Brain scans beat chance at identifying specific memories, scientists report,,
THURSDAY, March 11 (HealthDay News) -- Mind reading may have taken a step away from the realm of science fiction, thanks to a new study in which researchers taught a computer to spot specific memories as a person was having them.
To be sure, science is a long way off from hooking people up to a device and knowing their thoughts. But the study showed that past events leave unique "memory traces" in a portion of the brain called the hippocampus, traces that can be distinguished from one another in brain scans.
The study is published in the March 11 online issue of Current Biology.
"We found that our memories are definitely represented in the hippocampus," senior study author Eleanor Maguire, a professor at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London, said in statement. "Now that we've seen where they are, we have an opportunity to understand how memories are stored and how they may change through time."
In the experiment, researchers had 10 people view three short films multiple times and asked them to memorize what they saw.
The seven-second films showed different actresses in common, relatively similar, scenarios: In one, a woman rifled through her purse to find an envelope and then dropped it in a mailbox; in another, a woman finished a cup of coffee and dropped the cup in a trash can.
That type of recollection is considered an episodic memory, or an a memory of a collection of events, as opposed to a semantic memory, such as being able to recall a fact, or an implicit memory, such as being able to tie your shoes, explained Martin Monti, a neuroscientist at the Medical Research Council's Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, England.
Afterward, participants were asked to recall either a specific film, or any one of the films, while having their brains s
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