Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Similarity breeds proximity in memory

Date:
March 5, 2014
Source:
New York University
Summary:
Researchers have identified the nature of brain activity that allows us to bridge time in our memories. Their findings offer new insights into the temporal nature of how we store our recollections and may offer a pathway for addressing memory-related afflictions.

Researchers at New York University have identified the nature of brain activity that allows us to bridge time in our memories. Their findings, which appear in the latest issue of the journal Neuron, offer new insights into the temporal nature of how we store our recollections and may offer a pathway for addressing memory-related afflictions.

"Our memories are known to be 'altered' versions of reality, and how time is altered has not been well understood," said Lila Davachi, an associate professor in NYU's Department of Psychology and Center for Neural Science and the study's senior author. "These findings pinpoint the brain activity that explains why remember some events as having occurred closer together in time and others further apart."

While our actual experiences are quite fluid and not neatly organized, our memories of them are discrete -- like "beads on a string," Davachi explains. However, our recollections of the temporal distance among these events varies -- in our memories, sometimes the beads are placed close together in time and sometimes they are spaced further apart.

The neurological process that explains why we place some memories closer together in time than we do others is not clear.

"Temporal information is a key organizing principle of memory, so it's important to understand where this organization comes from," Davachi said.

Understanding this process may lead to ways to address maladies of memory organization, such as schizophrenia, in which the ability to place recollections in temporal order is impaired.

Davachi and her co-author, Youssef Ezzyat, an NYU doctoral student, sought to shed light on this dynamic by studying the brain's hippocampus -- a region known to play a significant role in memory.

In this experiment, the researchers had participants look at a series of pictures while monitoring brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The participants viewed objects and faces that were separated in time; each stimulus was also paired with a picture of a scene. For every presentation, the participants were asked to imagine a scenario in which either the object or the face played a role in the scene they just viewed -- the process was designed to create, or encode, a series of memories in the participants.

Later, after scanning, the participants performed a retrieval test in which they were presented with two stimuli (i.e., object and face) from the preceding phase and asked to indicate how far apart in time the two items were when they were encoded. Participants were given the following four response options: very close, close, far, and very far.

Their results showed a relationship between hippocampal activity and how close or far in time the participants placed their memories. When hippocampal activity was more stable across time, memories were remembered as having occurred closer together. By contrast, when hippocampal stability was diminished, participants were more likely to recall the memories as having occurred further apart in time.

"Clearly, the hippocampus is vital in determining how we recall the temporal distances between the many memories we hold, and similarity in the brain across time results in greater temporal proximity of those memories," Davachi said.

The research was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (RO1-MH074692), part of the National Institutes of Health.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Youssef Ezzyat, Lila Davachi. Similarity Breeds Proximity: Pattern Similarity within and across Contexts Is Related to Later Mnemonic Judgments of Temporal Proximity. Neuron, 2014; 81 (5): 1179 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2014.01.042

Cite This Page:

New York University. "Similarity breeds proximity in memory." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 March 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140305124859.htm>.
New York University. (2014, March 5). Similarity breeds proximity in memory. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140305124859.htm
New York University. "Similarity breeds proximity in memory." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140305124859.htm (accessed August 1, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Friday, August 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits

Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits

Newsy (July 30, 2014) Researchers say women who diet at a young age are at greater risk of developing harmful health habits, including eating disorders and alcohol abuse. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

Newsy (July 29, 2014) If you've been looking for love online, there's a chance somebody has been looking at how you're looking. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

Newsy (July 29, 2014) Researchers have found certain facial features can make us seem more attractive or trustworthy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. 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