Why can’t you remember parts of the concert you just went to?

T:Three days after Jenna Tokatlian saw Taylor Swift perform at Gillette Stadium in Massachusetts, she was still on cloud nine. But he felt something strange when he tried to relive the memories. in his mind, where the vivid features of the concert should have revolved, there was simply an empty space.

“Post-concert amnesia is real,” says Tokatlyan, 25, who lives in New York. He heard his top pick for one of Swift’s “surprise songs” of the night;A better person— and the experience still feels surreal. “If I didn’t have the 5-minute video my friend kindly took of me jamming it, I probably would have told everyone it didn’t happen,” he says. During the hour-long wait to exit the stadium, he began listening to the setlist again, asking his friends, How much of that did he play?’ Tokatlyan attributes this to sensory overload, and the fact that he had been dreaming about the big night for so long, it was hard to realize that it was actually happening. “It’s hard to piece together what you’re actually witnessing,” he says. “You get all these emotions when your favorite songs come on and you’re like, ‘Whoa, where am I?’

Every weekend from March through August, hundreds of thousands of people pack stadiums across the U.S. to catch Swift’s critically acclaimed, three-hour Eras Tour. Many later take to social media platforms like Reddit to describe their inability to remember small details or even large parts of the show. One person wrote that they waited six months for the concert, and after it was over, their brains tried to convince them they weren’t there. Another wondered if they had disconnected during it and described feeling guilty for not leaving with more vivid memories.

read more: The New Science of Forgetting

That echoes Nicole Booze, 32, of Gettysburg, Pa., who attended Swift’s May 14 show in Philadelphia. Looking back, it feels like “an out-of-body experience, like it didn’t really happen to me,” she says. “However, I know it happened because my bank account took $950 to cover the ticket.”

So what’s going on? To begin with, people may simply be too excited, explains Ewan McNay, an associate professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Albany. “It’s not a concert-specific phenomenon, it can happen any time you’re in a high emotional state,” he says. For example, people getting married often say they don’t remember their first dance, or that their Aunt Josephine was there. When the body’s stress levels increase, in response to exciting or distressing factors, neurons associated with memory begin to fire indiscriminately. It makes it “really hard” to form new memories. “If you’re a little distracted, a little excited, you’ll actually remember better,” McNay says. “But too much excitement pushes you to the edge of memory formation, and you can’t make memories.”

There is a scientific, biological explanation for what exactly happens when you get so excited (which the body perceives as a stressful state). It starts pumping glucose out of the liver, the brain’s favorite molecule to fuel memory, thinking and learning. Imagine that you encountered a bear in the forest, for example. “You want your muscles to fire to go and fight the bear or run away from the bear,” McNay says, not wasting anything like memory formation. At the same time, your vagus nerves, which regulate internal organ functions, are stimulated. “You say: “Hey, we’re really stressed. we’re running from a bear or watching Taylor Swift.”

This response causes your amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for emotional processing, to release a neurotransmitter called norepinephrine. It helps mark memories as having high emotional content, making it more likely that you’ll keep them fresh in your mind. But McNay describes the process as an inverted U. A little is good; it is very bad, he says. Also, if you add caffeine or alcohol to the mix, you’re likely to skew the curve further to the right, meaning your brain will have a harder time creating and storing new memories.

read more: How some stress can actually be good for you

It can be surprising and frustrating not to remember everything you think you should about a big event, says Robert Kraft, a professor of cognitive psychology at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio. “We paid a lot of money, we’re looking forward to it, and then we want to luxuriate in our memories of the concert,” he says. “But our expectations are too high. It’s not memory, it’s not a tape recorder.”

He says one of the main misconceptions many people have about memory is that they see forgetting as a defect. In fact, we are simply not designed to remember everything. The situations in which we overtly focus on memorization are usually limited to things like studying for an exam or memorizing a presentation. “We’re not going to remember our lives, we’re going to experience them,” says Craft. “Not remembering is actually a tribute to being in the moment and enjoying it.”

However, if you’re adamant that you want to better remember an important event, a few strategies can help. The first is a purely mental approach, says McNay. You can try to reach a “semi-meditative state”, perhaps telling yourself to relax and be present. Or, consider a more physical approach. Your brain monitors your body to determine what emotional state you’re in, he explains. Running away from a bear or yelling at a concert tells it that you should be scared. If you commit to standing still, on the other hand, you’ll send a message to your brain that there’s no need to get too excited. It can help with memory formation.

Kraft, meanwhile, prefers to remove any pressure from the equation and just focus on having a great time. She’s a fan of Swift, but like most of us, couldn’t secure tickets for the Eras Tour. If you are in the same boat, take comfort. “Sorry we’re both not going,” she says. “But we’d forget it anyway.”

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