March Blog: Amnesia (Retrograde and Anterograde)

In the summer of 1994, my papa (JD) was involved in a accident with an 18-wheeler on the High Rise Bridge (I-64) in Chesapeake, Va. He was driving his truck carrying fruit to go to the farmers market. While in the middle of the bridge he was rear ended by an 18-wheeler truck. This accident caused him to have a lot of damage to multiple parts of his brain and causing him to have seizures for the rest of his life. Growing up I had a sister, Caitlin, who was born BEFORE his accident and I was born AFTER the accident in 1995.

Amnesia is the disruption of memory due to brain damage, as our Professor stated in class. There is Retrograde is the loss of memory from before the disruption, and then Anterograde which is the inability to form new long-term memories. I was not aware that an individual could have both Retrograde and Anterograde until i discussed this with the Professor.

Papa JD was an example of someone who had both! An example of Retrograde was after his accident he thought he delivered the fruit and did not know that he was in an accident. All JD remembered was that he was driving on the High Rise Bridge in his truck going to deliver fruit. He had a loss of memory of what happened before the accident. Papa JD was also an example of Anterograde when he would look at me and call me Caitlin. Since i was born AFTER his accident and my sister Caitlin was born BEFORE, he was not fully able to make new memories that i was his new granddaughter Rebecca, the inability to form long-term memories.

Here is a picture of the High Rise Bridge in Chesapeake, Va.

The High Rise Bridge - photograph

Disney Pixar’s Inside Out and Memory

In class we have been discussing the different components of of working memory\short term memory and long term memory. Discussion how these processes work instantly made the disney fan in me think of Disney Pixar’s movie Inside Out and if how they represented the different memory processes in the movie are truly accurate to how we process memories. I decided to do a little research to see what others have found memory processing to be represented in the movie. After some ‘googling’ I actually found an article on that tries to explain and compare just that!

For those of you that think you are too old for the magic of Disney or have made some other excuse for not seeing this fantastic movie; Inside Out is about a girl named Riley who has just moved with her parents to a new home. The movie take place inside Riley’s mind where the main characters or her four main emotions (Joy, Disgust, Fear and Sadness) run the show and help to determine how Riley’s memories are formed. In the movie Sadness begins to cause mayhem so Joy travels through long term memory to try to fix things.

So how accurately does Inside Out represent memory?

Well, in the brain the part called the amygdala is know for the emotions we feel. In this movie sense the emotions run the show in a place they call Headquarters we might be able to assume this is the amygdala. When the emotions have a string reaction to one of Riley’s experiences they press a corresponding button to generate a memory of that experience in that emotion. For example, in the movie Riley tries pizza with broccoli on it and doesn’t like the broccoli so disgust presses her green button to form a memory of broccoli with the emotion of disgust. the memory then pops up as a little bubble colored with the corresponding memory (in this case a green bubble). The bobble then gets sent up a tube to join the other memories in long term memory. This process does have some accuracy to it. For memories to be transitioned into long term memory it often helps to associate an emotion with it to allow for deeper processing.

In the movie, longterm memory is made up of what would seem to be endless shelves of memories all coded with a different color to represent one of the four main emotions. In our brain long term memory isn’t necessarily stored in shelve like formation but more of scattered webs of information that link to one another; branching webs of neurons.

The movie also shows the emotions able to replay the memories from the formed memory bubbles perfectly like a recorded TV episode that wont ever change. As discussed in class, our memory recall is not perfectly accurate. According to the Forbes article “Research by American psychologist Elizabeth Loftus has shown that our minds can be manipulated via a ‘misinformation effect’ that implants false memories.” In reality we are unable to remember all the details of our memories can easily be forgotten or changed depending on the context we try to remember them. Unfortunately it is no where close to a recorded TV episode that we can rewind and replay whenever we would like.

Overall Inside out provides a good basic guideline for an understanding and a visual representation of memory and how it works. However, there are many differences in how our memory processing really works as to how it is shown in the movie.


Sill a great movie if you ask me! For more information or to read the Forbes article for yourself, click here

Cognitive Illusions

For this blog post, I decided to go with a meme about cognitive illusions, one of the topics we discussed in class. I chose this specific image because we did not talk much about this one in class, however, it was probably one of the first images I came across in psychology.

In this illusion, depending on how you look at the image, you can see either a young woman or an old lady that looks like a witch, almost. The old lady is a profile view, and the young lady is looking over her shoulder. Where the old lady’s mouth is, the young lady is wearing a choker or necklace. Where the old lady’s eye is, the young lady’s ear is.

Ironically, my sensation and perception class with Professor Mailloux also went over optical illusions and topics including figure/ground perception and rules of segregation (in perception) which are similar to topics we discussed about in cognitive. Segregation rules include: depth, surroundedness, parallelism, convexity (edges that curve outwards tend to create figures), meaningfulness, orientation, and simplicity. Another process involved in recognizing visual objects is perceptual organization. Steps for this involve represent visual edges, represent regions bound by edges, identify regions as “figure” or “ground” (aka segregation), group similar regions, and lastly fill in missing edges and regions. As an example specific to this image, the convexity of the old lady’s nose can imply that she could be the main figure of the image. However, someone seeing the convexity of the young lady’s jawline can infer that the young woman is the main figure of the image. Although these steps and rules are not specifically relevant to this type of image, and mostly applies to patterns of cognitive/optical illusions, I still found it very intriguing and decided to share.


Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Our recent discussions about the cognitive process of memory had me thinking about a certain movie I saw many years ago,  Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004). **Spoilers ahead if you have not seen it and might want to*** The film follows a man named Joel whose girlfriend of two years left him abruptly after a fight. She then completely disappears from his life. The sudden breakup greatly upsets Joel and he voices his distress to his sister and her husband. His sister then reveals to him that the woman he dated for so long had a procedure to erase all memories of Joel from her mind. Now angry that she would want to completely forget him Joel seeks out the very same procedure.

For the company to retrieve the memories to be forgotten they ask Joel to bring in to the office every item he associates with Clementine. Then they present Joel with each object and ask him to recall the memory and feelings associated with it. By this process of association, the company then maps out on an image of his brain the location of each memory. Later in the film, Joel is sedated and technicians get to work individually deleting every memory at each of those locations. During the procedure, Joel becomes consciously aware that they are deleting his memories of Clementine; both the memories filled with joy and the memories filled with pain. He attempts to wake himself up and reverse the procedure, but he does not succeed. Inside the last remaining memory, the memory where they first met, Clementine tells Joel to meet her in Montauk. The next morning, Joel wakes up from the procedure, remembering nothing about Clementine or that he had undergone the procedure in the first place. Soon, he finds himself ditching work to go to Montauk, a beach town, despite it being a cold winter day. He meets Clementine again. She states she felt the need to go there today. The pair becomes friends again, only to realize later that they had been lovers with an unhappy ending after finding their records of the procedure. Despite the fear the relationship could go the same way, they resolve to try again.

This film does an excellent job at conveying how our memory is a complicated system. For example, the chronological order of the story is fragmented and disordered to demonstrate how our storage and retrieval systems are. According to David Hartley, a phenomenological psychologist, when we perceive a stimulus we automatically associate it with memories, feelings, and related thoughts. These then gets attached to the memory, creating a retrieval path including those associations. Later these associations can help us jump from one memory to another, which is why the story line of Joel’s memories appears fragmented. They are out of order to emphasize Joe’s associations between the memories.

This idea that there are important associations between memories that guide our process of retrieval could be why it is so difficult to forget negative memories. Even in instances of repression they are never truly gone. This movie makes me curious if with modern technology could we someday create a process to erase parts of a person’s memory, while leaving other aspects untouched. It would be difficult to test out ethically, but this could be monumental for individuals suffering from PTSD for example. Traumatic memories can greatly interrupt these individual’s lives and if we could create a procedure to erase that negative memory that could be incredibly powerful.

According to a February 2015 feature on the American Psychological Association’s website, there is research being done to make it possible for people to forget traumatic memories. They have had success with mice exposed to a loud noise. These mice had surgically installed plexiglass into their brains so the researchers can observer fluorescent neurotransmitters in action. They gave the mice a drug that blocks the proteins increased in amygdala after a fear response. The result? The mice did not learn or remember the loud noise when it was repeated after the drug exposure. It is unclear what this could mean for humans and of course, more research needs to be done, but could forgetting a traumatic memory be possible in the distant future? I believe it can be and someday the idea of forgetting a series of memories won’t just be a plot point in a fantastic movie.

“We don’t perceive objects as they are, we perceive them as we are”

We’ve just started discussing how memories are processed, stored, and retrieved and how this relates to our perception of the world around us. Our lectures have focused mostly on memory and recall as they pertain to simple stimuli such as words and numbers, but we are able to apply what we know about memory processing and recall techniques to more complex stimuli. In addition to discussing the processing of memories, we’ve also addressed both how our previous experiences affect how we process stimuli (top-down processing) and how the stimuli we encounter can determine how higher processing proceeds (bottom-up processing).

I recently began re-watching The Brain with David Eagleman, a six-part documentary series that explores some of the mysteries and complexities of the human brain. The second episode, “What Makes Me?” addresses how our experiences and memories shape how we perceive the world around us. At one point, David Eagleman addresses the issue of false memories with researcher, Elizabeth Loftus. Loftus has conducted a number of experiments that reveal how unreliable memories can be. One study that I found both remarkable and unsettling is similar to something we have touched upon in class as well.

To investigate just how vulnerable we are to the power of suggestion, Loftus designed an experiment to test whether individuals could be persuaded to believe in an elaborate lie. Researchers contacted relatives of study participants and recorded three stories from each participant’s childhood. A fourth story was completely fabricated. During the experiment, Loftus described the four stories (three true and one false) to the participants and asked them if they could recall details from those experiences. Every participant not only remembered the false story (described as an account of the participant as a young child lost in the mall who was eventually assisted by a kind, elderly stranger), but when they returned for a follow-up interview a week later, had recalled additional details about the false experience (e.g. what the kind stranger looked like, what they were wearing, etc.).

While it’s not a groundbreaking revelation that our memories are not accurate, I think it’s incredible that not only can we be convinced to believe a false memory, we also become so invested in that false memory that we fabricate additional details without prompting. When we explored the fallibility of memories in class and in the “False Memory” ZAPS, it was more along the lines of forgetting an experience that we actually had or confusing two different, but similar experiences. Seeing such definitive evidence that we can be convinced to believe a “memory” that is completely false was disturbing to me. It not only pulled the proverbial rug out from under my confidence in my own memories and beliefs, it also gave me more reason to doubt what other people tell me when describing past experiences.

I think, however, this also reveals another perspective that I find encouraging: no two people will ever share the same experience. As much as we try to relate and share experiences with one another, we can never have anything but an entirely unique experience. Each moment is a fusion of past experiences and present stimuli. Our memories, emotions, and beliefs all influence how we perceive the present and because no two people can have exactly the same history, our experiences will always be unique …our one private possession. We use our current knowledge to reconstruct our memories, but we also allow our memories and beliefs to influence our perception of the present. The dynamic relationship between expectations and data produces a reality that is unique to each of us. As David Eagleman put it, “we don’t perceive objects as they are, we perceive them as we are.”

If you’d like to watch the episode, here’s a link:


Over the past month, my daughter, Harper, has become increasingly vocal. Her speech has increased dramatically and she’s amazed her dad and I with how much she is able to remember. Lately, we tell her something just once, or just a couple of times, and she is able to repeat that word and remember it hours and even days later. She’s able to recall her animals and their sounds (cow, chicken, dog, cat, duck, sheep) after being told just once or twice. We even thought her “more” in sign language and some words in Spanish and she was able to recall either after once or twice of just telling her. It’s amazing to think that she’s already a-year-and-a-half and saying phrases such as, “bye, mama” and “hi, doggie.” Until you become a parent, you never truly understand how incredible it is to watch your little baby, now toddler, learn and discover things about the world.

Based on what we have learned during lecture, I started wondering how much of what Harper remembers are implicit memories and how much are explicit memories. As we learned, implicit memories are memories that are recalled without necessarily thinking about them. They are influenced and triggered by previous experiences no matter how long ago they occurred. One way to define implicit memories is by saying that we learn things without awareness—we have that memory stored, but we are not aware that it is a memory. On the other hand, explicit memories involve explicitly retrieving that memory from storage. These types of memories involve actively searching for that memory from the past and recalling it. It shocked me to learn that toddlers do not have explicit memories until they are about three to four years old. In Harper’s case, when we teach her a new word and recalls it weeks after or she sees her sippy cup and remembers that it is usually filled with her, “agua”, she is using her implicit memory.

Remarkably, an article from Today’s Parent mentions that children are actually able to retrieve explicit memories from toddlerhood, however most children forget these memories because they experience something called infantile amnesia. The article mentions that infants are able to experience explicit memories, but are unable to recall them later on in their lives because those explicit memories happened before that child had any language. As children get older, they begin to forget more and more memories from their childhood because of infantile amnesia.

I wonder if Harper will experience this childhood amnesia? Implicit memories are easily recalled because they are automatic, but how will her explicit memories be affected by childhood amnesia? A study done by the Psychology Department at the University of Otago in New Zealand sought to find out more about the childhood amnesia phenomenon. They observed that most children and adults have no recollection of their early childhood. Something that was very puzzling to them was the fact that although learning happens from birth on, yet the memories that are created from this early learning are somehow lost. Here is an excerpt from their findings:

“If forgetting occurs within days or weeks during early infancy, it is hardly surprising that those memories are unavailable when we try to access them after retention intervals of years (or decades)! Over the course of development, however, the forgetting function gradually flattens, increasing the accessibility of a given memory even after very long delays. Furthermore, even after forgetting has occurred, data collected using re- minder procedures has shown that the accessibility of the representation varies dramatically as a function of age. Older infants retrieve their memories more quickly, over longer delays, and once retrieved, maintain them for longer periods of time.”


Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Today, my power went off at 12:45 P.M. My only plan for the day was to write a bullet-proof blog post for this class. I was going to give up; but I am here at Starbucks with my slow  and ancient tablet. I have changed from a complicated  topic to an easier topic because it is dear to my heart( which is a reference to deep processing to be honest):

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. If you have not seen this movie, I demand that you stop what you are doing immediately and watch this movie right now. I cannot express how much I love this film. This movie evoked feelings I did not know I could feel. Lucky for me, I know this film well enough to use it  as an example to apply the principles of  cognitive psychology.

If you are a terrible human being who will not watch this movie and enjoy it, please google Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and read the summary, so I do not have to spend time explaining the premise and boring everyone through the process. The brief summary is that the main characters Joel (Jim Carey) and Clementine (Kate Winselt) attempted to erase each other from their memories after a terrible break-up. Cognitive Psychology explains how this attempt to erase a person from memory was an epic fail.

I think it is perfect how we are covering Chapter 7 now, and most of my points on memory-erasing comes from this chapter. Memory is a network. Memory is not a series of isolated thoughts. The retrieval paths, the associative links, meet together at nodes and continue to spread to other nodes, to create a “net”. Joel and Clementine were an intimate, romantic couple who lived together. Many memories are being intertwined. From sleeping to waking, if I remember correctly, the couple were lived together for two years, which to me, is a lot of time spent with another person. It’s enough time for daily habits to be associated with one’s romantic partner. Daily habits are “deeply” ingrained. I almost wrote my blog on how much my daily habits were disturbed due to the power outage. Every time I walked into the room, I still attempted to turn on the light though I knew the power was out. Turning lights is extremely automatic. I think this is an example “processing fluency”. The spreading activation is strong for automatic motions, like to turning on light switches. Living with someone else, you become accustomed to that other person, and memories of that person become intertwined with association links.

With all these associations in mind, imagine erasing a targeted memory. After removing the targeted memory, associations remain. In the movie, “Lacuna, Inc.” attempts  to correct this issue by asking their clients to remove all belongings that would remind them of the person being erased. That said, places cannot be erased. Sights,  sounds, smells, taste, touch, and feelings cannot be erased.

I bring up feelings not being erased to make another point. In the cases of H.M., Korsakoff’s syndrome patients, and amnesiac patients, explicit memory is impaired, but not implicit. To me, this is fascinating. These patients can remember without remembering! What a paradox! Within the impicit memory paradigm, is familiarity. In Chapter 2, we learned what happens when familiarity is impaired: Capgras Syndrome. The people we love are recognizable but they are not familiar. Now, we can imagine the reverse situation: seeing a complete “stranger” who is eerily familiar.

This is what happened in the film. The explicit memories were erased with no problem, but implicit memory remained in tact. Our hearts, or our  amygdala rather, cannot forget. Sorry, I icannot help but be cheesy. At the last second while Joel was erasing Clementine, she tells him to meet her at Montauk beach. When he wakes up, he meets her at Montauk for the first time, a second time.

This is the theme song, because music is life.

Flashbulb Memories

I have grown up in Charlottesville Virginia my whole life and it is a place that many people would call peaceful and beautiful. It is a very historic place and I loved being raised there. Downtown Charlottesville was a favorite hangout spot for many college and high school kids because of the abundant places to eat and the awesome things to do. The image of Charlottesville and more specifically Downtown Charlottesville was tainted on August 12th 2017. My hometown was changed that day because of the “Unite the Right” rally related to the tearing down of the Robert E. Lee statue. This ended horrifically when 32-year-old Heather Hoyer died from a car ramming through protesters.  This was someone that lived in my neighborhood, someone that was well respected and also someone that died fighting for what they believed in. At the moment the car drove through the street I didn’t know who was killed and injured or even how many were killed or injured in that instant. All I knew was that my family and friends were downtown that day. This is my “Flashbulb Memory”.

I am sure that every single person reading this blog post can think of a “flashbulb memory”. Our textbook defines this as “a memory of extraordinary clarity, typically for some highly emotional event, that us retained despite the passage of many years”.  These events are connected and remembered because of the emotion tied to them. We talked about in class with memory that if you have a connection to the material and can relate it to something in your life it is more easily put into long term memory. For example, the track and field man that chunked numbers into times for races. This is why “flashbulb memories” seem so vivid, they have a huge emotion tie to us. Psychology Today states that “there may not be time in the moment to analyze exactly what happened”.  This is why they are remembered so long after.

A very common example of a flashbulb moment is 9/11. This was a tragic event that shaped the country. Since we are too young to remember 9/11 it is not considered a “flashbulb memory” for us. But for those that are old enough to remember, how many times have you heard the phrase “I know exactly where I was and what I was doing when it happened”. This is an event that happened over 16 years ago and something that even today people swear they can still vividly remember. People are very confident in their perception of the event and that they have all the details right. What if I told you that these vivid memories and details you remember are actually a lie and altered.

The experiment by The Journal of Experimental Psychology, proves to us that we don’t remember all the details as accurately as we think we do. The experiment was focused on the events of 9/11. The researchers gave people a survey recalling specific events of 9/11 right after the event, a year after and then ten years after. Those that took the survey were pretty certain they got all the details correct but based on their first responses there were many inconsistencies. People after ten years had about a 60 percent accuracy. This accuracy is still better than other events from ten years ago but there were details that people missed. Another interesting thing that researchers found was that those who were surveyed remembered only core details of the event, like number of planes. They had little to no recollection about peripheral facts, like where George Bush was during the attacks.

One reason for why these events may be altered from the real version is because of false memories. This is when you almost create whole new details that didn’t actually happen but they are believable to you. An example of this is with an experiment by Elizabeth Loftus. She made a man believe a story that he got lost in a shopping mall when he was kid. Not only did he believe it but he added details to the story. We can adopt these false facts because of how accurate they can sound to us. This relates to the 9/11 scenario because the facts that they got wrong may be from stories other people have told or also from things that been on the news since it was something shown nationwide and is talked about each year. These are facts about 9/11 that are relatable and believable.

So even though these “flashbulb memories” are so vivid, which makes you confident in them, they are inconsistent. So ten years down the road I may remember the name of the lady that was killed and what I was doing in that moment but other details surrounding the event will be lost. At the end of the day though it doesn’t matter what colored shirt I was wearing when the car went down the street, what matters is the emotion tied to the event. Even though these memories are not always accurate they at least help us remember something very important and connected to us. As stated in the textbook “memory errors can occur even in the midst of our strongest, most vivid recollection”.









Exercise and Memory?

It is a common belief that stress negatively effects memory. This article suggests that not only does stress negatively effect memory, but exercise may actually assist memory both while stressed and while not stressed. A relatively new study has found that exercise has counteracted the negative effects of stress in mice.

Memories are coded and stored in the hippocampus allowing them to be recalled at later times. However, memories are very complex things that are stored in many different locations and across many brain cells. The stronger the connection between brain cells, the better and more permanent the memory is. Negative parts of our lives such as lack of sleep, alcohol use, and stress lessen the amount of communication between brain cells and weaken the memory.

However, exercise has been shown to improve both memory and learning abilities. Few to no studies before this one have looked at both the effects of stress and exercise on memory.

The study was run at Brigham Young University in Utah. The participants in the study were healthy male mice with the hopes to later look at the same effects on healthy female mice. The mice were divided into groups, one group continuing their normal lives, another group began to voluntarily run on their wheels running up to three miles a day!!! After the animals were around for about a month, some of the mice living their normal lives were put through three days of stressful activities. Some of the active mice were also put through three days of stressful activities. The three days of stressful activities were supposed to simulate chronic stress such as humans deal with commonly. The mice were then supposed to learn a maze with a treat in one of the corners. The researchers then looked at the synapses of the mice. They were able to stimulate isolated cells and see what type of and how many messages jumped between synapses.

The three days of stress weakened the synapses in the stressed out regular mice versus the control mice. The unstressed runners had the strongest synapses with the most activity suggesting that they were the most likely to learn and remember new things. Most importantly, the mice that were stressed and exercised has synapses that looked very similar to the mice from the normal unstressed control group. These mice synapses were not as strong as the exercising mice with no stress but much stronger than the animals that had not exercised and been stressed. The mice that exercised learned what corner the treat was in much faster and more consistently than the mice that had been stressed.

It is not completely known why or how exercise positively effects the strength of synapses but it is thought to be more activity in the proteins in the brain changing the synapses and allowing more buffering of the negative stress effects. It is also not known if different kinds of exercise would have the same effects. There is always a possibility that the same results would not be shown in humans.

Personally, I have had experience with this while training my service dog, Rotary. When he is active and has exercised he is much more likely to listen and learn new commands rather than if he has had a lazy day and not exercised. Again, I am not sure if the effects are the same on humans and it could be a coincidence with Rotary, but I believe exercise helps our bodies in many more ways than just one!

P.S. Not sure why the image is sideways and wont let me rotate it but you get the point 🙂

The Entire History of You

During the weekends when I’ve found myself with a break from rowing and homework I’ve started to become invested in the show Black Mirror. Each episode is standalone and are primarily designed to make commentary about technology in everyday society. One episode that stood out to me as I’ve delved deeper into the series is The Entire History of You (Season 1 Episode 3). The people of this world are implanted with a memory chip which records everything the owner has seen, heard and have done from the moment they are implanted with the chip. Using a controller, they can replay memories, zoom in, fast forward, and manipulate the memory (to a certain degree) in a variety of different ways. Another characteristic of this device is the ability to play memories on television screen as a way of allowing other people to have access to their memories. With this memory chip there is no need to physically remember anything as the chip retains all information.

The story starts out with a young lawyer who attends a dinner party with his wife. He already had an unnerving morning dealing with a job interview, so his anxiety is already raised higher than normal. At the dinner he noticed subtle hints of his wife’s aloofness when interacting with himself, however she behavior immediately changed when she focused on an ‘old family friend.’ Fast forward to the next morning and many drinks later, the lawyer has spent the hours since obsessively replaying his wife’s interactions with the friend by projecting his memory chip and manipulating the memory to capture specific details. He ends up driving to the family friend’s house, forces him to erase the memories featuring private moments with his wife, and ultimately erases the man’s ability to retain those memories to exact detail. The episode continues on, but what’s particularly interesting is that once a memory is deleted (or in another woman’s case the memory chip mauled out), the people of this world still have the ability to remember but they don’t have the picturesque memories to draw back on. This means that people go back to ‘normal’ processing of memory in which our memories slowly fade and are replaced with false information as time progresses.

While watching this episode it immediately reminded me of people who have eidetic memory or what is more commonly known as photographic memory. This is defined as internal memory images that are so vivid the individual is able to recall visual, auditory and to a limited extent physical details associated with the scene they saw. While searching for studies elaborating on this form of memory processing I’ve found that most of the research is from the late twentieth century with little information before and after that period of time. This is not a surprising find however, as eidetic memory is rare and most commonly found in adolescents. Therefore, studies are limited in time and sample size compared to research in areas of long term and working memories for example.

(This is an example of a picture used from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as a test for children to determine if they had eidetic memory or not. The children would stare at the picture for 30 seconds and look away from the image at a blank surface. If they were able to ‘project’ the image onto that surface and recall specific details then it was said that they had eidetic memory). 

The brain constantly has cells dying while new ones are formed, creating new pathways and connections every day. By the seventh month of the prenatal period nearly all neurons have migrated to their final locations and the brain is filled with dense networks of neurons. At birth however, nearly 50 percent of fetal neurons die out. The brain undergoes synaptogenesis and neuroplasticity which allows the brain to learn new information while discarding useless memories and ultimately avoiding the disproved theory of the ‘grandmother cell.’  People with eidetic memory do not possess the essential ability to properly discard unnecessary information. Instead many of them suffer from the amount of information they have to hold, similar to Mr. S for example in Aleksandr Luria’s The Mind of a Mnemonist (1968). Mr. S had the ability to remember almost everything that he encountered however his memory was so powerful that he had to construct his own methods for forgetting information such as writing down details and burning the paper afterwards. When asked to remember a word, he could recall the visual connections, auditory associations, and feelings that he experienced when he first read the word. He found it difficult to understand a single sentence and was constantly bombarded with information.

This episode brings to light both the benefits and tragedies of memory. Whether utilizing implicit or explicit memories we are constantly learning new information. Yet at the same time, our brains are discarding information that have lost necessary connections. I think one area that could be explored is the connection of eidetic memory and autism. According to stereotypes (like Rain Man) and observable symptoms, individuals with autism are often marveled as to having extraordinary memory. Do some people on the spectrum experience eidetic memory? Do the stereotypes actually reference remarkable working and long-term memories? Do autistic people experience side effects similar to Mr. S because of their memory capacities (individuals on the spectrum often experience sensory processing disorder)? Eidetic memory as a whole deserves to be further investigated when it is properly identified and has the potential to open a better understanding of how memory communicates with the brain to form the entire history of you.



Black Mirror, The Entire History of You (Season 1, Episode 3)

Cognition Exploring the Sceience of the Mind Daniel Reisberg

Photographic Memory Mort la Brecque (

Photographic Memory Kate Flint (

Psychology: A Modular Approach to Mind and Behavior Dennis Coon (

The Dynamic Child Frank Manis

The Student’s Guide to Cognitive Neuroscience Jamie Ward