why do random memories from literal decades ago just randomly pop into our head?


I was getting ready for bed tonight, and as I turned off the light, the planet song from Blue’s Clues just popped into my head, and I remembered every word and note perfectly.

I haven’t watched any space documentaries or thought about Nick Jr. in forever. I don’t think I’ve heard this song since 1998.

What is the science as to why such a random memory would’ve popped into my head seemingly out of nowhere?

In: 3

Im no expert on brains or memory. But I have thought about the same thing several times before. The brain stores and organizes information all the time, and sometimes old memories that are stored away suddenly reappear to the front of the mind. This often happens when you associate something with the memory. Perhaps a certain taste, smell, image etc. This can then trigger an old memory to reappear.

Then there is ”spontaneous recall” which basically means sometimes old memories randomly emerge during times of stress, relaxation or periods of daydreaming.

Memories in the brain are not like items on a shelf – discrete packages that can be take out and opened and then returned unchanged.

Rather, the are stored as great constellations of neural connections. The individual connections have all repeatedly fired at the same time, so their relationship is strengthened and the new memory is formed.

What’s more, they all overlap with one another. When you activate a memory, you are also triggering, to varying degrees, the memories which overlap it.

This is how a train of thought works, one activated memory triggers enough of another to activate it which triggers another.

The more often a memory is activated, the stronger the connections become within it and to whatever led to it’s activation.

What you’re describing is a long dormant memory, with little connecting to it, being activated by some collections of factors that may be possible to pin down.

This is all a bit simplistic, but the jist is basically right!