What happens when your brain calls up a memory

You pull jigsaw puzzles out of boxes 
stored all over the place.

From an interview with the author Brainworks: The Mind Bending Science of What You See, How You Think, and Who You Are, by Michael Sweeney, a companion book to National Geographic's 3-episode series Brain Games:
When I did the research about how memories actually are formed, I learned that memories are stored in various parts of the brain associated with the initial sensations. So the color is stored one place and the sound is stored one place, and the associations are stored throughout. So when you call up a memory, you’re not just pulling a video tape out of a cabinet, you’re pulling jigsaw puzzle pieces out of boxes stored in all sorts of closets, and you’re putting the puzzle together.

And then – this is what really threw me – we think that these memories are permanent. They’re not.

When you pull up these bits of memory from random access in your brain, they get stuck to other things you associate with them. So they’re all jumbled up together and I may put two pieces together that don’t belong together, and then refile them, and from then on, I’ve created a memory.

By golly, I read that and I [was] stunned at how easy it is to either remember things that you think you knew, but remember them wrongly, or to have someone suggest something to you and that screws you up. [In fact,] New Jersey just passed a law that makes eye witness testimony more subject to questioning for its validity in court testimony.
- Brain Games by National Geographic>>
- “Brainworks: The Mind Bending Science of What You See, How You Think, and Who You Are”, by Michael Sweeney>>
- Inside the Secrets of Illusions & Memory, National Geographic>>
- Brain puzzle from Tumbleweed Paris>>

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