Study Captures Images Of Memories Being Formed Within The Human Brain

or. His study is one of two articles on memory in this issue of Science that are based on advanced functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) techniques that were developed by Buckner and Anders Dale, a researcher at MGH and another of the co-authors on Wagner' study.

"This new technique is what allows us to specify how brain activity during learning differs between experiences later remembered and those later forgotten," Wagner said.

Wagner and colleagues used event-related fMRI to measure small, but significant differences in brain activation as young adults completed various verbal tasks. The experiments were structured to test whether participants are more likely to remember tasks that require a deeper, more meaningful level of consideration, as opposed to more routine tasks, such as identifying obvious differences in physical appearance, a theory supported by earlier psychological research.

While the participants' brain activity was being scanned, they were asked to complete a word processing task that required them to think semantically, to distinguish between words that are concrete, such as dog or cat, and words that are abstract, such as love or hate. Subjects were later asked to recall whether specific words had or had not been included in the tests.

When researchers compared the level of brain activity during processing of words remembered with activity for words later forgotten, they found that increased activity in specific structures in the left frontal and temporal lobes predicted whether participants would accurately and confidently remember whether a particular word had been part of the test. The study also confirms that a person seems to remember something better when he or she pays attention to its meaning, rather than to more superficial attributes such as physical appearance.

One of the structures showing increased activity in verbal memory formation is the left parahippocampal gyrus, a ma

Contact: Gerry Everding
(314) 935-6375
Washington University in St. Louis

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