We’ve all experienced this: hearing a song triggers a memory. For me, for example, the song “Peggy Sue” (Buddy Holly and the Crickets, 1957) triggers a memory of a car ride in the 1950s, driving through my hometown, with the song on the radio, and my Mom at the wheel of our rounded, light-blue plymouth. I could go on and list dozens, or hundreds of songs and associated memories. There’s something special about music and memory. Continue reading
Sunday’s NY Times has a fascinating article by Jeré Longman
The point of the article was that golfers, unlike other athletes, appear to have remarkable memories for athletic experiences. To quote from the article:
Like elephants, they seem to forget nothing. Their minds appear stocked like their bags — tee shots and 3-irons and wedges and putts stored from tournaments played weeks or years ago, able to be summoned for better or for worse. Continue reading
This may seem like old news. Thanks to Will Smith’s “neuralizer” blasting away horrific memories of alien attacks in the 1997 movie “Men in Black,” and the quest to bury the heartbreak of a broken romance in the 2004 flick “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” the concept of erasing memory has become commonplace. Continue reading
Even a seemingly simple behavior–like trying to remember if the name of the person you just met is “Elizabeth” or “Patricia”–can tax our memories. These short-term memory drains are part of what we neuroscientists call “working memory”.
When you think about it, it’s quite a remarkable neural feat that we can do this at all! Somehow our brains are able to take in information (like the sound waves that hit our ears in just the right way to make us perceive the sound that is the name “Patricia”), hold that information in some neural pattern/buffer/code, and then retrieve that information at will (if we’re lucky).
Memory is our most prized human treasure. It defines our sense of self, and our ability to navigate the world. It defines our relationships with others – for good or ill – and is so important to survival that our gilled ancestors bear the secret of memory etched in their DNA. If you asked someone over 50 to name the things they most fear about getting older, losing one’s memory would be near the top of that list. There is so much worry over Alzheimer’s disease, the memory thief, that it is easy to forget that our modern understanding of memory is still quite young, less than one, very special lifespan.
Meet the Patient Zero of memory disorders, H.M.
A new study published by Izuma and Adolphs in Neuron asks what are the brain areas that undergo changes in activity when we modify our preferences to fit social context1. Imagine I show some people a shirt and ask them whether they like it or not. In some cases I tell people that this is the favorite shirt of a certain group of University students. In other cases I tell them that it is the preferred shirt of most criminals. What we get is a socially-manipulated preference – people tend to dislike the criminal’s favorite. Continue reading