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Posts Tagged ‘Episodic Memory’

Can Animals Time Travel?

May 16th, 2022 No comments

Have you ever looked into your pet’s eyes and wondered what is going on inside their head? If they really love you? If they can recall your past adventures together? You’re not alone! One of the biggest questions about nonhuman animals’ minds is whether they can have complex thoughts like humans do. Unfortunately, we are not able to simply ask them yet. 

https://www.tiktok.com/@malindahlewesterlund/video/6914708330065743109?is_from_webapp=1&sender_device=pc&web_id=7091487439693710890
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Remember that wild dream you had? Here’s why.

April 27th, 2022 No comments

Do you ever wake up and think, “oh my gosh, I just had the most bizarre dream”? Do you ever try to remember your dream and it just will not come to you? Or, do you think about the dream and start to tell someone what happened and suddenly it makes no sense? Me too. Our dreams piece together so many parts of our memory that we cannot even recognize how unusual they are until we say them out loud. Sometimes we know we had an eventful dream, but we just can’t remember it no matter how hard we try. Do not worry though, you are not alone. Everyone goes through these experiences with dreams and it is normal when you consider all the facts about how dreams relate to our memory.

Our memories drive the creation of dreams as we actively retrieve stored information throughout the night while we sleep. What we remember from our dreams tells us a lot about what we pay attention to and what we care about. Information from the environment is what we call distal stimulus or sensory input, which is anything that activates our senses and helps us recognize what that thing is. For example, the computer you are reading this on may be a distal stimulus, because you can feel the keys and hear the sounds it makes. This type of input helps us create images in our heads that we dream about later on. So many aspects of memory like these play into our dreams. We learn things, store the information, retrieve it in our sleep, and then sometimes we retrieve it all again once we wake up, which refers to those times when we do remember our dreams. Even though our dreams may seem like a different dimension of ideas completely separate from the waking mind, it really is all based on the same ideas. If you are as baffled by these phenomena as me, then you should read along to find out why. 

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It’s All Semantics. Literally.

April 27th, 2022 No comments

Some time ago, I realized a fundamental truth: that memory was weird. Now, I see that what middle-school-me thought was “weird” is more complicated than I ever could’ve imagined.

It was back in 2017 when I first learned that memory was a bit like a slot machine: you never knew what you’d end up with—or rather, you never knew what you’d be left with, after having had multiple strokes. I remember my trip to that rehabilitation facility in Maryland briefly, but the important parts are clear: I was with my parents and my brother. We had come to visit my uncle, who’d undergone two major strokes and countless minor ones. The big ones had been less than a year apart. The first stroke had left him weak yet intact, but the second one had taken things from him. The second stroke had taken his mobility, his memory, and his speech fluency. Years and years ago, I remember this uncle of mine before he had become hindered by his health and subsequent cognitive impairments. I don’t have many memories of my uncle, but one thing I remember being in complete awe of was that he was the only person in the world I knew who could make a seven-letter-word in Scrabble. But now, he could barely say seven words, and my uncle, this fragile man in a wheelchair, was nearly unrecognizable.

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Can Simple Cognitive Tests be Key to the Fight to End Alzheimer’s Disease?

April 24th, 2022 No comments

1 in every 9 older adults (65 years and older) is currently living with Alzheimer’s disease, a type of dementia that affects memory, thinking, and behavior. But the numbers do not tell the whole story. The losses faced by these patients cannot be boxed into statistical data. Patients start to forget their memories, their loved ones… who they are! As explained by Gerda Saunders, a writer with dementia,  she began to feel like a stranger to herself. There are many forms of dementia, but Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause, and still, there are no available treatments that stop or slow the progression of the disease: the medications just treat the symptoms. But these treatments are based on early diagnosis of the disease, and the visible signs of Alzheimer’s usually appear years after the disease started developing. So early diagnosis can be really hard. Alzheimer’s disease can stay hidden for years! When we perceive the changes, it is usually too late. But that is not necessarily a cause for despair. Simple cognitive tests can be the key to an early and accessible diagnosis!

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Where Have All The Memories Gone?

November 21st, 2020 No comments

I was inspired to write this blog post by something I saw in one of my favorite TV shows, Full House. DJ Tanner was asked if she remembered someone. She’s currently 10 and was 5 years old when she last saw the person. When she said no, her dad said “Don’t worry about it DJ. You were only 5 years old.” Her younger sister then said “I’m 5! Does that mean I won’t remember any of this?” As I watched that scene in the TV show, I realized how common this situation is. Imagine this scenario. You’re at your annual family reunion looking for where the food is being served and a woman you swear you have never seen before walks up to you. She gives you a big hug and tells you she’s missed you so much. “I remember when you were just learning how to walk!” She says. “You’re so big now! Do you remember me?” You smile and nod as she gives you another hug even though you have no idea who this is. Maybe you’ve experienced this or maybe you’ve experienced something similar in a different way. When I was five years old, my father abandoned my family and me. 15 years later, I struggle to remember my memories with him or even how he looked. What happens to those memories of the random woman at the family reunion? And what happened to those memories of people we lost at a young age?

Mary Ainsworth’s Attachment Theory

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Why A Single Incident Can “Make Your Day” – The Peak-End Rule

April 26th, 2018 1 comment

You Just Made My Day!

Following an exceptionally pleasant incident, people often use the expression “That just made my day!”. Of course, one single joyful moment cannot really change the nature of a day, but we use that expression because that moment does make us feel better, and will likely resonate with us until the end of day. Similar experience also applies to incidents that upsets us. For example, when we go to a restaurant, if a full bowl of hot soup gets flipped accidentally and spilled all over us at the end of that meal, even if the food and the service are good, it is likely that we would consider restaurant a terrible place and would never visit there again. The way we judge a situation or experience depends highly on moments that are associated with the most intense feelings, as well as what we get from the situation at the end. In psychology, such effect is called the Peak-End Rule, according to which the two points of peak (i.e. intense experience) and end (i.e. conclusion we have), instead of the sum or the average of our experience, serve as indicators which people use to judge their experience. Read more…

All’s Well That Ends Well – At Least That’s What Your Mind Thinks

April 25th, 2018 1 comment

Imagine you are in line at the DMV. Would you rather wait in a long line that moves relatively quickly, or a slower moving line that overall takes less time? Most people would probably choose the shorter line, right? What about if you had a choice between holding your hand in painfully cold water for 60 seconds or 90 seconds? Again, most would assume that no one in their right mind would voluntarily subject themselves to pain for any longer than necessary. Even if I told you that in the 90-second option the water warmed up 1 degree in the last 30 seconds, the 60-second choice clearly seems more bearable, right?

Net satisfaction and duration have little to no effect on evaluations of past experiences. Instead, it’s what happens at the peak and the end that matters.

These “would you rather” questions may not seem that fun, due to their obvious nature. Of course, everyone would choose the shorter option in both of these unpleasant scenarios, right? However, if it were up to the Peak-End Rule, you may actually choose the longer of the two options in both of these cases!

The Peak-End Rule is a mental shortcut people unconsciously utilize when making retrospective evaluations of any experience that had a clear beginning and end. Instead of evaluating an experience based on overall satisfaction or duration, we tend to judge a past experience based on the average of how we felt at the most intense moment (the peak) and at the conclusion (the end). These retrospective evaluations guide our behavior by influencing our future decisions. We use how we felt in the past to tell us how to act in the future.  Read more…

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Can Sleepiness Affect Your Eyewitness Memory?

November 23rd, 2015 No comments

It’s a given that as college students, we all feel tired from time to time. Well, maybe more than from time to time. Walking across campus, have you ever heard people saying things like “I got two hours of sleep last night,” “I slept terribly last night,” “I’m going to pass out right now,” or something along those lines? I’m sure you have at some point. sleepiness 1

We have all heard that it’s important to get our sleep. This is partly because there has been a lot of research showing that our episodic memory, or memory for specific details and events, is better after a period of sleep. For example, if you were to go out on the town and attend a show, your memory for the details and events of that show would be better the next day if you got eight hours of sleep, as opposed to staying out in the city all night. One reason for this phenomenon is that a function of sleep is consolidation (Diekelmann & Born, 2010), or the neural process by which memories are strengthened and more permanently stored. The more sleep you get, the more consolidation occurs, and the better your memories become.

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Can’t remember where you left your keys? Try getting more sleep

May 2nd, 2014 2 comments

Have you ever walked into a room and subsequently forgotten why you entered the room in the first place? Or have you ever misplaced a valuable item, say your iPhone or favorite sweatshirt, and tried to retrace your steps by visiting all of the places you think you last had it, only to come up empty-handed? If these sound like common occurrences, there is something easy you can do to help reduce the number of these painful experiences!

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Pick Up a New Hobby and See Your Memory Improve!

December 2nd, 2013 3 comments

Quilting(Treadwell, 2012)

As the older population grows in numbers, there is an increasing social urgency to find ways to maintain or even improve one’s cognitive health.  As we age, declines in memory, attentional control, speed of processing, and problem-solving abilities are expected and are considered to be typical of normal, healthy aging. Past studies have shown the links between participation in cognitive, leisure and social activities with improved cognitive ability, as well as a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.  However little evidence has been found on whether sustained lifestyle engagement can help to maintain or improve cognitive function.  This study by Park et al. (2013) sought to examine the impact of sustained engagement on the cognitive abilities of older adults. This study is called the “Synapse Project” because unlike normal cognitive training, in which participants come in for an experiment that typically last a few hours or a few days, the participants in this study agree to make a lifestyle change in that they are learning new, demanding real-world skills in a social environment. This allows us to see the true effects of the acquisition of the new skill over time on the participants’ cognitive abilities.

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