Oscar Wilde once poetically waxed that “Memory… is the diary that we all carry about with us.” Two University of Toronto researchers recently published a review paper in journal Neuron that pointed to the fact that we only keep the memories that really matter to us. Like a leather bound diary, our memory has finite amount of space and we erase the memories that we don’t have a particular attachment with to make room for new ones. This ultimately helps us with decision making as we only need to scan information that is valuable to us.
“It’s important that the brain forgets irrelevant details and instead focuses on the stuff that’s going to help make decisions in the real world,” says Dr. Blake Richards, co-author of the study, Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto’s Department of Biological Sciences, and a fellow in CIFAR’s Program in Learning in Machines & Brains, in an article posted on CIFAR’s website. “If you’re trying to navigate the world and your brain is constantly bringing up multiple conflicting memories, that makes it harder for you to make an informed decision,” adds Dr. Richards.
Beyond being assured that memory loss is part of a healthy brain and intelligent decision making, the research is interesting because it combined learnings from artificial intelligence (AI) with available stem cell research regarding the role of neural brain cells in memory.
“Canadian researchers are world-class leaders in both stem cell research and artificial intelligence – two fields that have significant potential to transform society. It’s truly exciting to continue this line of collaboration so that we can understand something as complex and important as the human brain” says Dr. Alan Bernstein, President and CEO of CIFAR and Chair of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation.
Further collaborations between AI and the field of stem cell research could help researchers predict other types of cellular activity and ultimately accelerate the delivery of new treatment developments to the clinic.