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


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


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?


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


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.


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?


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


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 }

And 5 hours later we up in the hotel like a honeymoon we up in the hotel


Amnesia comes in distinct varieties. In “retrograde amnesia,” a movie staple, victims are unable to retrieve some or all of their past knowledge—Who am I? Why does this woman say that she’s my wife?—but they can accumulate memories for everything that they experience after the onset of the condition. In the less cinematically attractive “anterograde amnesia,” memory of the past is more or less intact, but those who suffer from it can’t lay down new memories; every person encountered every day is met for the first time. In extremely unfortunate cases, retrograde and anterograde amnesia can occur in the same individual, who is then said to suffer from “transient global amnesia,” a condition that is, thankfully, temporary. Amnesias vary in their duration, scope, and originating events: brain injury, stroke, tumors, epilepsy, electroconvulsive therapy, and psychological trauma are common causes, while drug and alcohol use, malnutrition, and chemotherapy may play a part. […]

When you asked Molaison a question, he could retain it long enough to answer; when he was eating French toast, he could remember previous mouthfuls and could see the evidence that he had started eating it. His unimpaired ability to do these sort of things illustrated a distinction, made by William James, between “primary” and “secondary” memory. Primary memory, now generally known as working memory, evidently did not depend upon the structures that Scoville had removed. The domain of working memory is a hybrid of the instantaneous present and of what James referred to as the “just past.” The experienced present has duration; it is not a point but a plateau. For those few seconds of the precisely now and the just past, the present is unarchived, accessible without conscious search. Beyond that, we have to call up the fragments of past presents. The plateau of Molaison’s working memory was between thirty and sixty seconds long—not very different from that of most people—and this was what allowed him to eat a meal, read the newspaper, solve endless crossword puzzles, and carry on a conversation. But nothing that happened on the plateau of working memory stuck, and his past presents laid down no sediments that could be dredged up by any future presents.

{ The New Yorker | Continue reading }

Did English stop being English when it borrowed 60% of its vocabulary from French after 1066?


Some memory exercises focus on long-term memory. Two of these are called retrieval practice and elaboration. […]

One way to elaborate is to generate an explanation for why a fact or concept is true (or false). Another way is to self-explain. Simply explain to yourself how the new ideas you’re learning relate to each other, or explain how the new ideas relate to information you already know. Still another is to make a concept map. […]

Retrieval practice is the activity of recalling information you have already committed to memory. You can practice retrieving information by simply trying to recall everything you’ve read or learned about a subject. Or, you can use the self-test approach. Self-testing means that you create questions about the subject and answer them yourself. […]

A recent study published in Science magazine suggests that retrieval practice works surprisingly well. […]

1. Retrieval practice helps you remember more information than elaboration.
2. Retrieval practice helps you understand the information better than elaboration.

{ Global Cognition | Continue reading }

Thank you for curing me of my ridiculous obsession with love


For a long time, memories were thought of as the biochemical equivalent of 3 x 5 cards kept in a file cabinet. And the words on the cards were written in ink, scientists thought, because, once created and stored in the brain, a memory didn’t change. It might be vivid, but it was static, as fixed as a photograph of a remembered moment.

But in recent years, that theory has been flipped on its head. Now, leaders in memory research don’t think that’s the way the mind works at all. Instead, they’ve come to believe that memories actually are fluid things, subject to alteration every time they’re retrieved. When a long-term memory is recalled, it becomes temporarily fungible and goes through a rebuilding process known as reconsolidation. Which suggests that memories, even terrible ones, can be changed during that period when they’re once again unstable.

Several studies published last fall reinforced this notion. One, from researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden, found that a fear memory could be neutralized if the reconsolidation process is disrupted before the memory can solidify. Another, carried out by scientists at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, concluded that even if a memory isn’t truly erased, it can be made to feel less personal or painful.

{ What Scientists Now Know About Repairing Memories | Smithsonian | Continue reading }

What I will do is remember you


She explained how recent research, including her own, has shown that memories are not unchanging physical traces in the brain. Instead, they are malleable constructs that may be rebuilt every time they are recalled. The research suggests, she said, that doctors (and psychotherapists) might be able to use this knowledge to help patients block the fearful emotions they experience when recalling a traumatic event, converting chronic sources of debilitating anxiety into benign trips down memory lane.

{ Technology Review | Continue reading }

Like a pebble in my shoe as I walk these streets


New research from McMaster University suggests women can remember faces better than men, in part because they spend more time studying features without even knowing it, and a technique researchers say can help improve anyone’s memories.

The findings help to answer long-standing questions about why some people can remember faces easily while others quickly forget someone they’ve just met.

{ EurekAlert | Continue reading }

photo { Guy Bourdin }