We are driving the highway of my 20′s toward my old university in London, Ontario. I’m in the back seat. My mother has shotgun. Sonja and Grace are in the middle. Today, we’re heading to my brother’s house for the Christmas holidays, but I’m drifting in memories and ideas from another time.
What if our memories are not stored in our brains at all?
I’m sure there are lots of reasons why this can’t be, and yet 5 minutes of research on the science of memory gives me no reason (yet) to rule it out.
Most theories state that memories are stored in complex networks of neurons, or as electromagnetic echoes that bounce through our brains. There are models that describe memory as “vectors of values, with each scalar quantity of a vector representing a different attribute of the item to be encoded“. But in a world of quantum entanglement, I’m wondering if memories have wider range.
MRI studies suggest that the same areas of the brain (medial temporal lobe and prefrontal cortex) will activate when a specific memory or type of memory is made or recalled, further suggesting that memories are also stored in specific regions of the brain. But what if those regions are accessing and processing memory only, and not actually storing it? What if memory is being stored elsewhere and we use these regions simply to encode and access it? The key question is whether we could recognize a neurological difference between a brain that is accessing memories from an external medium and a brain that is accessing and storing memories within itself.
Which begs the question: if not in the brain, where else would we store our memories? One possibility is that memories are stored in the medium of space itself. Physicists are pretty sure that space exists as a “thing” they just have no idea what that thing is. Perhaps space is vibrating with our memories, echoes of past experiences.
Or perhaps memories are not stored at all. Maybe, when we remember something we are actually reconnecting to the original event. The probability waves of the past might still flow around us. Perhaps when we remember something we connect to those waves and recollapse them again.
But if this is true, do we also influence the past every time we remember it? Our daily lives are so filled by chance and unknown forces, who is to say what is influencing the present? If the present is collapsed probability, whose to say that the present memory is not more real than the past anyway? Must the past be what we remember? Could it not be as mutable as the future? Perhaps when this moment is gone, it switches back into a state of infinite possibility, when, once again, anything can happen.
I started typing this on my phone in the car. They are random thoughts, drifting in from who knows where. We’ve since arrived at my brother’s house and it’s night and the house is quiet. It’s time for bed and dreams…