Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

You Can Believe Your Eyes: New Insights Into Memory Without Conscious Awareness

Date:
September 10, 2009
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
Scientists may have discovered a way to glean information about stored memories by tracking patterns of eye movements, even when an individual is unable (or perhaps even unwilling) to report what they remember. The research provides compelling insight into the relationship between activity in the hippocampus, eye movements, and both conscious and unconscious memory.

New findings may shed light on the role of the hippocampus in memory and awareness, as they suggest that even when people fail to recollect a past event, the hippocampus might still support an expression of memory through eye movements.
Credit: iStockphoto

Scientists may have discovered a way to glean information about stored memories by tracking patterns of eye movements, even when an individual is unable (or perhaps even unwilling) to report what they remember. The research, published by Cell Press in the September 10th issue of the journal Neuron, provides compelling insight into the relationship between activity in the hippocampus, eye movements, and both conscious and unconscious memory.

Related Articles


The hippocampus is a brain region that is critical for conscious recollection of past events but the precise role of this area in memory remains controversial. According to one theory, even if explicit retrieval fails, the hippocampus might still support expressions of relational memory (e.g., memory for the co-occurrence of items in the context of some scene or event) when sensitive, indirect testing methods are used.

To test this theory, Drs. Deborah Hannula and Charan Ranganath, both from the Center for Neuroscience at the University of California, Davis, used functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine participants' brain activity while they attempted to remember previously studied face-scene pairings. During scanning, participants were shown a previously studied scene along with three previously studied faces and were asked to identify the face that had been paired with that scene earlier. Eye movements were also monitored during the task and provided an indirect measure of memory.

During each test trial, participants frequently spent more time viewing the face that had been previously paired with the scene—an eye-movement-based memory effect. What is more surprising is that hippocampal activity was closely tied to participants' tendency to view the associated face, even when they failed to identify it. Activity in the prefrontal cortex, an area required for decision making, was sensitive to whether or not participants had responded correctly and communication between the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus was increased during correct, but not incorrect, trials.

The findings may shed light on the role of the hippocampus in memory and awareness, as they suggest that even when people fail to recollect a past event, the hippocampus might still support an expression of memory through eye movements. Furthermore, the results suggest that even when the hippocampus is doing its job, conscious memory may depend on interactions between the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex.

One implication of the results is that eye movements might be used to indirectly assess memory and hippocampal function in cognitively impaired patients, children, or others who might have difficulty with conventional memory tests. More intriguing is the possibility that these measures might also track memory in uncooperative individuals. "It is conceivable that eye-tracking could be used to obtain information about past events from participants who are unaware or attempting to withhold information," offers Dr. Hannula. "In other words, there may be circumstances in which eye movements provide a more robust account of past events or experiences than behavioral reports alone."

The researchers include Deborah E. Hannula and Charan Ranganath, of the University of California, Davis, Davis, CA.


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "You Can Believe Your Eyes: New Insights Into Memory Without Conscious Awareness." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 September 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090909122056.htm>.
Cell Press. (2009, September 10). You Can Believe Your Eyes: New Insights Into Memory Without Conscious Awareness. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 28, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090909122056.htm
Cell Press. "You Can Believe Your Eyes: New Insights Into Memory Without Conscious Awareness." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090909122056.htm (accessed February 28, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Best Foods to Battle Stress

The Best Foods to Battle Stress

Buzz60 (Feb. 26, 2015) If you&apos;re dealing with anxiety, there are a few foods that can help. Krystin Goodwin (@krystingoodwin) has the best foods to tame stress. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sleeping Too Much Or Too Little Might Increase Stroke Risk

Sleeping Too Much Or Too Little Might Increase Stroke Risk

Newsy (Feb. 26, 2015) People who sleep more than eight hours per night are 45 percent more likely to have a stroke, according to a University of Cambridge study. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mayor Says District of Columbia to Go Ahead With Pot Legalization

Mayor Says District of Columbia to Go Ahead With Pot Legalization

Reuters - News Video Online (Feb. 25, 2015) Washington&apos;s mayor says the District of Columbia will move forward with marijuana legalization, despite pushback from Congress. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Marijuana Nowhere Near As Deadly As Alcohol: Study

Marijuana Nowhere Near As Deadly As Alcohol: Study

Newsy (Feb. 25, 2015) A new study says marijuana is about 114 times less deadly than alcohol. 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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

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