Sunday, 12 October 2008

Memories Are Made of This

We're getting excitingly close to observing how our memory works at a fundamental level. This study picked up by PsyBlog reports on a study that demonstrates how memory works through the reactivation of specific individual neurons in the hippocampus.

Effectively, things that happen to us activate networks of neurons in the brain, and when we recall past events at least some of these same neurons fire again.

Researchers monitored 857 specific neurons within the brains of epilipsy patients awaiting surgery, by inserting
probes into the medial temporal lobe, near the hippocampus, an area of the brain central to memory and how we remember events. They managed to trace and link a memory pattern being formed as a result of the volunteers exposure to specific video clips.

They also noticed that the neurons began to fire about 1.5 seconds before participants were conscious of remembering the particular clip, and so could predict which clip the patients were in the process of remembering before they actually said they became aware of it.

Dr. Itzhak Fried, who conducted the study, commented:

"In a way then, reliving past experience in our memory is the resurrection of neuronal activity from the past".

I think this further supports why reinforcement and spaced repetition in learning is so important in strengthening memory patterns and therefore improving recall.

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