memory

‘Two simple words in the English language: I forgot!’ –Steve Martin

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In December last year, researchers Brian Dias and Kerry Ressler made a splash with a paper seeming to show that memories can be inherited.

This article, published in Nature Neuroscience, reported that if adult mice are taught to be afraid of a particular smell, then their children will also fear it. Which is pretty wild. Epigenetics was proposed as the mechanism.

Now, however, psychologist Gregory Francis says that the data Dias and Ressler published are just too good to be true.

{ Neuroskeptic | Continue reading }

‘A place void of all light, which bellows like the sea in tempest.’ –Dante

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Some people report that in fear-related situations time seems to slowdown. That is to say, for example, during a car crash the event takes much longer from the point of a person experiencing the crash than the observer. But how and why the brain creates this slow motion experience is not completely understood. […]

In a situation where emotions are involved, there is an increased amygdala activity and a consequent increase in memory recording. When a person is asked to recall a fear-related event, the amount of details that he/she can recall is substantially increased compared to normal situation. However, the brain, not used to recalling so many details, is left to think that the event must have taken longer than it really did.

It is ‘the trick of memory’ as Eagleman puts it; the brain is not used to these exceptional circumstances and therefore, it tricks itself into false time perception.

{ The Question Gene | Continue reading }

Narcissists can feel empathy, research finds

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Those parents at the park taking all those photos are actually paying less attention to the moment, she says, because they’re focused on the act of taking the photo.

“Then they’ve got a thousand photos, and then they just dump the photos somewhere and don’t really look at them very much, ’cause it’s too difficult to tag them and organize them,” says Maryanne Garry, a psychology professor at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. […]

Henkel, who researches human memory at Fairfield University in Connecticut, found what she called a “photo-taking impairment effect.”

“The objects that they had taken photos of — they actually remembered fewer of them, and remembered fewer details about those objects. Like, how was this statue’s hands positioned, or what was this statue wearing on its head. They remembered fewer of the details if they took photos of them, rather than if they had just looked at them,” she says.

Henkel says her students’ memories were impaired because relying on an external memory aid means you subconsciously count on the camera to remember the details for you.

{ NPR | Continue reading }

photo { Florian Maier-Aichen, Untitled (Cloud), 2001 }

An instant under the mirror

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Important peculiarities of the human memory system:

— A remarkable capacity for storing information is coupled with a highly fallible retrieval process.

— What is accessible in memory is highly dependent on the current environmental, interpersonal, emotional and body-state cues.

— Retrieving information from memory is a dynamic process that alters the subsequent state of the system.

— Access to competing memory representations regresses towards the earlier representation over time.

{ Robert Bjork | Continue reading }

‘Burrow for seed, the screech in hole’ —@TNI_InfantBat

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The contest, an unusual collaboration between industry and academic scientists, featured one-minute matches between 16 world-class “memory athletes” from all over the world as they met in a World Cup-like elimination format. The grand prize was $20,000; the potential scientific payoff was large, too. […]

Simon Reinhard, 35, a lawyer who holds the world record in card memorization (a deck in 21.19 seconds), and Johannes Mallow, 32, a teacher with the record for memorizing digits (501 in five minutes) […]

“We found that one of the biggest differences between memory athletes and the rest of us,” said Henry L. Roediger III, the psychologist who led the research team, “is in a cognitive ability that’s not a direct measure of memory at all but of attention.”

The technique the competitors use is no mystery.

People have been performing feats of memory for ages, scrolling out pi to hundreds of digits, or phenomenally long verses, or word pairs. Most store the studied material in a so-called memory palace, associating the numbers, words or cards with specific images they have already memorized; then they mentally place the associated pairs in a familiar location, like the rooms of a childhood home or the stops on a subway line. […] “When I see the eight of diamonds and the queen of spades, I picture a toilet, and my friend Guy Plowman,” said Ben Pridmore, 37, an accountant in Derby, England, and a former champion. […]

Now and then, a challenger boasts online of having discovered an entirely new method, and shows up at competitions to demonstrate it. “Those people are easy to find, because they come in last, or close to it,” said another world-class competitor, Boris Konrad, 29.

Anyone can learn to construct a memory palace, researchers say, and with practice remember far more detail of a particular subject than before.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

images { 1 | 2 }

Let’s follow that fire truck I think your house is burnin down

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The average person misplaces up to nine items a day, and one-third of respondents in a poll said they spend an average of 15 minutes each day searching for items—cellphones, keys and paperwork top the list, according to an online survey of 3,000 people published in 2012 by a British insurance company. […]

In a recent study, researchers in Germany found that the majority of people surveyed about forgetfulness and distraction had a variation in the so-called dopamine D2 receptor gene (DRD2), leading to a higher incidence of forgetfulness. According to the study, 75% of people carry a variation that makes them more prone to forgetfulness.

{ WSJ | Continue reading }

related { Processing new information during sleep compromises memory }

photo { Daniel Bejar, The Visual Topography of a Generation Gap (Brooklyn, NY, #1), 2011 }

We must embrace emptiness and burn it as fuel for our journey

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If you’re like most people, you spend a great deal of your time remembering past events and planning or imagining events that may happen in the future. While these activities have their uses, they also make it terribly hard to keep track of what you have and haven’t actually seen, heard, or done. Distinguishing between memories of real experiences and memories of imagined or dreamt experiences is called reality monitoring and it’s something we do (or struggle to do) all of the time. […]

Perhaps you’ve left the house and headed to work, only to wonder en route if you’d locked the door. Even if you thought you did, it can be hard to tell whether you remember actually doing it or just thinking about doing it. […]

The study’s authors also found greater activation in the anterior medial prefrontal cortex when they compared reality monitoring for actions participants performed with those they only imagined performing.

{ Garden of the Mind | Continue reading }

What’s the last thing that you do remember?

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A fascinating paper asks what one man with no memory – and no regrets – can really teach us about time. […]

Researchers Carl Craver and colleagues describe the case of “KC”, a former “roadie for rock bands, prone to drinking and occasional rash behavior” who suffered extensive brain damage in a motorcycle crash. In particular, KC lost his hippocampus on both sides of the brain. This area is crucial for memory, so KC experiences profound amnesia. In fact, he’s one of the best known cases of the condition.

KC is unable to form any new long-term memories: he forgets everything that happens within a matter of minutes. He also, famously, cannot imagine anything happening in either the past or the future. Here’s a much-quoted conversation between him and neuroscientist Endel Tulving.

ET: What will you be doing tomorrow?

[15 second pause.]

KC: I don’t know.


{ Neuroskeptic | Continue reading }

photo { Archana Rayamajhi }

‘Whenever I climb I am followed by a dog called Ego.’ –Nietzsche

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A recent paper has put a hole in another remnant of Freud’s influence, that suppressed memories are still active. Freud noticed that we can suppress unwelcome memories. He theorized that the suppressed memories continued to exist in the unconscious mind and could unconsciously affect behaviour. Uncovering these memories and their influence was a large part of psychoanalysis. Understanding whether this theory is valid is important for evaluating recovered memories of abuse and for dealing with post-traunatic stress disorder.

The question Gagnepain, Henson and Anderson set out to answer was whether successfully suppressed conscious memories were also suppressed unconsciously or whether they were still unconsciously active. […]

[T]he results do fit with a number of other findings about memory, so that it is now unwise to take the Freudian view of suppression as reliable.

{ Neuro-patch | Continue reading }

They always build one door opposite another for the wind to. Way in. Way out.

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Memory is a cognitive process which is intrinsically linked to language. One of the fundamental tasks that the brain carries out when undertaking a linguistic activity - holding a conversation, for example - is the semantic process.

On carrying out this task, the brain compares the words it hears with those that it recalls from previous events, in order to recognise them and to unravel their meaning. This semantic process is a fundamental task for enabling the storing of memories in our brain, helping us to recognise words and to memorise names and episodes in our mind. However, as everyone knows, this is not a process that functions 100% perfectly at times; a lack of precision that, on occasions, gives rise to the creation of false memories.

{ Basque Research | Continue reading }

Our memory is a poor way of recording events, a study has found, as it rewrites the past with current information, updating recollections with new experiences. […] Their results raise questions over the reliability of eyewitness court testimony, the team concluded. 

{ Independent | Continue reading }

photo { Andrew and Carissa Gallo }

If you replace all of your cells one by one, are you still the same person?

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Childhood amnesia kicks in around age 7

You could travel the world with an infant aged under 3 and it’s almost guaranteed that when they get older they won’t remember a single boat trip, plane ride or sunset. This is a phenomenon known as childhood or infantile amnesia, that means most of us lose all our earliest autobiographical memories. It’s a psychological conundrum because when they are 3 or younger, kids are able to discuss autobiographical events from their past. So it’s not that memories from before age 3 never existed, it’s that they are subsequently forgotten. […]

Bauer and Larkina uncovered a paradox - at ages 5 to 7, the children remembered over 60 per cent of the events they’d chatted about at age 3. […] In contrast, children aged 8 and 9 recalled fewer than 40 per cent of the events they’d discussed at age 3, but those memories they did recall were more adult-like in their content.

{ BPS | Continue reading }

Backdoor Betty

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Can the experience of an emotion persist once the memory for what induced the emotion has been forgotten? We capitalized on a rare opportunity to study this question directly using a select group of patients with severe amnesia. […]

Our findings provide direct evidence that a feeling of emotion can endure beyond the conscious recollection for the events that initially triggered the emotion.

{ PNAS | Continue reading }