Where do our memory blockages come from?

Where do our memory hangs come from?


We don't always think of the right thing when we should because of the sensitivity of our cerebral search engine, but we can often reduce our memory blocks by taking care of ourselves.

“I knew the answer, but it didn't come to me at the time”. “I thought about what I wanted to say to him right after he left.” “I knew what to do, but I froze”. 

Most of the time, remembering relevant information at the right time seems easy. It just comes by intuitive association. The words we have just spoken light up the following words. Entering a place makes us think about the next action to perform.  

Sometimes, however, the relevant information comes less easily to our minds. We block on a name we know. We forget what we were going to say. We don't think about doing what we had planned. We are experiencing an information retrieval failure. We know the answer, because we recognize it right away if we are told it and can find it easily with clues, but our mechanisms for accessing our memory are disrupted. 

Our problems retrieval particularly affects information that has fewer associations such as the names of people or places, details, the context of events (e.g. the period) or the source of the information (e.g. who told us it). 

Access our knowledge

To remember information, the neural network that represents it must be activated enough to become conscious. And this process must take place despite the interference of billions of other networks. Like Google, our brain uses a search engine (our frontal lobe) to steer our neural networks (our associations) in the right direction and filter out interference.

Most of the time, our search engine guides our associations in the right direction. However, our brain searches are sensitive to stress, fatigue and emotions. 

The role of our emotions

Sometimes our emotional state prevents us from remembering what we know. Anxiety can cause our search engine to freeze and leave us with a blank mind (e.g. when we get evaluated). Oddly, medications that reduce anxiety such as benzodiazepines (e.g. Ativan) can also cause information recall blockages.

Sometimes our emotions block our brain's search engine to avoid thinking about painful memories. Some people who have suffered emotional trauma have difficulty remembering past events for a longer or shorter period of time (dissociative amnesia). 

Other people lose access to the details of embarrassing experiences they have had. Our brain can actively forget unwanted details by associating them with negative emotions. These negative associations interrupt our search engine, which reduces the access of unwanted details to consciousness. In depression, we often forget our abilities, which maintains our lack of confidence and our pessimism.

Training our thoughts

When we experience breakdowns of information retrieval, it should not be confused with the amnesia of dementia. Not finding known information is very different from forgetting recent events too quickly (e.g. meetings or calls). For temporary recovery blackouts, our brains sometimes just need a cue, a break, or more regular exercise. Practicing retrieving information can also reduce our retrieval breakdowns. Above all, it is important to take care of your emotional health to reduce the interference of emotions on our cerebral search engine.