Notices
Results 1 to 18 of 18

Thread: the first years of our lives

  1. #1 the first years of our lives 
    Forum Ph.D.
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Norway
    Posts
    927
    just pondering, why are we unable to remember most of what happened the first years of our lives, and nothing from the first months of living?
    i know that i wasn't able to remember anything that happened to me when i was about 1-2 years old, (well i think i remember being put on a weight scale once, or it might've been a dream)
    and during my first years of life, 90% of what i did i cannot remember,
    i have some memories here and there, but nothing really as consistent as from when i was around 6-10 years old.


    when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth
    A.C Doyle
    Reply With Quote  
     

  2.  
     

  3. #2  
    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Cardiff, Wales
    Posts
    5,810
    must have something to do with the brain still not being fully formed
    after all, according to their size, the human gestation period should be more than 9 months, which means that human babies are actually prematurely born foetuses, with a lot of brain growth still following birth

    if they were born at say 14 months, their head would be too big to get through the pelvic canal and that would be the end of mother and child - i'm sure natural selection would have been very swift


    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
    Reply With Quote  
     

  4. #3  
    Guest
    The brain is fully formed I seem to remember being told. It has more capacity about 9 weeks before you are born than at any other time! After that it is one long linear slide into senility, the rate of that decline is what was I talking about oh never mind.

    I think it is more to do with a newborn learning skills and language.

    Another thing I belive is that you may remember a trip to Disney land but remember, it is a long sequence of events reinforced many times over from being told you are going (maybe months before) you understand what is going to happen becuase you are old enough to communicate and plan time.

    Babies do not seem to be able to make such structures of knowledge, when very young if they drop a rattle then they appear to forget it almost immediately, I do not think they can plan or look forward to things yet. Although their brain is fully formed, it has yet to be 'wired up'.

    Well maybe somebody else can express it better.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  5. #4 IIRC 
    Forum Freshman tkkenyon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    www.tkkenyon.com
    Posts
    11
    My neurosci postdoc was all at the other end of life, in neurodegeneration, not this more happy topic.

    IIRC, however, the nebulous neuronal wiring that is present at the beginning of life requires "pruning" to be functional. This appears to be akin to natural selection, in that neurons that get used strengthen connections between them, while unused connections wither.

    Example: A 3 mo baby, who has too many neurons to make sense of the world, will stare, fascinated, at a checkerboard or other regular, high-contrast pattern because such a pattern easily stimulates neurons to fire.

    Example: Among the many competing theories concerning the whys and wherefores of autism, one theory explains why autistic children tend to have quick head growth and larger craniums than normal kids: lack of pruning. This may relate to why autistic behavior resembles "infantile" behavior.

    TK
    TK Kenyon

    Author of RABID: A Novel "What begins as a riff on Peyton Place smoothly metamorphoses into a philosophical battle between science and religion. …Kenyon creates four very subtle and intriguing central characters. A novel quite unlike most standard commercial fare, a genre-bending story--part thriller, part literary slapdown with dialogue as the weapon of choice that makes us laugh, wince, and reflect all at the same time. Kenyon is definitely a keeper.” --Booklist Starred Review.

    Author of CALLOUS: A Novel, May, 2008
    Reply With Quote  
     

  6. #5 Re: the first years of our lives 
    Suspended
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    wales
    Posts
    19
    Quote Originally Posted by dejawolf
    just pondering, why are we unable to remember most of what happened the first years of our lives, and nothing from the first months of living?
    i know that i wasn't able to remember anything that happened to me when i was about 1-2 years old, (well i think i remember being put on a weight scale once, or it might've been a dream)
    and during my first years of life, 90% of what i did i cannot remember,
    i have some memories here and there, but nothing really as consistent as from when i was around 6-10 years old.

    It might be due to the way we encode memories in the first place. In the first couple of years of our life we have no language and so all our memories would be coded by our other senses, which means that we might have to access them means of other senses too.


    It might be not so much that we can’t remember things from that period, just that we have no easy way to RECALL them. Recalling memories is a conscious process that depends on language to give us both the intent to remember and the means to bring thoughts to our immediate awareness.

    We have other ways into our memory that are not dependant on language, but are more dependant on the external environment to trigger them, which is why certain smells or music are so good at triggering apparently long lost memories.

    Those who remember things from their very early childhood might only have done so because they accidentally came across the correct environmental stimulus that triggered them.

    No evidence for any of this, just pondering back.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  7. #6  
    Forum Sophomore
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Posts
    130
    At first we need to know what memory actually is.
    It's not the things that really happened, but only a representation of them as being particular "patterns" in the brain.
    We remember things that have meaning to us. We know the context and the structure or the experience, and thus we can reenter this point of time.
    "Meaning" means that we have found a certain order in the world, and this order we can still find now.
    So if we now recall this representation, it makes sense to us.
    Maybe we do remember some particular events from our early childhood, but we don't know it because the world didn't have yet a meaning to us or we perceived it differently, maybe we couldn't find patterns and structures in the world yet.
    hmmm might be right by saying that we probably have a problem to RECALL the things (at first, they are not relevant for us anymore, and secondly we cannot relive the experience since there might be no way for us to get this particular brain structure back, that is, we are unable to conjure up an according pattern in our brain to know what happened).
    I am.
    You can't deny it.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  8. #7  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard paralith's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Posts
    2,190
    I think marnix was probably the closest to the truth; according to the view of some developmental biologists, a newly born human infant could still be considered a fetus that is simply continuing to develop outside of the womb. As marnix said, most animals are much farther along developmentally than humans are by the time they're popped out into the world.

    From various studies that I've read, I think that it's most likely that human memory - particularly, the ability to mentally travel back in time, which most non-human animals probably can't do - probably preceded spoken language, so I don't think that not knowing a language as an infant would represent a serious inability to form recallable memories.

    Keep in mind also that, as tkenyon described, as babies develop, their brains go through a lot of mental pruning - basically allowing unused neuron networks to die out and promoting the growth of others. It's entirely possible that during this process, certain memories or at least parts of their encoding may also get pruned out.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
    ~Jean-Paul Sartre
    Reply With Quote  
     

  9. #8  
    Forum Ph.D.
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Norway
    Posts
    927
    by mentally traveling back in time, do you mean "try and imagine how it was before we were born?"
    when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth
    A.C Doyle
    Reply With Quote  
     

  10. #9  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard paralith's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Posts
    2,190
    No, that's not what I mean. I'm referring to a specific kind of memory that is probably primarily present in humans.

    For example, say you have a pet dog who was playing with a ball in the backyard, and then dropped it under a bush when it was time to go to bed. The next day, when you tell him to go get his ball and he runs right to the bush where he left it, does he just know that's where the ball will be, or does he actually remember leaving it there, does he envision himself carrying the ball and dropping it under the bush? Probably not. For most animals, their memories consist of facts or associations. The squirrel doesn't remember herself burying this acorn in that spot during the previous fall, she just knows that's where to dig when she wants an acorn.

    For humans, we actually remember ourselves carrying out different activities, we can envision the occurrence in our mind as it was when it happened. This mental time-traveling ability is essential for technology - if you're going to make a tool, you have to mentally travel into the future, plan what you need to do and how to fashion the tool accordingly. Chimpanzees and bonobos are the only animals besides humans known to prepare tools prior to their use. Most other primates, if they use tools, simply pick up an object lying nearby and use it as is.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
    ~Jean-Paul Sartre
    Reply With Quote  
     

  11. #10  
    Administrator KALSTER's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    South Africa
    Posts
    8,231
    For humans, we actually remember ourselves carrying out different activities, we can envision the occurrence in our mind as it was when it happened.
    How large a part of this do you think is actually reconstruction in the brain? I mean a more efficient way would be to remember certain associations and details relating to an occurrence and then when imagining/remembering it, you effectively reconstruct the event from these basic details. I think that could be the reason we humans can probably exclusively do this, owing to our superior brains?
    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

    "Gullibility kills" - Carl Sagan
    "All people know the same truth. Our lives consist of how we chose to distort it." - Harry Block
    "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle
    Reply With Quote  
     

  12. #11  
    Suspended
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    wales
    Posts
    19
    Quote Originally Posted by paralith

    From various studies that I've read, I think that it's most likely that human memory - particularly, the ability to mentally travel back in time, which most non-human animals probably can't do - probably preceded spoken language, so I don't think that not knowing a language as an infant would represent a serious inability to form recallable memories.
    Mentally travel back in time = remembering

    All animals can do this as far as I know


    However, there’s a difference between being able to control and “bring to mind” a memory in a conscious and deliberate way (explicit memory) and having memories that we have no conscious control over, but are still in our brain somewhere waiting for a trigger (implicit memory). I doubt if animals have explicit memory.

    Explicit memory is more language dependant. Long term memories (i.e ones that we are able to recall long after the event) are best encoded semantically, as through language we are able to form more neural connection between things encoded through our other senses, and having more connections means that we have a much higher probability of accessing a specific pathway.

    So my assumption is not that a pre-linguistic infant has, as you say, a “serious inability to form recallable memories”, they may be forming them alright, but implicitly, without the high level of interconnectivity that forming perceptual memories alongside linguistic ones gives. This makes maintenance of and conscious recall extremely difficult, especially given that the less we recall and rehearse a memory, the less “strong” the connections may become. They may be potentially “recallable” but certainly not in an easy way, especially as adults we have become used to accessing conscious memories through linguistic means.

    It might be the case that some memories or connections get pruned, but is also quite likely they are there in some form or another. In fact many psychoanalysts make a living by trying to access these hidden childhood memories by basically attempting to access them by trying to activate connections that have been largely filed away in our unconscious – like finding a backdoor in.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  13. #12  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard paralith's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Posts
    2,190
    Quote Originally Posted by hmmm
    Quote Originally Posted by paralith

    From various studies that I've read, I think that it's most likely that human memory - particularly, the ability to mentally travel back in time, which most non-human animals probably can't do - probably preceded spoken language, so I don't think that not knowing a language as an infant would represent a serious inability to form recallable memories.
    Mentally travel back in time = remembering

    All animals can do this as far as I know
    No, it's not something ALL animals do. It is possible that some non-human animals may be able to, but not all of them. I'm talking about episodic versus semantic memory - actually remembering learning events versus only remembering the knowledge learned; knowing what you know, versus knowing how you came to know it. They are distinct types of memory. This is a chapter from a book where E. Tulving, the scientist who first proposed this distinction, discusses the theory that only humans possess complete episodic memory, and the existing evidence for that theory.


    However, there’s a difference between being able to control and “bring to mind” a memory in a conscious and deliberate way (explicit memory) and having memories that we have no conscious control over, but are still in our brain somewhere waiting for a trigger (implicit memory). I doubt if animals have explicit memory.

    Explicit memory is more language dependant. Long term memories (i.e ones that we are able to recall long after the event) are best encoded semantically, as through language we are able to form more neural connection between things encoded through our other senses, and having more connections means that we have a much higher probability of accessing a specific pathway.

    So my assumption is not that a pre-linguistic infant has, as you say, a “serious inability to form recallable memories”, they may be forming them alright, but implicitly, without the high level of interconnectivity that forming perceptual memories alongside linguistic ones gives. This makes maintenance of and conscious recall extremely difficult, especially given that the less we recall and rehearse a memory, the less “strong” the connections may become. They may be potentially “recallable” but certainly not in an easy way, especially as adults we have become used to accessing conscious memories through linguistic means.

    It might be the case that some memories or connections get pruned, but is also quite likely they are there in some form or another. In fact many psychoanalysts make a living by trying to access these hidden childhood memories by basically attempting to access them by trying to activate connections that have been largely filed away in our unconscious – like finding a backdoor in.
    By the way, episodic memory is a subset of explicit memory, so you yourself are essentially agreeing that most animals to do not have this ability. Most animals can't contemplate their own knowledge and think about how they know it, how they learned it.

    Other than that, though, I see you point. After a little of my own research I found that the ability recall explicit memories is profoundly effected by the way the information was originally processed, so you're right in saying that memories processed before language is learned could be more difficult to recall with the kind of clarity that we're used to once we learn language.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
    ~Jean-Paul Sartre
    Reply With Quote  
     

  14. #13  
    Forum Ph.D.
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Norway
    Posts
    927
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=03ykewnc0oE

    in this video, you can see a crow trying to pull up a weight with a wire,
    and when it doesnt work, fashioning the wire into a hook.

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=1P8Nwl7FAJk
    when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth
    A.C Doyle
    Reply With Quote  
     

  15. #14  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard paralith's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Posts
    2,190
    Quote Originally Posted by dejawolf
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=03ykewnc0oE

    in this video, you can see a crow trying to pull up a weight with a wire,
    and when it doesnt work, fashioning the wire into a hook.

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=1P8Nwl7FAJk
    Until we can find a way to understand exactly what's going through the crow's mind as he fashions his hook, it's hard to know if he's going through the kind of mental time travel that humans do - but it's most certainly possible that he is. Pinyon jays are another example of a bird that may have some kind of episodic-like memory as well; not only do they remember where they've cached their stores of pine nuts, but they don't go back to stores if they've sat too long and have probably rotted, and tend to re-hide stores that were made when other, potentially thieving birds were present. This suggests that they remember not just where they hid their pine nuts, but the circumstances and the time at which they hid them.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
    ~Jean-Paul Sartre
    Reply With Quote  
     

  16. #15  
    Administrator KALSTER's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    South Africa
    Posts
    8,231
    This might suggest that what we thought were a product of our superior intelligence (well, I thought), might be different abilities that are restricted to certain parts of the brain. I mean the fact that certain animals are better at one thing, while being poorer at another thing that another animal might be good at, could mean that our brains did not simply evolve to be more intelligent in general, but evolved separately defined abilities in conjunction with each other. So the raven might be good at formulating a plan by judging the projected effectiveness of a certain approach, but be relatively poor at something else we might find exceedingly simple. Or is this already common knowledge?
    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

    "Gullibility kills" - Carl Sagan
    "All people know the same truth. Our lives consist of how we chose to distort it." - Harry Block
    "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle
    Reply With Quote  
     

  17. #16  
    Forum Ph.D.
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Posts
    792
    Yes this is a consequence of evolution, a raven would need a better planning ability say to plan catching his prey, there are many animals who have demonstrated greater cognitive abilities in certain areas than us, i.e. chimpanzees have a better memory.

    Our total greater overall intelligence is what gave us the advantage though.
    Reply With Quote  
     

  18. #17  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard paralith's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Posts
    2,190
    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER
    This might suggest that what we thought were a product of our superior intelligence (well, I thought), might be different abilities that are restricted to certain parts of the brain. I mean the fact that certain animals are better at one thing, while being poorer at another thing that another animal might be good at, could mean that our brains did not simply evolve to be more intelligent in general, but evolved separately defined abilities in conjunction with each other. So the raven might be good at formulating a plan by judging the projected effectiveness of a certain approach, but be relatively poor at something else we might find exceedingly simple. Or is this already common knowledge?
    I don't know if I'd call it "common" knowledge, but it's most certainly very true. the brain is like any other organ and organism has - it is subject to selective pressures, and becomes optimized to perform certain tasks according to the reproductive needs of the organism. Our intelligence is no different - though I do think it's been applicable to a broad range of tasks.
    Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
    ~Jean-Paul Sartre
    Reply With Quote  
     

  19. #18  
    Suspended
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    wales
    Posts
    19
    Quote Originally Posted by hmmm

    Mentally travel back in time = remembering

    All animals can do this as far as I know
    paralith wrote:
    No, it's not something ALL animals do. It is possible that some non-human animals may be able to, but not all of them. I'm talking about episodic versus semantic memory - actually remembering learning events versus only remembering the knowledge learned; knowing what you know, versus knowing how you came to know it.
    I see what you’re trying to say, but we’re both right. Remembering is all about travelling back in time, but remembering in a particular way may be termed episodic memory.

    All animals who can remember are “mentally travelling back in time”, episodic memory is somewhat of a misnomer as the term is not really descriptive of memory itself, rather of our ability to consciously recall, which is a totally different process.

    Yet another example of our different theoretical perspectives methinks….i can see that this is going to run and run
    Reply With Quote  
     

Bookmarks
Bookmarks
Posting Permissions
  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •