Navigation Links
Some short-term memories die suddenly, no fading

The human brain stores some kinds of memories for a lifetime. But when our eyes are open and looking at things, our gray matter also creates temporary memories that help us process complex tasks during the few seconds these visual memories exist. For decades, scientists have held that such short-term memories don't suddenly disappear, but grow gradually more imprecise over the course of several seconds.

Now researchers at the University of California, Davis, have found just the opposite. Their subjects retained temporary memories of an object's color or shape for at least four seconds. After that, the memories began to wink out like streetlights at daybreak, remaining quite accurate until they suddenly disappeared.

To test the accuracy of short-term visual memory, Weiwei Zhang, a postdoctoral scholar, and Steve Luck, a professor of psychology, both at the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain, devised a pair of tests, both of which could separately measure two things: the accuracy of a short-term memory and the probability that the memory still existed. Each test was given to 12 adults.

In the first test, three squares each with a different color fill flashed for a tenth of a second on a computer screen. After an interval of one, four or 10 seconds a wheel showing the entire spectrum of colors appeared on the screen. The three squares also reappeared, only now they were colorless and one of them was highlighted. Subjects were asked to recall the color of the highlighted square and click on the area of the wheel that most closely matched it. Each subject repeated this test 150 times for each of the three memory retention intervals.

When subjects retained a memory of the color, they clicked very close to it on the wheel the distance between the click and the actual color indicating the accuracy of the memory. When color had disappeared from memory, however, subjects clicked at random on the wheel.

The second test was similar to the first, but used shapes instead of colors.

Published in the April issue of the journal Psychological Science, the study found that subjects "either had the memory or didn't have the memory," Luck said, "and the probability of having it decreased between four and ten seconds. The memories did not gradually fade away."

The finding provides insight into the underlying mechanisms behind memory formation and retention. "The memories are not like flashlights that get progressively weaker as the battery runs low," Luck said. "They are more like a laptop computer that continues working at the same speed until it suddenly shuts down." This could be important in everyday life, he explained, because it would provide a mechanism to help us avoid the confusion that might arise if we tried to make decisions on the basis of weak, inaccurate memories.

Zhang and Luck are currently incorporating these findings into a study of short-term memory dysfunction in people with schizophrenia.


Contact: Liese Greensfelder
University of California - Davis

Related biology news :

1. Living fossils have long- and short-term memory
2. Memory molecule stores memories in neocortex
3. Tracking feline memories on the move
4. Genetic tags reveal secrets of memories staying power in mice
5. CSHL scientists identify a mechanism that helps fruit flies lock-in memories
6. Scientists find elephant memories may hold key to survival
7. Erasing drug-associated memories may stop drug addiction relapses
8. Emotion and scent create lasting memories -- even in a sleeping brain
9. SUNY Downstate researchers find that memory storage molecule preserves complex memories
10. Mollusks taste memories to build shells
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Some short-term memories die suddenly, no fading
(Date:11/9/2015)... 2015 ... "Global Law Enforcement Biometrics Market 2015-2019" ... ) has announced the addition ... Market 2015-2019" report to their offering. ... ) has announced the addition of ...
(Date:11/4/2015)... --> --> ... Transparency Market Research "Home Security Solutions Market - Global Industry ... 2022", the global home security solutions market is expected to reach ... market is estimated to expand at a CAGR of ... Rising security needs among customers at homes, the emergence ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... 29, 2015   MedNet Solutions , an innovative ... of clinical research, is pleased to announce that it ... (MHTA) as one of only three finalists for a ... Small and Growing" category. The Tekne Awards honor ... superior technology innovation and leadership. iMedNet™ ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... , November 25, 2015 2 ... première fois les différences entre les souches bactériennes ... celles des êtres humains . Ces recherches ... et envisager la prise en charge efficace de ... diagnostiqués chez les chats .    --> ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... ... November 25, 2015 , ... A long-standing partnership between the ... has been formalized with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding. , AMA ... Capt. Karl Minter and Capt. Albert Glenn Tuesday, November 24, 2015, at AMA ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... , ... November 24, 2015 , ... The United States ... of the 2016 USGA Green Section Award. Presented annually since 1961, the USGA Green ... or her work with turfgrass. , Clarke, of Iselin, N.J., is an ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... 2015 , ... International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE) closed ... events for pharmaceutical manufacturing: 2015 Annual Meeting. The conference took place in Philadelphia, ... number of attendees in more than a decade. , “The 2015 Annual ...
Breaking Biology Technology: