Neurological File Cabinets

Sherlock is able to use all of his memory processes to his highest benefit, but sciences have a lot yet to learn what really happens when the brain forms a memory.

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By Sydney Rappis

Art by Alex Hanson

BBC’s TV series Sherlock takes a modern twist on the classic sleuth tale. The title character, an antisocial drug addict with psychotic tendencies played by Benedict Cumberbatch, is undoubtedly one of the most clever protagonist on television today—rivaled only by other Holmes-inspired characters. One of the biggest reasons to watch the show, other than to see Cumberbatch work his magic, is to see how Sherlock will use his above average intelligence to solve any crime. He seems almost hero-esque in his abilities, but in the episode “The Hound of the Baskervilles” Dr. John Watson introduces the concept of a mind palace. Sherlock is able to solve the unsolvable crime not only because he is observant, but also because of his helpful ability to remember almost everything. Watson explains that Sherlock uses a memory technique where you think up an imaginary place and you stick all the information you want to remember in it, that way you won’t forget anything. All you have to do is “find your way back to it.” It can be any sort of place, so naturally supercilious Sherlock uses a mind palace. In theory though, it could be anything from a street, a closet (as another character later jokes) or a filing cabinet.

Looking closer at the function of memory is important. It doesn’t matter if you’re a detective, a student, or someone trying to remember names at a party: It’s a fact that a good memory will only help you in life. But why do we remember certain events over others? Why do people remember things differently? How can we only remember certain details, sometimes not even in the right order? Since the brain is just a hodgepodge of mystery for most scientists, it’s difficult to really answer any of those questions. Still, examining how the memory processes in the brain actually function is quite important, so here’s what we think happens: Continue reading “Neurological File Cabinets”