ST. LOUIS, Mo., Aug. 20, 1998--The birth of a memory, the split second when the human brain encodes an event for future reference, has been captured through sophisticated neuroimaging and used to predict accurately whether a specific experience will later be remembered or forgotten, according to research published in the Aug. 21 issue of the journal Science.
Based on collaborative research by scientists at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH)-NMR Center in Boston, Washington University in St. Louis and Harvard University, the article describes how levels of activity in certain brain structures involved in processing verbal information can predict whether that information will be retained in memory.
"This study marks the first time we've been able to peer inside someone's brain and predict on average whether or not you will later forget something you are now experiencing," said Randy L. Buckner, senior author of the article and assistant professor of psychology in Arts and Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. "Now, we can actually see areas of the brain as they go about the process of memorization."
Although psychologists have long suspected that how we process information into memory is critically important to later remembering and forgetting, this study is the first to capture images of specific memories as they are being formed within the brain.
"This study provides a firmer biological underpinning for the concept that how we encode information is key to whether or not it is remembered," said Daniel Schacter, chairman of psychology at Harvard and a co-author of the study. "It is the first work to tie the creation of a specific verbal memory to specific levels of activity in certain areas of the brain."
Anthony Wagner, a postdoctoral research fellow at the MGH-NMR Center and
the Department of Psychology at Harvard University, spearheaded the research and
is the article's first auth
Contact: Gerry Everding
Washington University in St. Louis