We can't remember much of our first few years because the hippocampus wasn't developed enough to build a rich memory of an event.
From the most dramatic moment in life – the day of your birth – to first steps, first words, first food, right up to nursery school, most of us can't remember anything of our first few years. Even after our precious first memory, the recollections tend to be few and far between until well into our childhood. How come?
This gaping hole in the record of our lives has been frustrating parents and baffling psychologists, neuroscientists, and linguists for decades. It was a minor obsession of the father of psychotherapy, Sigmund Freud, who coined the phrase "infant amnesia" over 100 years ago.
Probing that mental blank throws up some intriguing questions. Did your earliest memories happen, or are they simply made up? Can we remember events without the words to describe them? And might it one day be possible to claim your missing memories back?