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Calin-Jagemans' Research on Forgetting Featured in Quanta Magazine

Friday, July 27, 2018

Drs. Bob and Irina Calin-Jageman and a rotating cast of students in the "Slug Squad" have been working with sea slugs for a decade.

Robert Calin-Jageman, professor of biology, and Irina Calin-Jageman, professor of psychology, are featured in the current issue of Quanta Magazine, an online publication designed to enhance public understanding of science. The article, written by Dalmeet Singh Chawla, explores how the brain forgets and includes the Calin-Jagemans' decade-long research with sea slugs. 

In "To Remember, the Brain Must Actively Forget," Chawla suggests that the brain acts as an encoding device and that forgetting filters out the information that the brain deems unimportant. He writes that researchers are now paying more attention to the mechanisms that actively erase or hide the physical traces of memories--or engrams.

Chawla writes about one theory about forgetting that suggests that the brain is actually designed to forget information and contains an area that serves to override the forgetting process when it comes across something worth remembering in the long-term. This theory suggests that, In fact, the forgetting mechanism may be the default state of the mind.

Chawla discusses the Calin-Jagemans' discovery of 11 out of 1,200 genes that remained active in the sea slugs' brains relatively long after they conducted sensitization experiments on the animals, suggesting that perhaps these genes are connected to memory--either with maintaining some remnant of memories or with erasing them.

In the article, Robert Calin-Jageman shared his excitement that this finding may indicate that forgetting is a biological process like digestion or excretion that can be ramped up or down. Calin-Jageman cautiously speculates that if these findings hold up in humans, they may be able to be used to help people forget traumatic memories more easily or remember good memories for longer.

You can read the entire article here.  

Photo: Bob Calin-Jageman, center; Irina Calin-Jageman, far right, and the Slug Squad--students in their neuroscience lab.