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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > Nov > Nov 8

Key To False Memories Uncovered

From: Cathy Reason <CathyM.nul>
Date: Thu, 8 Nov 2007 01:39:42 -0000
Archived: Thu, 08 Nov 2007 14:28:17 -0500
Subject: Key To False Memories Uncovered

Source: Duke University


Duke University Medical Center neuroscientists say the places a
memory is processed in the brain may determine how someone can
be absolutely certain of a past event that never occurred.

These findings could help physicians better appreciate the
memory changes that accompany normal aging or even lead to tools
for the early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, according to
Duke neuroscientist Roberto Cabeza, Ph.D.

Information retrieved from memory is simultaneously processed in
two specific regions of the brain, each of which focuses on a
different aspect of an past event. The medial temporal lobe
(MTL), located at the base of the brain, focuses on specific
facts about the event. The frontal parietal network (FPN),
located at the top of the brain, is more likely to process the
global gist of the event.

The specific brain area accessed when one tries to remember
something can ultimately determine whether or not we think the
memory is true or false, the researchers found.

"Human memory is not like computer memory -- it isn't completely
right all the time," said Cabeza, senior author of a paper
appearing in the Journal of Neuroscience. "There are many
occasions when people feel strongly about past events, even
though they might not have occurred."

Cabeza wanted to understand why someone could have such strong
feelings of confidence about false memories. In his experiments,
he scanned the brains of healthy volunteers with functional MRI
as they took well-established tests of memory and false memory.
Functional MRI is an imaging technique that shows what areas of
the brain are used during specific mental tasks.

During the brain scans, Cabeza found that volunteers who were
highly confident in memories that were indeed true showed
increased activity in the fact-oriented MTL region.

"This would make sense, because the MTL, with its wealth of
specific details, would make the memory seem more vivid," Cabeza
said. "For example, thinking about your breakfast this morning,
you remember what you had, the taste of the food, the people you
were with. The added richness of these details makes one more
confident about the memory's truth."

On the other hand, volunteers who showed high confidence in
memories that turned out to be false exhibited increased
activity in the impressionistic FPN. The people drawing from
this area of the brain recalled the gist or general idea of the
event, and while they felt confident about their memories, they
were often mistaken, since they could not recall the details of
the memory.

These findings, coupled with the findings of other studies, can
help explain what happens to the human brain as it ages, Cabeza

"Specific memories don't last forever, but what ends up lasting
are not specific details, but more general or global
impressions," Cabeza said. "Past studies have shown that as
normal brains age, they tend to lose the ability to recollect
specifics faster than they lose the ability recall impressions.
However, patients with Alzheimer's disease tend to lose both
types of memories equally, which may prove to be a tool for
early diagnosis."

Cabeza's colleague for this research was Hongkeun Kim at Daegu
University in South Korea. The research was supported by the
National Institutes of Health
and Daegu University.

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