My Memory is a Hazy Fog. How About Yours?

| Mon Feb. 20, 2012 12:54 AM EST

I desperately need a shot of PKMzeta, an enzyme that mediates long-term memory:

What does PKMzeta do? The molecule’s crucial trick is that it increases the density of a particular type of sensor called an AMPA receptor on the outside of a neuron....This process requires constant upkeep—every long-term memory is always on the verge of vanishing. As a result, even a brief interruption of PKMzeta activity can dismantle the function of a steadfast circuit.

If the genetic expression of PKMzeta is amped up—by, say, genetically engineering rats to overproduce the stuff—they become mnemonic freaks, able to convert even the most mundane events into long-term memory. (Their performance on a standard test of recall is nearly double that of normal animals.)

My memory has always been terrible. My mother is nearly 80 and still remembers classmates from her kindergarten days. I barely even remember going to kindergarten. Actually, that's too charitable: I don't remember going to kindergarten. Or first grade. Or fifth grade. Or high school. Or college. Or, for that matter, stuff I did two years ago.

Is this an exaggeration? Only barely. I remember occasional shreds from years past, but that's about it. On the bright side, this means that if I had a nasty fight with you a few years ago, there's a good chance I have no memory of it. On the not-so-bright side, it means that if we were close friends in high school, I might or might not even remember knowing you, let alone remember anything substantive about what we did together.

So which are you? Is the past just a hazy fog, as it is for me? Or do you have sharp memories going all the way back to your third birthday? Or something in between?

Get Mother Jones by Email - Free. Like what you're reading? Get the best of MoJo three times a week.