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Is it memory loss or just overload?

Narrator:       This is Science Today. We've no doubt all experienced moments when we seem to "blank out" and can't remember the name of a person that we just met or even the title of a favorite song. As we get older and this happens more frequently, many of us start to worry about memory loss. Neuroscientist Steve Finkbeiner of the University of California, San Francisco's Gladstone Institutes says we may not have to.

Finkbeiner:   I have a lot of people tell me they're bad with names or complain about middle-age memory loss and things like that. My suspicion: As a neurologist I've tested a lot of these people and oftentimes their memory is perfectly fine — I think what happens is a lot of people's lives are so busy that they essentially have all these competing sensory experiences that they're trying to remember along with someone's name and it's not really that the circuit is not functioning properly, it's just that they've now piled so many things on that they're trying to remember at once, they get crowded out.

Narrator:       Finkbeiner says the more circuits you have engaged to represent a memory — such as an emotion or a sensory trigger — the more you'll be able to recall that memory. For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.