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Biotech Medicine

First Images of Memories Being Made 71

Posted by timothy
from the from-the-brain-side-that-is dept.
TheSync writes Eurekalert reports that researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, McGill and UCLA have captured the first image of protein translation that underlies long-term memory formation. A fluorescent protein showed the increased local protein synthesis during memory formation, which requires cooperation between the pre and post-synaptic compartments of the two neurons that meet at the synapse."
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First Images of Memories Being Made

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  • Boooooring (Score:2, Funny)

    by elloGov (1217998)
    Memories are so much cooler than their images
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 18, 2009 @04:27PM (#28380949)

    We're one step closer to finally having computers analyze our neural pathways, and thus answer the ages-old question: Where the hell are my damn car keys?

    • Re:One Step Closer (Score:4, Interesting)

      by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Thursday June 18, 2009 @04:38PM (#28381149) Homepage
      Certainly analyzing memories would be a necessary part of downloading your personality into a computer, a mainstay of science fiction (take Poul Anderson's Harvest of Stars [amazon.com] as an example where it is used to great effect) and the loony but inspiring outlook of Ray "the singularity is near!" Kurzweil. I wonder if consciousness can be separated from a body of memories. If a copy of me does not have certain memories, is it still me?
      • Re:One Step Closer (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MozeeToby (1163751) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @04:55PM (#28381367)

        Is an amnesiac still the same person? I guess you could argue that they subconsciously still have their memories but I would say its a valid comparison. For that matter, as time goes on what you do and don't remember is constantly changing. Events that were key in making you who you are today are often forgotten about years later.

        I would say that events and memories shape your personality but the personality itself is separate. That being said, if a memory is continuously a part of you, such that you think about it everyday, then that memory is still affecting your personality every time you think about it. Taking that memory away could rapidly lead to a significantly different personality. Imagine soldiers suffering from PTSD and how much their personality would change if you could simply remove the dramatic memories.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Aren't you running up against the most persistently reinforced memory we have?

          I am me all the time. Whether I remember where I got a particular quirk or not is irrelevant to the fact that I pretty much always remember I have it. In this light, personality is a habit reinforced by repetition.

          To change personality you'd have to change both the source lesson, if it's still remembered at all, and the memory of the habit of that personality. It may not necessarily be more difficult but it's more complicated than

          • by rdnetto (955205)

            To change personality you'd have to change both the source lesson, if it's still remembered at all, and the memory of the habit of that personality. It may not necessarily be more difficult but it's more complicated than simply erasing the memory of a discrete event from the past.

            Not necessarily - instead of erasing the memory, you could just 'override' it with a new, more powerful memory. At the time, the source lesson was much more influential than other memories. But if you were to receive a new, more influential memory that was more relevant than the source lesson, that would theoretically be able to negate some or all of the influence of that source memory on your personality. It would need to be a very strong memory, but there's no reason it shouldn't work.

            • Personality is not persistence of self. Personality can change, memories are lost and corrupted but persistence of self remains a constant because if I am not me then who the hell am I?
              • by rdnetto (955205)
                I would argue that as one grows/matures/changes, one ceases to be one's former self. That is, your 'self' does not remain constant. It changes, and it is possible for two past selves to be very different.

                if I am not me then who the hell am I?

                You are the person you are right now, at this very instant. Tht person is very different to the person you were when you were a kid, and will probably be very different to the person you will be when you die.

                • I agree, I didn't say self was constant I said "persistence of self is constant". I am "me" no matter how I define "me" at any particular point in time. The exception to this persistence can come about in stroke victims [ted.com] or with the use of phycotropic drugs where some people report not being able to disinguish self from surroundings. I imagine when I'm dead all my perceptions will cease.
        • Good for you for getting the +5 but you have no idea really. What if personality is like an envelope (of parametmers), and that envelope is shaped over time by experiences, of which memories are only one aspect. In that case you could remove the memories, but the envelope remains. After all there are so many memories that we've forgotten about later in life (try accessing any memories from before you were five for example), yet our personality seems pretty pervasive and continuous. So just taking memories a

      • You forget things all the time. Are you still you when you do? Your consciousness shuts down for prolonged periods (sleep). Are you still you when you do? If we are nothing but software, then we're going to have to get used to the idea that any identical (or maybe even nearly identical) copy running is in fact you, mind-bending though it may be.

        • You forget things all the time. Are you still you when you do?

          No. You're different. Our idea of "being you" is based on consistent behavior from others not really being affected day-to-day and a perceived permanence in our own thought patterns. But no you're not still you if you forget something, or experience something, or fall asleep. You're just similar and it's convenient to label you the same name.

          Oh, also you look almost exactly the same day-to-day so that contributes to the idea of being "you".

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        If a copy of me does not have certain memories, is it still me?

        I don't think so. If it's a copy of you then (to me at least) it's not you by definition.

        It's really tricky to think of a solid explanation of what 'I' am. I think if I were going to have a stab at a partial definition I'd define a person as some sort of extremely complex shape in space-time: if you take a three-dimensional cross section of a person at a specific point in time, you'd see what we know from out of every day experience - a really complexly ordered collection of matter. If you then look at a cr

      • by HTH NE1 (675604)

        Certainly analyzing memories would be a necessary part of downloading your personality into a computer

        As well as a way to make irrelevant the self-incriminatory testimony clause of the Fifth Amendment by expanding what the state can do under the Fourth Amendment (you won't be giving self-incriminating testimony, they'll just get a search warrant for the contents of your brain).

      • by mcgrew (92797)

        I think it will be a LONG time before we can "reboot" ourselves as in Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. There is so little known about how the brain works. Hell, they haven't even mapped a fruit fly's brain yet.

        We are SO primitive it isn't funny.

    • Why are there no Ghost in the Shell references? It would be by far the single biggest break through since if we know how our memory works, we can offload our memories on storage devices via neural to NAS/SAN. It also allows secondary processing done by machines. Essentially allowing machines to remember and think for us directly. Instead of spending 20 years in school, all it takes is 20 seconds to upload some memory. You cannot even start to imagine the kind of advances we can make by saving so much time.

  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @04:29PM (#28380977) Homepage
    0ur understanding of how brains and memory function is rapidly improving. This follows on the heals of for example the engineering of smart mice a few years back http://www.princeton.edu/pr/news/99/q3/0902-smart.htm [princeton.edu]. We are likely not very far from the point where we will have a good enough understanding of such abilities to be able to safely incorporate them into human embryos. Ethical questions that a few years ago that were being primarily addressed by pot heads need to be seriously examined. I, for one, see nothing wrong with genetically improving the human population, especially my own children when I eventually have them, but these discussions need to occur. Also, work like this is interesting for another reason: It is yet another nail in the coffin of mind-body dualism. At this point, I'm surprised the coffin can handle the weight given how many nails are in it, yet most humans seem to still be strong dualists.
    • I guess we just like to feel special. We think of ourselves as something more than an organized lump of matter, part of which because we still can't explain consciousness. That day will come though.
      Once we also had to accept that after all we are a kind of ape.
    • by cromar (1103585)
      One point: we already can see the effects of such memetic viruses as racism, classism, eugenics, etc. What will happen when a group can say without a doubt they are "better" than another group? Not everyone will be able to afford for their progeny to be enhanced. I imagine it would be astronomically expensive at first, and perhaps for a very long time afterward (perhaps many generations - imagine poverty's recursive effects on generations of impoverished families, but instead they are genetically impover
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by JoshuaZ (1134087)

        But is already a problem with education and nutrition. Better education and better nutrition give the children of the well-off massive advantages. We don't try to solve that by forcing people to give their kids a mediocre education.

        Moreover, if we do engage in serious genetic engineering many of the alleles will be alleles already in the human population. So the ability for people to claim that one is better than another simply by genetics will be a danger purely from letting our research into genetics c

        • by cromar (1103585)
          On the other hand, why make the problem worse? Why not fix the problems we already have before "creating new ones?"
          • by JoshuaZ (1134087)
            Because the potential benefits outweigh the costs. (Before you comment that this isn't obviously true, I agree. This is obviously a claim that can be debate. Hence I did say these discussions need to occur. My comment about my position was intended of more of an aside)
            • by cromar (1103585)

              Because the potential benefits outweigh the costs.

              For who? Not for most people if the treatment is expensive, which it can almost be guaranteed to be, at least at first. And what is this new human supposed to be better at? Living a healthy and happy life? Physics? I can imagine several situations where creating GMO human populations would be bad for humanity as a whole, and not any particular reason it would be good for humanity as a whole, or even a majority of us.

              • Not every human cares about humanity as a whole, and it is neither feasible nor desirable to force such an attitude.

                • by cromar (1103585)
                  Those in power do what they want while the rest of us put up with what we can. That's not right.

                  This has nothing to do with what attitudes are desirable for the powerful to hold, but with Justice and Liberty. Neither of which are served by selfishness such as yours.
              • by JoshuaZ (1134087)
                Smarter people can do research faster. More research means better agriculture and better medicine. As someone who would not be alive multiple times over if it were not for modern medicine, I am acutely aware of the benefits. If we can make smarter researchers then that benefits many people.
                • by cromar (1103585)
                  So you are basically advocating preselecting people at birth who must become researchers? That is basically reverse eugenics and quite antagonistic to personal liberty.
                  • by JoshuaZ (1134087)
                    No, but if we make many smart people, many of them will become researchers. And even in other fields other than direct research, more intelligent people are more productive. The benefit seems pretty clear.
                    • by cromar (1103585)
                      The ridiculousness of your comment directly corresponds to how astronomically expensive it would be to GM one human child. Let's say initially it cost $500,000 per child over the program's lifetime (this is assuming you aren't advocating stealing the children's mothers against their will and forcing them to undergo modification - that would be much cheaper, I'm sure). Modifying 1000 children to be "better researchers" would cost $500,000,000. Assuming even a quarter of those chosen children decide to bec
    • by narcc (412956)

      It is yet another nail in the coffin of mind-body dualism.

      Anyone who can make a statement like that, in earnest, clearly doesn't understand the problem.

      Consider this for a moment: If you were somehow provided with a comprehensive list of neural correlates to consciousness, would that be sufficient to show the validity of materialism? Would it be sufficient to disprove dualism?

      • by JoshuaZ (1134087)
        It wouldn't disprove it but it would make it even more implausible. Nothing can ever be fully disproven. However, if there's zero evidence that anything observable is being altered at all by some mysterious other, the most concise explanation is that is because there isn't anything altering it. Dualism already has massive problems explaining how stroke and other brain injuries can alter personalities (or for that matter, how drugs can possibly work). Dualism has been moved into narrower and narrower confi
        • by narcc (412956)

          Property dualism has no difficulty accommodating the fact that brain injury and drugs affect personality. Though I doubt you'd consider it dualism :)

          I think what your arguing in your most recent post is some kind of "dualism of the gaps" (for lack of a better term, correct me if I misunderstand you). I really think this stems from a poor understanding of the problem. And it is an impressively hard problem!

          Now, I won't argue in favor of dualism any more than I'd argue in favor of naturalism or materialism.

          • by JoshuaZ (1134087)

            If you are going to make that sort of claim, you are going to need to define what you mean by dualism, since bears little resemblance to the classical meaning of the term.

            The basic notion of dualism as it is generally used and as most humans who ascribe to dualists mean it (not whatever you are calling dualism but "naive dualism" for lack of a better term) is the intended target.

            I don't know which of Penrose's works you are referring to in particular, but much of his work has serious problems, for exam

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by narcc (412956)

              If you are going to make that sort of claim, you are going to need to define what you mean by dualism, since bears little resemblance to the classical meaning of the term.

              This is why I think you need to learn a bit more about the problem. Dualism in it's many forms (as they apply to philosophy of mind) are well defined. It isn't necessary that I redefine dualism for you, only that you learn a bit more about it.

              As for Penrose -- Again, I think you may want to actually read his books instead of just about them on some blog. You should also re-read my last post -- where you realize that I was only interested in his arguments against the mind being a product of a classical sy

              • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @09:02PM (#28384395) Homepage

                This is why I think you need to learn a bit more about the problem. Dualism in it's many forms (as they apply to philosophy of mind) are well defined. It isn't necessary that I redefine dualism for you, only that you learn a bit more about it.

                We both agree the term has many different meanings. So you need to tell me which definition you are using if this is going to go anywhere (that is aside from the primary issue that we both seem to agree that naive dualism fails pretty badly which was the point being made).

                As for Penrose -- Again, I think you may want to actually read his books instead of just about them on some blog. You should also re-read my last post -- where you realize that I was only interested in his arguments against the mind being a product of a classical system. (The arguments he makes are not his own, but they're well written and in support of John Searle.) Yes, I agree that his quantum brain ideas are rubbish, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the present discussion.

                Yes, you are right that the quantum issue has little to do with the matter at hand. I haven't read about Penrose on blogs. I picked up one of his books on consciousness a few years back, I think it was "The Emperor's New Mind" and my general response to most of it was either "bullshit!" or "True. So what?" Penrose has the problem that many successful people seem to have late in life where they think that their field can provide overarching explanations in other fields or that their very good idea can be generalize a lot. If there's a particular item by him you think I should read please recommend it and I'll take a look.

                While I'm on the subject of Penrose, you claim that "but much of his work has serious problems" You don't know much about Penrose! He's the worlds most respected (living) mathematician and the worlds top mathematical physicist.

                I was talking about his work with consciousness which should have been clear from context. If someone said something stupid and there's a simple other interpretation that's probably what the person meant. He is clearly very accomplished although since you bring the matter up, you vastly overstate his credentials. To say that he is the most respected living mathematician is simply false. He might be the most respected mathematician outside of the mathematical community, but that doesn't say much. And even then, I'm pretty sure that's false. Terrence Tao, Andrew Wiles, John Conway and Grigori Perelman are all more respected within the mathematical community by any reasonable metric, and I suspect that by most simple metrics one comes up with one will find that they are more respected in the general populace as well. Claiming he's the top mathematical physicist is a little more reasonable, but also very arguable. I don't however, feel completely confident in discussing that claim given that I know much less about physics than I know about math.

                He's also not the first well-respected scientist to drop the ball (and suffer serious criticism) when discussing consciousness. (Francis Crick, for embarrassed himself with the mess that was "The astonishing hypothesis")

                This doesn't just occur with consciousness. There's a general pattern of very good researchers breaking themselves against very hard problems late in life. It is very hard to tell what the underlying cause of this pattern is. But this general pattern has little to do with Penrose's work regarding consciousness. No one is claiming that his other work should be dismissed just because he's had a few wacky ideas any more than anyone would claim that PCR isn't impressive because Kary Mullis has a lot of strange ideas floating around in his head.

                • by melikamp (631205)

                  One of you is right, the other one is wrong.

                  Both of you are wrong. Both of you are right.

                  One of you is wrong, the other one is right.

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by jackchance (947926)
                  The "normal" definition of dualism is that there is a physical universe and a metaphysical universe. Science is a method to understand the physical universe, but cannot tell us much about the metaphysical one. If consciousness is metaphysical then neuroscientists, like me, are not going to be much good at figuring it out.

                  I think many people confuse physical with deterministic. There are many physical systems that are non-deterministic and I would argue that the brain is one of them. We don't yet know
  • by cromar (1103585) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @04:32PM (#28381023)
    Can't we all just forget about this?
  • by Reason58 (775044) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @04:35PM (#28381083)

    Memories, light the corners of my mind
    Misty watercolor memories of the way we were.
    Scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind
    smiles we give to one another
    for the way we were.
    Can it be that it was all so simple then
    or has time rewritten every line?
    If we had the chance to do it all again
    tell me would we? Could we?
    Memories, may be beautiful and yet
    what's too painful to remember
    we simply choose to forget
    So it's the laughter we will remember
    whenever we remember
    the way we were.

  • by FungusCannon (1408259) <willy889@@@gmail...com> on Thursday June 18, 2009 @04:47PM (#28381259)
    As long as they can't actually SEE memories, I'm safe.
  • Some day... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 18, 2009 @04:55PM (#28381363)

    If we ever get to the point of being able to directly record what we hear and see in our minds, the production of media is going to change forever. As a musician there have been times I've "heard" an absolutely wonderful piece of music in my mind but I have no idea where to begin in reproducing the quality or timber or transcribing the technicality behind some of the instruments. It can be discouraging because as quickly as it comes it goes, being both the first and last time one listens to such a thing.

  • Let me know when we have designed a computer chip to interface with the pre- and post- synaptic neurons of our brains so that we can start commanding the development of these memory proteins....In other words, let me know when I can download String Theory into my brain so that it finally makes sense (maybe).
  • by smackenzie (912024) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @05:07PM (#28381559)
    ...I forget what this article is about.

    Oh well. I love lamp.
  • Sign Me Up! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I'm interested in a Mars vacation. Remember, I like my women slutty and I DON'T want to wake up thinking I'm agent Hauser.

  • by Gat0r30y (957941) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @05:21PM (#28381713) Homepage Journal
    This is really sweet. If you've ever looked at some of the images that researchers produce when trying to get an idea of where in a cell things are going on using GFP - this image is really clean. An AAAS webinar on the subject recently seemed to indicate that most of the improvements have come about due to how the image is processed. In any case this calls for a big congrats to the researchers.
  • So, this is basically dd for the brain? (tl;dr)
  • That's First Images of (Memories Being Made), and not First (Images of Memories) Being Made.

    Languags can really be weird that way...
    On the other hand, unambiguous titles have occasionally been seen in the wild.
  • And here I thought it was about Christmas at Louis Daguerre's house. /DRTFA

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