long ago so as to not appear creepy. I remember the phone number of my first boyfriend in middle school, I remember all my elementary school classmates’ middle names, and most of their birth months. I remember the names of all my teachers- like I wouldn’t forget their names if I saw them… though there might be some that I haven’t thought about since graduation. Same with classes; I often remember specific things learned in specific classes- if I’m reading, I sometimes say, “Hey I learned that word in 9th grade vocab.”

gimmedat's avatar

I suffer from terrible memory loss. Seriously. I remember nothing. From conversations to consequences I’ve given my kids, to novels and content that I have to teach my students…every year! I’m terrible. I don’t remember movies, books (difficult in a book club), much about my childhood, or school. It’s a joke – I suffer from Gimmeheimers (I know, not very PC to joke about, but this is something I’ve lived with for years).

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

what was the question again?

Seriously though, I have forgotten a lot of things from the past. I wish I could remember the good times, but mostly I remember the embarrassing times or the bad shit. I need to upgrade the RAM in my brain, but where do the memory sticks go?

dynamicduo's avatar

I have very few memories of my childhood left nowadays and I’m only in my 20s. I simply have a bad memory I guess. I find taking pictures helps me to recall the memories of that time.

mattbrowne's avatar

There has been a lot of progress in neurobiology over the past 5 to 10 years. First of all, a certain amount of memory gaps are normal as you grow older. Your brain is healthy. No need to get too worried. But what causes memory gaps?

In short: it’s related to the “use it or lose it” phenomenon. When you learn something you need to repeat it from time to time to retain “fast access”. An example is a foreign language. Not using it will make access harder over time. But nothing in your long-term memory gets lost (excluding real mental illnesses), which means you can reactivate old memories. Here’s a more scientific explanation:

In neuroscience, synaptic plasticity is the ability of the connection, or synapse, between two neurons to change in strength. Since memories are postulated to be represented by vastly interconnected networks of synapses in the brain, synaptic plasticity is one of the important neurochemical foundations of learning and memory.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synaptic_plasticity

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memory

Darwin's avatar

Sure, I have plenty of gaps in my memory. Many are just like yours, @cprevite , while others may be different.

According to my son, I have no memory at all of any promises he claims I made to him about things such as buying R-rated video games or letting him eat only chicken nuggets and french fries for the foreseeable future.

From what I understand in talking to my father, who is now 84, many of these gaps will disappear when I get older, to be replaced with gaps dealing with whether I took my medicines today or why I came into this room.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

No. I have memories going back to just under 3yrs old and get to be the family go-to person for a lot of stuff but I don’t mind, I feel lucky to remember so much as I’ve lived a lot in a short time.

loser's avatar

I sure do! And it’s getting worse as I get older. What was the question?

cookieman's avatar

@mattbrowne: Thanks for the info.

@Darwin: LOL.

phoenyx's avatar

I had an outpatient procedure once and was warned that the medication they used on me could cause short-term memory loss. After the procedure, I went home and decided to do some reading while I rested. I got about 2/3rds through the book and I stopped to have some dinner. When I came back and started reading again I didn’t remember the plot or recognize any of the character names.

YARNLADY's avatar

I am working on a project now to write down all my memories, and it is very difficult. I use photos when I can, but a lot of my recall comes from reading other people’s blogs and comments, which triggers memories of experiences along the same lines.

My son said he had few memories of his life with his adopted father, ages 2 thru 11, even before his severe stroke, and now his memory is very “swiss cheesy”.

Judi's avatar

The entire year after my hysterectomy and before bio-identical hormones ois a blur.

cookieman's avatar

@YARNLADY: That’s a great idea (although I can see the challenges). I’d love to make time to do that.

Thank you to everyone for your stories – nice to know I’m not alone (my wife is like you folks who said you remember everything).

I was actually a little worried.

augustlan's avatar

I have huge gaps… a traumatic childhood will do that for you. Before 6th grade, I only have bits and pieces of my life, with no memory at all of several years. It used to really bother me, but I’ve come to grips with it. The only time it really impacts me is when I run into people from those time periods. They remember me and everything about our time together, but even after extensive prompting, I have no memory of them whatsoever.

As far as studying/reading… I had near perfect recall of anything I ever read, so I never had to study for a test. Pssh, that’s out the window! Now I’m like @elijah. Sometimes, I can’t even remember that I’ve already read a book ‘til I’m halfway through it the second time!

Darwin's avatar

@augustlan – I wish I could forget having read a book, especially a good one, so I could read it again. That would sure cut my Barnes & Noble bill.

talljasperman's avatar

I can’t remember what i’ve forgotten

YARNLADY's avatar

No, just gaps in the ability to access the memories.

janedelila's avatar

Maybe it’s the hormones in the timeline you have forgotten. Your body is going crazy between 12 and 18, and you may have been experiencing things that your “now self” could not possibly relate to. Think about how it is to be 14, do you know a 14 year old? They’re nuts! Just sayin….

flutherother's avatar

My memory is not too bad for events in the past and there are no major gaps but I do forget minor things from day to day. I keep a diary so I can check back on things but I rarely have to use it. The woman described in the article below had a phenomenal memory for every day in her life, which I find very interesting.
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5352811

YARNLADY's avatar

Yes, most of the details are completely gone, and a few highlights are all that is left.

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