When you remember a past event, you’re actually remembering the last time you remembered it, not the event itself

memoryThe brain is one of the biggest and most complex organs in the human body. It is responsible for many different bodily functions and is capable of extraordinary things, so why has research shown that each time you recall a past event, your brain distorts it?

A Northwestern Medicine study involving 70 people has shown that every time we remember an event that has happened from our past, our brain networks change in ways that actually alter the recall of the event. This means the next time you remember it, you might not remember the original event but what you remembered the previous time.

As postdoctoral fellow Donna Bridge explains, “A memory is not simply an image produced by time traveling back to the original event — it can be an image that is somewhat distorted because of the prior times you remembered it,” and, “Your memory of an event can grow less precise even to the point of being totally false with each retrieval.”

Donna Bridge explains the reason behind the distortion is that human memories are always adapting and that memories do actually change over time, e.g. if you think back to an event that happened to you a long time ago, like your first day of school – you actually may be remembering the information you retrieved about that event at some later time, not the original event itself.