Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Don't I know you? How cues and context kick-start memory recall

Date:
December 12, 2009
Source:
University of Toronto
Summary:
We have all had the embarrassing experience of seeing an acquaintance in an unfamiliar setting. We know we know them but can't recall who they are. But with the correct cues from conversation or context, something seems to click and we can readily access very rich and vivid memories about the individual. Researchers have shed some light on this mysterious process, discovering that the hippocampus, a brain region in the temporal lobe, is only involved when cues enable us to recall these rich memories.

We have all had the embarrassing experience of seeing an acquaintance in an unfamiliar setting. We know we know them but can't recall who they are. But with the correct cues from conversation or context, something seems to click and we can readily access very rich and vivid memories about the individual.

A team of researchers from the University of Toronto and the Krembil Neuroscience Centre at the University Health Network have shed some light on this mysterious process, discovering that the hippocampus, a brain region in the temporal lobe, is only involved when cues enable us to recall these rich memories.

"We used a technique called functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) that allows us to identify brain regions engaged during specific types of mental processes," says Melanie Cohn, a postdoctoral fellow in neuropsychology and lead author of the paper published online December 8 by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In the first stage of the study, healthy young adults were exposed to pairings of oddly unrelated words, such as "alligator" and "chair," and invited to learn them by putting them in the same sentence and so on. Next, while being scanned in the fMRI, participants were shown a series of single words -- some of which had been studied in the word pairings and some of which had not. Participants were asked to rate their memory for each word in terms of how confident they were that it was a word that they had studied earlier or not.

After each decision, participants were given a cue: the word was presented along with the word it was initially paired with. For about half of the familiar words, ie those that subjects recalled learning earlier, the pairing triggered rich detailed memories of the context -- such as the sentence they had made up to include both words -- in which the original pairing was learned. The fMRI scan showed hippocampus activity only when cues were used to retrieve memories.

"This study is important because it resolves a current debate on the role of the hippocampus in retrieving memories. Some have argued it is the strength of the memory that matters most in retrieval. We have shown it is actually context that activates the hippocampus," explains Cohn. The findings also have direct relevance to understanding the type of memory problems found in Epilepsy or Alzheimer's, diseases in which patients have suffered damage to the hippocampus "Being able to characterize specific types of memory loss will lead to development of better clinical measures for diagnosis and monitoring of temporal-lobe dysfunction," she says

Other research team members from the University of Toronto's Department of Psychology are Mary Pat McAndrews, who also holds an appointment with the Krembil Neuroscience Centre, Ayelet Lahat and Morris Moscovitch. Programming and data analysis were done by Marilyne Ziegler, Sybille Schulz, Megan Walberg and Deborah Shwartz, all members of the University of Toronto's Department of Psychology. Research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

University of Toronto. "Don't I know you? How cues and context kick-start memory recall." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 December 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091207151333.htm>.
University of Toronto. (2009, December 12). Don't I know you? How cues and context kick-start memory recall. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091207151333.htm
University of Toronto. "Don't I know you? How cues and context kick-start memory recall." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091207151333.htm (accessed August 29, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Friday, August 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Treadmill 'trips' May Reduce Falls for Elderly

Treadmill 'trips' May Reduce Falls for Elderly

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) Scientists are tripping the elderly on purpose in a Chicago lab in an effort to better prevent seniors from falling and injuring themselves in real life. (Aug.28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) It’s an unusual condition with a colorful name. Kids with “Alice in Wonderland” syndrome see sudden distortions in objects they’re looking at or their own bodies appear to change size, a lot like the main character in the Lewis Carroll story. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stopping Schizophrenia Before Birth

Stopping Schizophrenia Before Birth

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Scientists have long called choline a “brain booster” essential for human development. Not only does it aid in memory and learning, researchers now believe choline could help prevent mental illness. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Personalized Brain Vaccine for Glioblastoma

Personalized Brain Vaccine for Glioblastoma

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Glioblastoma is the most common and aggressive brain cancer in humans. Now a new treatment using the patient’s own tumor could help slow down its progression and help patients live longer. Video provided by Ivanhoe
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