A team of US and Japanese scientists have discovered that the brain “doubles up” and makes two memories of events.
One memory is for right now and one serves as a long-term memory, it was discovered.
Prior to the findings by the team at Riken-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetic, it was long thought that all memories start off as short-term and are then slowly converted into long-term.
Two parts of the brain are heavily involved in remembering our personal experiences.
The discovery has been described as significant.
It was made after experiments performed on mice though the findings are thought to apply to humans as well.
The experiments involved watching specific memories form as a cluster of connected brain cells in reaction to a shock.
Researchers were then able to use light beamed into the brain to control the activity of individual neurons – which meant they could literally switch the memories for the mice on and off.
The results were published in the journal Science.
Professor Susumu Tonegawa, the director of the research centre, told the BBC: “This is contrary to the popular hypothesis that has been held for decades.
“This is a significant advance compared to previous knowledge, it’s a big shift.”