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Penn researchers pinpoint the brain waves that distinguish false memories from real ones
Date:10/23/2007

PHILADELPHIA - For the first time, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania are able to pinpoint brain waves that distinguish true from false memories, providing a better understanding of how memory works and creating a new strategy to help epilepsy patients retain cognitive function.

The study, the first to show that brain waves predict the veracity of human memories, is available online in the journal Psychological Science and in the November 2007 print edition.

To test whether distinct patterns of electrophysiological activity prior to a response can distinguish true from false memories, psychologists at Penn recorded brain activity from 52 neurosurgical patients being treated for drug-resistant epilepsy. Patients were asked to perform a verbal free-recall task while researchers used an array of implanted electrodes and intracranial electroencephalographic recordings to locate where in their brains the patients seizures originated. Patients volunteered to study lists of words which they were then asked to recall at a later time. When asked to recall the studied words, participants recalled some number of correct items and also made a small number of errors, recalling words that had not appeared on the target list.

While patients performed the memory game, scientists observed electrical activity in their brains to determine whether specific brain waves were associated with successfully storing and retrieving memories. Researchers found that a fast brain wave, known as the gamma rhythm, increased when participants studied a word that they would later recall. The same gamma waves, whose voltage rises and fall between 50 and 100 times per second, also increased in the half-second prior to participants correctly recalling an item.

These analyses revealed that the same pattern of gamma band oscillatory activity in the hippocampus, prefrontal cortex and left temporal lobe that predicts successful memory formation also re-emerged
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Contact: Jordan Reese
jreese@upenn.edu
215-573-6604
University of Pennsylvania
Source:Eurekalert

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