Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Sense And Sensibility In Short-term Memory: Auditory And Visual Memory Use Similar Neural Mechanisms

Date:
February 28, 2007
Source:
Brandeis University
Summary:
More than three centuries ago, Sir Isaac Newton reflected on the similarities between the sense of hearing and the sense of sight. Newton's speculations were impossible to test scientifically, until now. A novel Brandeis University study confirms the Newtonian idea that sight and sound are indeed parallel -- at least when it comes to encoding and retrieving short-term memories from the two senses.

More than three centuries ago, Sir Isaac Newton reflected on the similarities between the sense of hearing and the sense of sight. Newton's speculations were impossible to test scientifically, until now. A novel Brandeis University study confirms the Newtonian idea that sight and sound are indeed parallel--at least when it comes to encoding and retrieving short-term memories from the two senses.

Published in this week's issue of the open-access journal Public Library of Science Biology (PLoS), the study was inspired by Newton's 1706 book, Opticks, and set out to investigate whether sight and hearing behave similarly in encoding short-term memories.

"Obviously, sound and light are physically different, processed by different receptors--eyes and ears--and furthermore, processed in different neural streams within the brain," explained coauthor Robert Sekuler, a neuroscientist at the Volen National Center for Complex Systems at Brandeis University, and an expert on the neural and cognitive terrain associated with vision. "Previous studies that tried to compare auditory and visual memory did little or nothing to put the stimuli that would be remembered on equal footing--comparing 'apples to apples' between the two senses."

"But in this study we used insights from neuroscience to identify test materials in vision and hearing that the human brain would process and treat in similar ways, and then we used these well-matched stimuli to examine memory for studied lists of either auditory or visual items," said Sekuler.

The study used computer-generated visual images and sounds to test auditory and visual memory mechanisms. Both the sounds and the visual materials were intentionally unfamiliar to test subjects, who also found it difficult to name the test items. The results were based on behavioral measures and a computational model for memory.

"Memories are not exact representations of the past," said coauthor Kristina Visscher, a post-doctoral fellow at Brandeis. "This study shows that our representations of sight and sound get contorted on the way to being remembered, and they get contorted in the same ways." The errors we make in memory for sounds are the same types of errors we make in memory for sight.

The first of its kind, the study opens the door to the tantalizing possibility that, according to Visscher, "the brain, in this case at least, is relatively uninventive: it may use fairly similar methods to generate light-based and sound-based memories." So three centuries after Newton published his inspired speculation, there is evidence that his intuition was close to the mark.

For a demonstration of the sounds used, see http://people.brandeis.edu/~sekuler/rippleSoundFiles/movingRippleSounds.html

For a demonstration (using visual stimuli) of the memory task used, see http://people.brandeis.edu/~sekuler/MemoryDemo/


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

Brandeis University. "Sense And Sensibility In Short-term Memory: Auditory And Visual Memory Use Similar Neural Mechanisms." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 February 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070220005031.htm>.
Brandeis University. (2007, February 28). Sense And Sensibility In Short-term Memory: Auditory And Visual Memory Use Similar Neural Mechanisms. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070220005031.htm
Brandeis University. "Sense And Sensibility In Short-term Memory: Auditory And Visual Memory Use Similar Neural Mechanisms." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070220005031.htm (accessed April 16, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

AP (Apr. 16, 2014) Pushing the limits on style and self-expression is a rite of passage for teens and even younger kids. How far should schools go with their dress codes? The courts have sided with schools in an era when school safety is paramount. (April 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cognitive Function: Is It All Downhill From Age 24?

Cognitive Function: Is It All Downhill From Age 24?

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) A new study out of Canada says cognitive motor performance begins deteriorating around age 24. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
App Fights Jet Lag With The Power Of Math

App Fights Jet Lag With The Power Of Math

Newsy (Apr. 13, 2014) Researchers at the University of Michigan have designed an app to fight jet lag by adjusting your body's light intake. 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