Before cutting my third birthday cake, I probably had stolen a chocolate truck, had planned assassination of my kindergarten teacher and time traveled to the future just to make sure that I am doing all right. The only problem is I don’t remember any of my glory days. This is because I suffered from a phenomenon known as Childhood Amnesia which turns every memories of my early childhood hazy. Fortunately, I am not alone who experience this phenomenon. Almost every human on planet Earth has blurred childhood memories. Good news is researchers now could explains the reasons behind this.
According to neuroscientists this happens because the brains of small children aren’t fully developed. Though by time we are one year old, the memory making parts of brain namely the Hippocampus and the Medial Temporal lobe are fully developed but the Prefrontal Cortex is still in growing stage. This part is important for critical thinking and associating memories. During our early childhood days our brain basic function is to recognize basic things out of stacks of information bombarded on us. It is the period when we are learning that it hurts when we fall from height, chocolate is tasty, or always crawling on four limbs is not awesome. You can compare our brain to dough. We have just added water to flour. It is not the time to bake it. With every experience new neuron pathways are forming. But since our prefrontal cortex is yet to mature, we can’t handle complex memories for too long. These complex memories are replaced by more basic one. For example I probably know how to drive the chocolate truck when I stole it. But since learning to drive a truck need complex thought process and memories, I can’t recall it now. But I could have recalled the whole event if I had crashed the truck somewhere because it would hurt which fortunately didn’t happen.
Another possible reason for childhood amnesia is our limited linguistic abilities during early childhood. Though we can easily recognize images, people, and toys but because of limited language things aren’t well organized in our brain. We can’t rehearse the memories by naming it in linguistic frame. At that point of time a dog is just a bigger size cat, a cat is my younger brother. If you’d been too young to verbalize the memories, you probably have missed the chance to talk about and rehearse it in your brain. Adding to it at very young age, we had minimum self awareness known as autobiographical memories. We probably did not know that slipping of pants in public is a complete disaster. Without sense of self, it is difficult picking relevant things.
Perhaps the combination of underdeveloped brain and lack of vocabulary is the reason behind hazy childhood memories. So unless I stumble upon some proof of me doing crazy stuffs when I was just about a foot tall, my mom is going to tell everyone how I keep doodling over a cupcake.