Traces of the past: computer algorithm ‘reads’ memories
14 March 2010
Computer programs can predict which of three short films a person is thinking about, just by looking at their brain activity.
The research, conducted by scientists at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at UCL, provides further insight into how our memories are recorded, and is published today in the journal Current Biology.
Professor Eleanor Maguire led this Wellcome Trust-funded study, an extension of work published last year which showed how spatial memories – in that case, where a volunteer was standing in a virtual reality room – are recorded in regular patterns of activity in the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for learning and memory.
“In our previous experiment, we were looking at basic memories, at someone’s location in an environment,” said Professor Maguire. “What is more interesting is to look at ‘episodic’ memories – the complex, everyday memories that include much more information on where we are, what we are doing and how we feel.”
Although a whole network of brain areas support memory, the researchers focused their study on the medial temporal lobe, an area deep within the brain believed to be most heavily involved in episodic memory. It includes the hippocampus – an area which Professor Maguire and colleagues have studied extensively in the past.
“Now that we are developing a clearer picture of how our memories are stored, we hope to examine how they are affected by time, the ageing process and by brain injury,” said Professor Maguire.
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Reference >> Current Biology, 11 March 2010 | 10.1016/j.cub.2010.01.053
Decoding Individual Episodic Memory Traces in the Human Hippocampus
Martin J. Chadwick, Demis Hassabis, Nikolaus Weiskopf, Eleanor A. Maguire