Linking Memories

As a topic, memory fascinates me primarily because the past impacts, either directly or indirectly, our present lives. Our past experiences and our lessons learned help color and shape our everyday thoughts, feelings, and actions. For my purpose, in my work as a psychotherapist, memories can enrich self-understanding. They can also modify personal narratives. As memories are explored in psychotherapy sessions, they can change how the past is seen as one memory leads to another. Silva (2017) in the Scientific American wrote about neuroscience's expansion of our understanding of how the brain links memories over space and time. Most memories are not isolated but are part of intricate sequences, an interweaving of memories.

Neuroscience, wrote Silva, has found that when two memories share many of the same neurons, they are linked. When during recall one memory appears, the others are triggered if the memories were formed on the same day. Consequently there seems to be a time-limitation to memory linkage. In general then when memories are encoded in time intervals that are much longer than a day, they remain separate.

I question the time-limit. In my experience, similar content and memory linkage can span years. Otherwise I agree with Silva's (2017) conclusion, "When memories share content, humans can link them more easily. Recalling one will likely bring back the other" (p. 37). I think Freud, with his free association technique, and authors like William Faulkner with their stream-of-consciousness genre might also agree.


Silva, A. J. (2017). Memory's intricate web. Scientific American, 317(1), 30-37.

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