Gordon Johnson: The hippocampus has been called the brain save button.
Dr. Erin Bigler: It is the save button. It is a very important part of your ability to lay down a memory.
Gordon Johnson: So, information comes into the brain. It goes to the hippocampus and the hippocampus then sorts out what’s to be saved and what’s to be discarded.
Dr. Erin Bigler: Well, it’s probably far more complicated than that, but the hippocampus receives input from all of cortex and it is a key staging area that holds, what we call salient information, important information that then over a period of time may become consolidated so that it can actually be retained. See, if you think about it for just a moment, your senses are being stimulated by tens of thousands of stimuli every moment and so you cannot remember all of that. It would overload the brain system to be able to remember all of that.
Gordon Johnson: But I do remember the word salient.
Dr. Erin Bigler: Yes. So, so there was something that was meaningful there. That was extracted out and there’s a dance that occurs between the cortex and the hippocampus that places priority on being able to retain that. However, if there’s not rehearsal or some other things that take place over the next few days, you will forget salient, but you probably won’t forget it now because I pointed it out.
Gordon Johnson: And because of the importance in what I’m doing in being here with you would give it a stronger memory component?
Dr. Erin Bigler: That’s correct. So there’s a valence that’s given to this information that the brain sort of automatically does. Notice when we’re trying to remember something, we’re not necessarily instructing ourselves that, oh I’ve got to really remember that. Some of it happens because of what is occurring in the moment when that memory is being laid down and it’s very important at this point to understand that just in front of the hippocampus is the amygdala. And the amygdala being just in front of the hippocampus means, uh, there’s an important memory emotion connection.
Gordon Johnson: Let’s talk about the amygdala in our next section.
Dr. Erin Bigler: Okay.