Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists Debate The Neurobiological Underpinnings Of Amnesia

Date:
October 4, 2006
Source:
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Summary:
A first kiss, an exotic vacation, a sports team championship, a child's first words: All are memorable events. But when someone has amnesia, have the memories been completely purged from the brain or are they simply irretrievable? In a collection of articles published today by the journal Learning & Memory, leaders in the field of memory studies have thoughtfully reconsidered the enigma of amnesia.

A first kiss, an exotic vacation, a sports team championship, a child's first words: all are memorable events. But when someone has amnesia, have the memories been completely purged from the brain or are they simply irretrievable? Is amnesia a defect in memory storage, or memory recovery?

This has been a vexed question for more than 30 years. Most psychologists tended to support the retrieval-deficit explanation, while neuroscientists interested in how memories work at a molecular and cellular level backed the idea of storage-failure.

This disconnect has limited both scientific and clinically relevant advances. But in a collection of articles published today by the journal Learning & Memory, leaders in the field of memory studies have thoughtfully reconsidered the enigma of amnesia, as well as the methodological and conceptual problems in its study. They point out how studies of amnesia have been important in forming our current understanding of how memory works, and they propose novel ways of experimentally evaluating the neurobiological basis of memory impairment. The resulting section, entitled "The Neurobiology of Amnesia," includes eight articles, all of which are available online today at http://www.learnmem.org.

"Questions about the nature of amnesia are ultimately biological questions," explains Dr. Larry Squire, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, and one of the contributors to the special section. "But some of the best-known and most-often-cited evidence is founded on a behavioral-psychological level of analysis. What we really need to be asking is: 'In amnesia, what actually happens to the synaptic changes that carry the memory?'"

"There is evidence that bears on that question," says Dr. Squire. In an experimental setting, animals can "recover" from amnesia under a variety of conditions, something that should be impossible if the memory was not initially stored. But the major challenge is to experimentally assess whether an animal has truly recovered a memory or simply re-learned a task.

Because amnesia is rarely complete and there is often some residual performance ability, it can be argued by supporters of the storage-failure theory that any "recovery" from amnesia reflects new learning added onto the residual memory. The retrieval-failure theory cannot easily be attacked because one can argue that a memory remains inaccessible until the appropriate retrieval cues are provided.

Dr. Karim Nader, Professor of Psychology at McGill University (Canada), is the guest editor of the Learning & Memory special amnesia section. "This compilation of articles brings many of the perspectives concerning the nature of amnesia side-by-side for consideration," he says. "We hope that it will inspire readers to think of new ways to bridge the different positions and levels of analyses, and that it will give new momentum to the search for answers to the fundamental nature of amnesia."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. "Scientists Debate The Neurobiological Underpinnings Of Amnesia." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 October 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061003191239.htm>.
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. (2006, October 4). Scientists Debate The Neurobiological Underpinnings Of Amnesia. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061003191239.htm
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. "Scientists Debate The Neurobiological Underpinnings Of Amnesia." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061003191239.htm (accessed September 16, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

AP (Sep. 15, 2014) The FDA is considering whether to ban devices used by the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts, the only place in the country known to use electrical skin shocks as aversive conditioning for aggressive patients. (Sept. 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Newsy (Sep. 13, 2014) A U.K. survey found that journalists consumed the most amount of coffee, but that's only the tip of the coffee-related statistics iceberg. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) In a small study, researchers found that the majority of long-time smokers quit after taking psilocybin pills and undergoing therapy sessions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Fat Shaming' Might Actually Cause Weight Gain

'Fat Shaming' Might Actually Cause Weight Gain

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) A study for University College London suggests obese people who are discriminated against gain more weight than those who are not. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

      Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins