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Conscious And Unconscious Memory Linked In Storing New Information

Date:
April 4, 2006
Source:
Yale University
Summary:
The way the brain stores new, conscious information such as a first kiss or a childhood home is strongly linked to the way the human brain stores unconscious information.

Subjects were shown several pictures of scenes (upper left) and asked whether they occurred indoors or outdoors. Using fMRI, activity was monitored in the parahippocampal cortex (top right), while performing the task. Scenes that were later consciously remembered were associated with stronger overall activity during initial exposure, an index of better conscious memory. There was a larger difference between novel and repeated conditions, a neural signature of non-conscious memory.
Credit: Neuron

The way the brain stores new, conscious information such as a first kiss or a childhood home is strongly linked to the way the human brain stores unconscious information, researchers at Yale report this month in an article featured on the cover of Neuron.

This finding by Marvin Chun, professor in the Department of Psychology, and his team contrasts with the belief that all explicit (conscious) memory, and implicit (unconscious) memory, has distinct neural bases. The belief that the two types of memory are distinct has been illustrated by examples, including amnesiac patients with damage to the hippocampus and associated brain structures who have severely impaired explicit memory but intact implicit memory.

Instead of looking at how the storage of the two types of memory differs, Chun, Nicholas Turk-Browne, and Do-Yoon Yi focused on the common elements between them. Sixteen men and women viewed 120 photographs and answered which photos were taken indoors or outdoors. Each image was then shown once again. The study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to record brain activity during the test.

Fifteen minutes later the subjects were given a third recognition test, this one unexpected, which included the original 120 photos plus 60 new photos. The subjects' response was again recorded by fMRI. By coding the brain imaging data according to whether the items were subsequently remembered or forgotten, the researchers were able to examine the neural signatures of memory formation.

"Remembered photographs were characterized by strong activation of medial temporal brain regions in response to their first presentation, but reduced activation in the same regions when the photos were repeated," Chun said. This reduction known as repetition attenuation is a well-known signature of implicit memory. The brain signal is not as strong when an image is viewed, remembered, and then viewed for a second time.

"Importantly, only the explicitly remembered photographs produced this weaker signal, demonstrating for the first time that explicit and implicit memory are strongly linked during the encoding of new information in the brain," he said.

Neuron 49: 917-927 (March 2006)


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Yale University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Yale University. "Conscious And Unconscious Memory Linked In Storing New Information." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 April 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/04/060403132148.htm>.
Yale University. (2006, April 4). Conscious And Unconscious Memory Linked In Storing New Information. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/04/060403132148.htm
Yale University. "Conscious And Unconscious Memory Linked In Storing New Information." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/04/060403132148.htm (accessed April 20, 2014).

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