Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop


Forgot your password?
Biotech Medicine Science

Brain Cells Observed Summoning a Memory 381

Anti-Globalism writes "Scientists have for the first time recorded individual brain cells in the act of summoning a spontaneous memory, revealing not only where a remembered experience is registered but also, in part, how the brain is able to recreate it."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Brain Cells Observed Summoning a Memory

Comments Filter:
  • by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @01:39AM (#24884489) Journal

    For every guy out there, (misogynist comment inbound) I have to say I hope this leads to better understanding of how women communicate and remember things as compared to men. Perhaps there will be a translator, or a pill to make them more understandable? doh!

    Well, perhaps this will lead to true understanding of memories, and how the brain actually functions. I hope. I'd like to see some real AI in my lifetime and the human brain is the best example we have of how to create that.


  • Re:Self portriat (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @01:53AM (#24884569) Homepage Journal

    What does a memory of what a memory being recovered look like?

    I sometimes have epileptic seizures which make me spontaneously remember past events. Sometimes it causes me to recall events which may not have happened. I am literally processing garbage data.

    The seizure often interferes with the recording of memory, probably because it is messing with the replay of memory at the same time, so it is difficult to report exactly what the experience consists of after the event, beyond a simple outline.

  • by Nemus ( 639101 ) <> on Friday September 05, 2008 @02:25AM (#24884735) Journal

    This is the kind of claim you make in the NY Times or another public media outlet: while it might happen, because sometimes people do stupid things, I doubt the actual research article will go so far as to say anything so far-fetched.

    While it makes logical sense (memory, so far as it is located any single place, does seem to be strongly linked to the deeper, distinct organs within the brain, like the hippocampus), there is no actual way to "know" what exactly is going on: this is a quasi-experimental design, at best, and at most all they can reliably say is "Similiar structures in the brain responded in a similar way during recall of an event compared with how they behaved during the observation of the event itself." For example, it has been shown in some studies that areas in the occipital area of the brain (which has been strongly linked to vision) "light up" when a subject is asked to describe a previously viewed visual stimulus: however, researchers in these studies make no claims to such being evidence of an observed activation of a memory, which is essentially the claim being made here. Typically, the most they will offer in such studies is that the brain may be "spoofed" into thinking it is viewing the same stimulus again, thus activating certain, similiar function. Logically, both the visual research and this phenomena certainly sound like memory: but logic isn't science, nor is something true because it makes logical sense. Newtonian mechanics make logical sense, but good luck building a model of the universe as successful as one provided by quantum/relativistic physics, which often times make utterly no logical sense.

    This is one of the key problems in any kind of study concerning phenomena which are part and parcel of the conscious mind/brain: being that we do not experience the subject's perceptions ourselves, and since consciousness is so singular and personal, we might never be able to say with any clear confidence what we are observing in the brain. However, kudos to the researchers. At the very least they've examined a function (whatever it is) within the brain that is an utter pain in the ass to study.

  • Re:Cool but... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by moteyalpha ( 1228680 ) * on Friday September 05, 2008 @02:36AM (#24884809) Homepage Journal
    Well I have created a few humans already and they also have children. The normal way is much easier. As far as neural arrays that exceed human understanding this is a sticky question when you ask who would be the designated driver. Very much depends on how all this is implemented and I imagine it will be a bigger zoo than the internet. It is easy to use machines to increase our effectiveness but it levels the playing field of who is smarter when everybody has an AI as an advisor. It seems we are backing into another problem like the internet and how it influences life itself in odd ways.It is good to consider what it will become before it becomes a reality. I think the goals of the people who create the machines will tell how they effect those who don't prepare for the eventuality.
  • by Nathrael ( 1251426 ) <nathraelthe42nd&gmail,com> on Friday September 05, 2008 @03:17AM (#24885019)
    As far I know, not only religious people use the term "soul". Psychologists use it too, although in a a little bit different meaning as the various afterlife-guys.
  • by Jimbob The Mighty ( 1282418 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @03:24AM (#24885061)
    Hmm, actually, is there a nuerological difference between memories and "muscle memory"?

    Because I'd laugh my ass off at somebody who thought they would be able to jump straight into a 7th dan Karate Kata, and fall flat on their face.

  • by andreicio ( 1209692 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @03:40AM (#24885141)
    I think that for some people the 'soul' theory is the reason they trust religion, not the other way around.
    You'll have to agree that it is a bit depressing knowing for certain that your existence is just the few years you spend 'alive' and after that it's all gone. And for some, it's too depressing.
    Humans need to know they'll live on somehow, that their lives have some meaning. And if you're not famous enough to hope for historical eternal life, than soul is what you have left.
  • by Nathrael ( 1251426 ) <nathraelthe42nd&gmail,com> on Friday September 05, 2008 @03:49AM (#24885165)

    Actually, I find the thought of simply ceasing to exist not that bad; although I seriously don't want to die (and thus are transhumanist), believing in no afterlife were you would be judged gives you a nice feeling of freedom - while religious people usually try to avoid a lot of things since they want to reach heaven (or whatever else they believe in how they will be rewarded for a life devoted to their god[s]), I act on my own moral criterias without any pressure, being free to choose what is right and what not on my own.

    Though yes, I fully agree with you.

  • by LordSnooty ( 853791 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @04:20AM (#24885327)
    I want it to work the other way, as a backup mechanism. Every day I get older, and a bit of my RAM seems to fizz & burn and takes away the bytes that were stored in there. I accept the irreplaceable loss of the memory but I wish I didn't forget things too. I could easily page out the least-used memories and store them safely off-site.
  • by indifferent children ( 842621 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @05:10AM (#24885593)
    Who believes that the soul stores memories, exactly?

    Anyone who believes that they will meet (and remember) their deceased family members when they get to Heaven. Anyone who thinks that they will still have and/or know their own name when they get to Heaven. Anyone who believes in ghosts. So probably about 80% of Americans (that's not an attack, just an estimate).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 05, 2008 @05:19AM (#24885643)

    well... first, keep in mind(shush), that muscle memory, is the memory of physical movements, probably related to your motor strip in your brain, which would end up being extremely similar to recalling any other memory.

    But still, you wouldn't be able to do it, because your body wouldn't be trained hard enough, and if you attempted to pull off advanced martial art movements, you'd probably end up pulling some muscles, and even potentially causing major damage to ligaments and what not, do to them not being stretched properly for the action.

  • Re:Careful! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dintech ( 998802 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @05:22AM (#24885655)
    Maybe you are onto something there. Perhaps it would be appropriate punishment to take the memories from the people affected by their crimes and cram them into the criminals head so that he personally experience the impact of what he's done. At the same time you would have to replace any positive aspects of personal gain or gratifaction that he received. The next time he considers commiting a crime, he'll have a lot more to think about...
  • by vandan ( 151516 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @05:49AM (#24885757) Homepage

    I've read a number of books which discuss in detail the fact that memory is stored non-locally, in a method similar to the way a hologram stores information non-locally. The book 'The Holographic Universe' is the most recent example that I've read. It's a fascinating book - well worth a read. In fact I've read it twice now. With respect to memory, it goes on to say that in experiments with mice, researchers said they were incapable of destroying a memory of how to complete a maze by surgically removing brain tissue. The more they removed, the more foggy the memory appeared, but it never disappeared. This strongly backs the holographic storage method that the book postulates.

    If these scientists think they've seen an individual brain cell recall a memory, then I think they're horribly mistaken.

  • by jalet ( 36114 ) <> on Friday September 05, 2008 @06:15AM (#24885853) Homepage

    What would be VERY interesting would be to have some people to accept to have those detected neurons (their neurons) to be destructed (laser ?), and see if they still remember the event these neurons were thought to have "memorized".

    I know I wouldn't accept this to be done to me even for Science's sake...

  • by Epistax ( 544591 ) <epistax@gmai l . com> on Friday September 05, 2008 @06:28AM (#24885903) Journal
    Why is it everyone assumes that the soul-world connection works both ways? Who's to say that every consciousness isn't just a listener, somehow able to interpret a mind, and what's going on, and yet have no magical abilities over the matter contained therein. If I put someone who is in a very drowsy state in front of a TV, give them a steering wheel, and show a first person video if reckless driving, they'll think they're doing it. They'll try to avoid things (or hit things).

    I submit to you that just maybe, you do have a 'soul', which is your consciousness. It has intimate knowledge of the goings on in your head. All it can see and hear and smell and taste and feel is that information which is fed into your head. Since it has the intimate knowledge, your consciousness thinks it is making these decisions.. but it is not. It's just intimately watching the process.

    You think you're thinking about it, but you're just watching and interpreting a brain taking in stimulus. Therefore I won't feel bad when you troll me.
  • by Ceriel Nosforit ( 682174 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @06:41AM (#24885965)

    When I download the latest X-Files movie, I'm not stealing because I'm not making off with a physical object. However, the memories in my mind are a physical object, and therefore not metaphysical mumbo jumbo. ...Wait, what? What is this sudden stench of hypocrisy?

    Maybe information is not physical, but some sort of abstract collection of relations between bits of data, and more or less separate from the media which contains the data? Maybe something along the lines of Russell's definition of mathematics...

    He said a lot of really smart things. Here's a bunch of them: []

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @07:33AM (#24886237) Homepage Journal

    I'm kind of surprised that entrepreneurs haven't come up with a device to stimulate the pleasure centers of the brain yet. Granted, it would probably take a bit of surgery to install, but if you weren't convinced it was the coolest toy ever, you would be after a few pushes of the button.

  • by Setherghd ( 942294 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @09:29AM (#24887243)
    For me, it's not depressing at all.

    I didn't come into existence until 1986. For billions of years, I wasn't the least bit upset about it.

    In other words, if "life" after death is the same as "life" before life, then there is little I have to worry about.
  • Re:Careful! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by houghi ( 78078 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @09:45AM (#24887449)

    So what you are saying is things that have been seen can be unseen.

    Now is it a blessing that goatse can be unseen, or a curse that I now can see it for the first time several times?

  • Re:Wow (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Zenaku ( 821866 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @10:00AM (#24887607)

    I have never had a seizure, but what you describe stuck me as being very much the same as the experience of waking up from a surgery under full anesthesia. In both cases when I was put under, I can very vaguely recall being woken up at the end of it and sent on my way, and I know that I was fully aware and behaving normally -- only to suddenly realize an hour later that I couldn't recall a damn thing about leaving the clinic or the ride home.

    That is, I could remember the fact that I had just left the clinic after surgery and had been talking with my friend who was driving me home, but I couldn't actually recall the experience of it. My short-term or working memory had enough "state" in it for me to know where I was, how I got there, and what I was doing, but my brain had completely neglected to record any sensory data for retrospective examination.

  • by minister of funk ( 123188 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @10:01AM (#24887615)

    If people treated concepts other that that of a soul with your method, those concepts would never be explored.

    The thrill of chasing the abstract is a driving force behind much discovery and innovation.

    Please do not discount existence because of the lack of an adequate conceptual definition. Perhaps the concept of the soul is the best definition to-date and is awaiting its next evolution.

    Phenomena exist independently of their definition. Fantasies fail to exist (physically) independently of their definitions.

  • by Dripdry ( 1062282 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @10:23AM (#24887911) Journal

    I once heard a bit on the rise of science against religion. The crux of the argument was that science should be viewed and approached with an eye more toward humanism.

    In the Dark Ages, God was viewed as someone who controlled everything. If something bad happened, there was a reason. If something good happened, there was a reason. Priests where the ones who understood that pattern, and each of us had a friend looking down benevolently (overall) to take care of us.

    The rise of science began to make the world a hostile, unpredictable place. Of course, science must studied, information gathered, and one day man could make sense of his (now inscrutable) destiny and place in the universe.

    I believe the argument went that this shift in thinking, from having a plan to not having any has caused a lot of strife. Of course, we're more rational (some of us) but this does not change the fact that we often feel alone and insignificant, whirling through the ether.

    The solution was to try and find a way to help people view science as less about cold calculation, but more as a friend, a helpful and predictable Cosmic Hand that doesn't flip us off, but rather is working behind the scenes, as God once did, to keep everything working in The Bigger Plan.

  • by Evanisincontrol ( 830057 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @11:01AM (#24888441)

    I agree that this story is not a good place for this thread, so I'll try to keep my response as short as possible.

    Richard Dawkins (a very brilliant person, regardless of his beliefs) has a lot to say [] on the matter of why science and religion should not (in his opinion) be compatible. He considers himself a "militant atheist", and wishes more atheists would follow in his steps. Whether or not I considered myself an atheist, I would agree that atheists SHOULD listen to what he's saying. It's a very interesting talk, and unfortunately, very hard to watch if you are on the other side of his argument -- i.e. if you're religious. Of course, isn't that always the case? If you're pro-life, for example, isn't it extremely difficult to list to pro-choice arguments?

    Anyway, just throwing that out for you to listen to and evaluate. I hope you find it interesting.


  • by minister of funk ( 123188 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @11:02AM (#24888463)

    You most certainly can study something without adequate definition, especially when the motivation of study is to achieve a better definition.

    I think the conversation has shifted a bit, specifically the use and implication of "definition", and we need to clarify what we're talking about.

    Our initial discussion was about the inadequate definition of the soul. I think your use of "definition" in your reply has taken on a new meaning. Here is how I interpreted your first sentence:

    You said: "You cannot study something without an adequate definition."

    I inferred: "You cannot study something if your study methodology is not clearly defined."

    Which I mostly agree with. I would agree with it 100% if we inserted the word "effectively" after "something".

    I disagree with your argument about science and belief justification. You might not see a reason to believe in that which can't (yet?) be called science, but that has no effect on the justification of belief.

    I believe with much certainty that much of what we now consider science went through a period of time where it was sustained solely by belief and that the practitioners of those beliefs were persecuted/discounted, and later vindicated. (By the way, I'm not using "persecuted" to allude to any persecution related to religion.)

    It's my opinion that science is the religion of many, but to be truly scientific one must maintain a significant detachment from preconceptions, conclusions and status quo. A better way to state this opinion might be: "Science as a religion states, 'This is the way the world is.' True science maintains, 'This is what we've come up with so far.'"

    I think we both agree that legitimate methodology for the study of the soul remains unestablished. That does not negate (or prove) the existence of the soul.

  • by orielbean ( 936271 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @12:53PM (#24889919)
    Total recall - why go on actual vacation when you just remember that you did?
  • by HTH NE1 ( 675604 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @01:50PM (#24890759)

    Sarah Forbes: Doesn't give you much comfort does it? Not believing in an afterlife.
    Kurt Mendel: On the contrary, it gives me lots of comfort.
    Sarah Forbes: How can the prospect of nonexistence be comforting?
    Kurt Mendel: I look at it like this: before I came on stage, the Universe had been around for twelve billion years. All that time I was in a state of nonexistence, and it wasn't bad. Pretty comfortable as a matter of fact. I figure it'll be just as comfortable for the next twelve billion years.
    Sarah Forbes: So all those people were wrong to believe in a higher power?
    Kurt Mendel: [referring to the destroyed Earth] Look what good it did 'em.
    -- Odyssey 5 "Pilot"

  • by Anachragnome ( 1008495 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @10:23PM (#24897133)

    The first thing that came to mind(no pun intended) was that if a memory resides in a certain cerebral location, and all one would have to do to locate it is elicit that memory in a person, while scanning them, then one can conclude that once this has occurred, one could then go in and physically REMOVE the memory by destroying that particular location in the brain.

    Maybe that was what Obi Wan was doing. He simply used telekinesis to destroy specific brain cells while rewriting in another location with verbal suggestion......"These are not the 'droids you are looking for......".

"The following is not for the weak of heart or Fundamentalists." -- Dave Barry