In an elegant experiment, a team of neuroscientists led by Jon Simons at the University of Cambridge have shown that [three] aspects of our memories—our success at recalling them, their precision, and their vividness—depend on three different parts of the brain.
Through brain-scanning studies, scientists have uncovered a network of regions involved in remembering what happened to us—the hippocampus, yes, but also regions further back in the brain, like the angular gyrus and precuneus. When volunteers try to bring up old memories, these areas all start buzzing together.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean these regions are all doing the same thing. If people suffer damage to the hippocampus,…they typically can’t remember anything at all. But in 2010, Simons found that people who suffer damage further back in the brain experience subtler problems—they’ll remember things well enough, but not confidently so.
…[Researchers] suspect that the hippocampus acts as a gatekeeper in this process. If you’re trying to remember something…[the] activity in your hippocampus builds over a certain threshold…The angular gyrus then does the hard work of actually piecing the memory’s details together….
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