Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Remembering to remember supported by two distinct brain processes

Date:
August 15, 2013
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
Remembering to remember -- whether it's appointments or taking medications -- is essential to our everyday lives. New research reveals two distinct brain mechanisms that underlie prospective memory.

New research from Washington University in St. Louis sheds light on the brain mechanisms that underlie a type of memory, known as prospective memory, revealing two distinct processes that support our ability to remember to remember.
Credit: WUSTL Photo

You plan on shopping for groceries later and you tell yourself that you have to remember to take the grocery bags with you when you leave the house. Lo and behold, you reach the check-out counter and you realize you've forgotten the bags.

Remembering to remember -- whether it's grocery bags, appointments, or taking medications -- is essential to our everyday lives. New research sheds light on two distinct brain processes that underlie this type of memory, known as prospective memory.

The research is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

To investigate how prospective memory is processed in the brain, psychological scientist Mark McDaniel of Washington University in St. Louis and colleagues had participants lie in an fMRI scanner and asked them to press one of two buttons to indicate whether a word that popped up on a screen was a member of a designated category. In addition to this ongoing activity, participants were asked to try to remember to press a third button whenever a special target popped up. The task was designed to tap into participants' prospective memory, or their ability to remember to take certain actions in response to specific future events.

When McDaniel and colleagues analyzed the fMRI data, they observed that two distinct brain activation patterns emerged when participants made the correct button press for a special target.

When the special target was not relevant to the ongoing activity -- such as a syllable like "tor" -- participants seemed to rely on top-down brain processes supported by the prefrontal cortex. In order to answer correctly when the special syllable flashed up on the screen, the participants had to sustain their attention and monitor for the special syllable throughout the entire task. In the grocery bag scenario, this would be like remembering to bring the grocery bags by constantly reminding yourself that you can't forget them.

When the special target was integral to the ongoing activity -- such as a whole word, like "table" -- participants recruited a different set of brain regions, and they didn't show sustained activation in these regions. The findings suggest that remembering what to do when the special target was a whole word didn't require the same type of top-down monitoring. Instead, the target word seemed to act as an environmental cue that prompted participants to make the appropriate response -- like reminding yourself to bring the grocery bags by leaving them near the front door.

"These findings suggest that people could make use of several different strategies to accomplish prospective memory tasks," says McDaniel.

McDaniel and colleagues are continuing their research on prospective memory, examining how this phenomenon might change with age.

Co-authors on this research include Pamela LaMontagne, Michael Scullin, Todd Braver of Washington University in St. Louis; and Stefanie Beck of Technische Universitδt Dresden.

This research was funded by the National Institute on Aging, the Washington University Institute of Clinical and Translation Sciences, the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, and the German Science Foundation.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. M. A. McDaniel, P. LaMontagne, S. M. Beck, M. K. Scullin, T. S. Braver. Dissociable Neural Routes to Successful Prospective Memory. Psychological Science, 2013; DOI: 10.1177/0956797613481233

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Remembering to remember supported by two distinct brain processes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 August 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130815113652.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2013, August 15). Remembering to remember supported by two distinct brain processes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130815113652.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Remembering to remember supported by two distinct brain processes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130815113652.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) — A new study says the season you're born in can determine your temperament — and one season has a surprising outcome. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Court Ruling Means Kids' Online Activity Could Be On Parents

Court Ruling Means Kids' Online Activity Could Be On Parents

Newsy (Oct. 17, 2014) — In a ruling attorneys for both sides agreed was a first of its kind, a Georgia appeals court said parents can be held liable for what kids put online. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Foods To Boost Your Mood

The Best Foods To Boost Your Mood

Buzz60 (Oct. 17, 2014) — Feeling down? Reach for the refrigerator, not the medicine cabinet! TC Newman (@PurpleTCNewman) shares some of the best foods to boost your mood. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
You Can Get Addicted To Google Glass, Apparently

You Can Get Addicted To Google Glass, Apparently

Newsy (Oct. 15, 2014) — Researchers claim they’ve diagnosed the first example of the disorder in a 31-year-old U.S. Navy serviceman. 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