Tag Archives: memory

Amazing Memories and the Potential Future of Memory Research.


Imagine being able to remember everything you have ever said or done. If you’re like me, I barely remember what I said two days ago let alone everything I’ve ever said. Though, I’m sure it would get rather annoying to our partners if that were the case. There are those rare individuals who have a gift (or curse) which is called “Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory” or HSAM for short. These individuals have the uncanny ability to remember more personal and emotional memories. Memories referred to as episodic memories.

Episodic memories are just that, memories that have personal meaning that are tied to emotion. The other type of memory is called semantic memory. Semantic memories are not tied to emotions, they’re just facts. So if I ask you, who was the first President of the United States? Or, what is the capital of the United Kingdom? There probably is not much if any emotional ties to these answer, yet you were able to remember them. This is your semantic memory. Don’t worry, there are semantic memory champions as well:


So, it seems as though you can’t have it both ways, but that you can at least practice really hard and become good at your semantic memory. But how does memory really work? There are two ways that we’ll talk about it, the first will be cognitive and the other will be more neuroscience.

Cognitive psychologist use the Modal Model of Memory, which follows a path from sensory input, to sensory memory, to working memory, and then into long-term memory (LTM). Working memory is sometimes referred to as “short-term memory” though that term is not used as much anymore. From working memory, it has three places to go, the memory can decay, it can move into long-term, or the individual has to keep the memory active through rehearsal. Working memory has a capacity though, it can hold 7 items (plus or minus 2) within. It also has a time limit which is roughly 30 seconds, though if you believe old Hollywood movies, it’s more like 5 minutes. Once the memory goes into LTM, cognitive psychology doesn’t go into how it is stored, just mainly into how it is retrieved. For this, we turn to a more neuroscience approach:

According to Neuroscientists, forming a LTM starts this chain of neurons connecting that otherwise don’t normally connect. The example used above is building a bridge between two areas that weren’t previously connected. So, let’s take the example of the rats, when the tone is played, they receive a shock. After the first time, neurons are being connected to tell the rat, this tone equals a shock. After it is done a few more times, the connection between the neurons is stronger (long-term potentiation) and the signal is able to travel quicker when recalled.

This is only at the cellular level and does not fully explain the entire purposes, but it goes far enough for our purposes in this post because there has been a study done recently that challenges this school of thought. Neuroscientists have recently found that memories may actually exists within the neurons themselves. The implications of this, if supported, has not only the potential of changing the way in which we think about memory, but it could mean hope for those suffering from illnesses like PTSD and Alzheimer’s.

For PTSD sufferers, this could potentially mean that we could do a “Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and zap the neurons and get rid of the memories in which the individuals are having the problems with. For Alzheimer’s, this could mean that their memories are truly lost and that they could, with further research, regain some of the previously thought lost memories. The research is really still new and definitely needs further testing to gain any sort of support and I remain skeptical as one critic suggested that the “results were observed in the first 48 hours after treatment, a time when consolidation is still sensitive.” Consolidation refers to the process in which working short-term memory becomes long-term memories.

As this is the last post that I’ll probably be making on this blog, I leave you with this scene of Eternal Sunshine of the spotless Mind:


Study Tip: Spatial/Relational Studying

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always had a problem with flashcards. Teachers would tell me to make flashcards for vocabulary words, for example. I found that once I’d written the words on the card, and added their definitions, I could already remember which definitions matched which words. Since I could match the words and definitions accurately, studying the flashcards no longer felt necessary. The whole process felt redundant and unhelpful to me. But the problem was that just because I knew which word went with which definition, that didn’t mean I understood the term.

In class, we discussed maintenance rehearsal versus elaborative rehearsal. Maintenance rehearsal is rehearsing a piece of information enough to keep it active. In this rehearsal, it doesn’t ver really move into long-term memory. Elaborative rehearsal, however, is rehearsal that involves processing. It helps us move information into long-term memory. Learning isn’t just about repeated exposure (think of the penny or the Apple logo). Learning needs deeper levels of processing. This might involve imagery, meaning, or personal tie-ins. Learning that involves surface details or sound patterns just doesn’t stick as well. Research supports the textbook and the discussion we had in class. In a study by Craik and Tulving (1975), participants were asked to answer questions about words. Sometimes, the participants answered about the meaning of the word (deep). Other times, they answered about the sound/structure of the word (shallow). They were then asked to pick the original words out of a longer list. While the deep processing took longer, the subjects who semantically processed the words showed greater performance on the recall task.

My original study tip is developed from several sources: my personal study habits, our class discussion, the research, and a technique mentioned in class by a fellow student. In a discussion about the problems of flashcard usage and maintenance rehearsal, this student mentioned how one could create flashcards using class notes etc., but then instead of engaging in repetitive and rote memorization with those cards, attempt to categorize them instead. I felt that this would be a much more meaningful way to interact with the material. As I thought about this suggestion, and pondered my own study habits, I came up with my suggested study tip: Flowcharts

You’ll need a whiteboard (a gallon plastic bag around a white sheet of paper works, but the bigger the board the better. In the ITCC, there are tons of big white boards free for our use!), dry erase markers, and small cards/sticky notes. First, write out important pieces of information on the cards. These bits of info can be definitions, theories, categories, relationships, tasks, people, ideas, studies, aspects of studies, etc. For example, if you have notes on a scientist who did two studies, each of which had two main findings, write out a card for the scientist, each study’s basic details, and details on each of the findings. When you’re done with the information for the chapter, shuffle your cards. Next is the fun part.

diagram-empty-2Now, you want to take your cards and start sorting them into a flow chart! You can stick them up on the board, and use the markers to draw connecting lines and arrows. The most important part here is to emphasize relationships. Thinking about how your concepts interact is important for making them stick in your long-term memory. It’s much more effective than just memorizing!

flowchartPractice putting your cards in a linear/chronological flow and drawing arrows between steps. Show what came first conceptually, and influenced later steps. Then try a hierarchical structure. What are the overarching themes and categories, and the subcategories and details? How do they relate to each other? Don’t be afraid to draw tons of arrows! The more times you engage with the pieces of information in different ways, the more comfortable you’ll be with them.

Good luck studying!

We Don’t Always Remember Public Tragedy Very Accurately

A September 11th memorial in West Orange, New Jersey. (Photo: Glynnis Jones/Shutterstock)

A recent article written by Nathan Collins discusses the idea that although when we recall events that we just KNOW are accurate (we’d even be willing to be our life on it) we are often actually wrong.  This has been found to be the case even in public tragedies that have nationwide or world wide effects.

This article particularly focuses on the attacks that occurred on 9/11/2001. A longitudinal study showed that there was a large difference in the recall of participants between the month after the tragedy and the year after the tragedy.

The memories of events like 9/11- “flashbulb memories”- are ones that we tend to think will never change. We claim that we “remember it like it was yesterday”. We claim that we can see ourselves in that exact place, and we can feel the mood we were in when it happened. But how true is this, really?

In the previously mentioned study, a research team led by William Hirst and Elizabeth Phelps issued a survey to a few thousand participants within the first few weeks of the September 11th tragedy. This survey asked questions such as, “how did you find out about the tragedy?”, “what do you know about the events about the attacks?”. The researchers followed up these questions in August 2002, 2004, and most recently, 2011.

Results showed that in August 2002 (less than a YEAR after 9/11), the participants’ recall pertaining to their location had changed from the first survey, which was collected only a month after 9/11.

In one case, a participant said (in survey 1) that he had been in the kitchen making breakfast when he heard the news. However, in August 2002, (survey 2) the same participant claimed that he’d been in his dorm room folding laundry. THEN, interestingly enough, in 2004 and 2011 the same participant stuck with his second memory, saying that he had been in his dorm room folding laundry on the morning of the attacks.

General results showed two trends…

1. The most dramatic changes in participants responses to the surveys occurred between the survey collected the month after 9/11 and the survey collected in August 2002. This trend suggests that the memory stabilized after the first year.

2. Inaccurate memories (such as where the planes crashed, and how many plans were involved) were often corrected. However, inconsistent flashbulb memories were not corrected. By the time the results came in for the 2011 survey, the participants involved in the study had repeated more than 60% of the inconsistencies that had been revealed after the August 2002 survey.

The findings of this study suggest that our minds are reconstructive.  We do remember, but our memory is often influenced by perception imagination, semantic memory, and beliefs. Also, confidence of a memory is not (AT ALL) correlated with the accuracy of the memory. People may believe their memory could never have errors during recall, but the truth is, memory is subject to all kinds of errors such as individual perception, social influence, and general knowledge.

I was in the 2nd grade when the attacks on September 11th occurred. I remember that I was sitting in my music class when we were told the news. My school was on lock down, and more than half of the students were picked up by their parents. However, my mother was (and still is) a teacher at that school, and I was one of the few that didn’t leave because my mother couldn’t either.

Are those memories of my experience on 9/11 actually accurate? That is something I will never know. This is the beauty and mystery of flashbulb memories!

Interference: what is it? & possible solutions

IMG_2978 (1)

I dread getting the email from the helpdesk@umw.edu saying “UMW’s policy requires users to change Active Directory (AD) passwords every 90 days and your password is set to expire in 10 days.” I feel as if I just had changed my password and was finally starting to remember it and now have to remember a brand new password. Therefore, I decided to make a meme describing my struggle and possibly other students struggle here at Mary Wash!

Since we are required to frequently changing our password at UMW, I am continuously struggling with proactive interference.  Before I get into what I mean by this, what is interference?

Interference is the competition between targets for activation of retrieval cues and there are two types of interference: retroactive and proactive. Retroactive interference is when new information inhibits our ability to recall old information. For example, say your family moved a few years ago to another state. You most likely have your current house address memorized and it may take you a while to remember what your old house address was where you use to live because your retrieval cue for your home address actively retrieves where you live currently since you use your current home address for mail services, shipping, bills, GPS, etc.

In my case, and I assume other UMW students have the similar struggle I have, proactive interference is when the old information inhibits our ability to recall or remember new information. We use EagleNet, Canvas, and Windows in the UMW labs, library, convergence center, and offices everyday (or at least I do). So when we have to change our password every 90 days, the first few days, week, or even month we may enter our old password because we were so use to typing our old password for logging into UMW systems every day.

Some tips to maybe help fellow UMW students out if they are struggling with proactive interference? I know my computer and tablet that I use to log on to EagleNet and Canvas give me the option to “automatically save this password for this site?” or “update this password for this site?” and I always do it for my devices to help me out so it’s quicker when I use my devices in my room or on campus. I also make a password that is somewhat sequential. For example, say  I started off with “MaryWash17A” for my first password, then the next 90 days when I have to update it I would change my password to “MaryWash17B”, “MaryWash17C”, ….etc. For some reason that helps me out so when I type in my old password at the library and it says “invalid password” (proactive interference) I know that I probably just have change the last letter of my password to the next letter in the alphabet. Some people put their passwords in a notes app in their phone so when you update your password, put it in your notes in case you keep putting in your old password you know where your new password will be!

I hope you guys enjoyed my meme! If you have any other tips on how to remember new passwords please comment; I’d love to hear your ideas!

The Forgotten Childhood: Why Early Memories Fade



As adults, we all try to remember certain memories from when we were young but somehow can’t manage to remember what happened.  As we discussed in class a few weeks ago, we call this phenomenon childhood amnesia.  After discussing childhood amnesia and false memories in class, I couldn’t help but feel intrigued to find out more information on childhood amnesia.  I came across this article, which is a year old, but I thought it was still appropriate because it discusses childhood amnesia, and answered some questions I had regarding childhood amnesia.  As we have discussed in class, we know that we have little memory before the age of 4 years old and that on average, the first memory we have is around 3 and a half years old.  This article discusses when childhood amnesia starts, which memories from our childhood persist, and how the power of the memory can determine whether we remember or forget that childhood memory. 

This article discusses multiple research done related to childhood amnesia.  Specifically, the article discusses research in relation to when childhood amnesia starts, which childhood memories persist, and the power of memory.  In terms of research done on when childhood amnesia starts, the article discussed research done to see what happened to memories of children over time.  They recorded 3-year olds talking to their parents about a specific event that happened.  A few years later, researched checked back with the children to see if they remembered the events.  Children who were 7 recalled more than 60% of the events while children who were 8 or 9 only recalled less than 40% of the events.  In terms of which childhood memories persist, the article discussed research done by Carole Peterson who studied children who were hospitalized in emergency rooms as young as 2 years old for injuries.  Because these memories were emotional and significant events, Peterson concluded that children had good memory of those events, even up to 10 years later.  Lastly, in terms of the power of the memory, the article discussed how researchers found that parents play a big role in what children remember.  Specifically, they found that, parents who help shape, structure, and context to a memory, the memory is less likely to fade.

With the many different research done on childhood amnesia, we can figure out specific ways to make memories from our childhood stronger.  The article discusses the findings from research which relates to how we can make our childhood memory stronger.  The researchers discussed reasons as to why our childhood memories from such a young age aren’t always remembered.  Specifically, they concluded that because our brain systems are so immature at such a young age, they may not be working as efficiently as they could, especially in our older, adult years.  The article discussed how childhood memories are more likely to survive if those memories involve a lot of emotion.  For example, we’re more likely to remember events that involved us breaking a bone rather than a memory on what we did for our 4th birthday.  Lastly, our childhood memory is likely to survive if our parents help us make the power of that memory stronger.  For example, if parents help us shape and structure and add context to the memory, we’re more likely to remember it when we’re adults.  All this information and research are all helpful information in trying to understand childhood amnesia.

When I came across this article, I had a lot of questions in which I hope the article would answer.  After I had read the article, I did learn more information about childhood amnesia, on top of what we’ve learned in class.  I think that the article did a wonderful job in explaining childhood amnesia, when it starts, which childhood memories persist, and how to make our childhood memories more powerful.  This article gave me a deeper understanding of childhood amnesia in which we didn’t discuss in class.  I think that the research done was very helpful in giving me a better understanding of what childhood amnesia is.  I liked how they had examples of instances when childhood amnesia occurs and ways to enhance childhood memories. 

After reading the article and relating it to what we’ve discussed in class about childhood amnesia in the last couple weeks, I have gained better knowledge on childhood amnesia.  I think that childhood amnesia is such an interesting topic to talk about and learn about.  As an adult, I often don’t remember certain events from my childhood, except for maybe a small handful.  Not being able to remember these memories at such a young age is a little bit frustrating, especially when family members all know of that one embarrassing memory they have of you, which you have no recall of.  I think that research being done on childhood amnesia is great because the more we’re able to enhance childhood memories, the better.  Being an adult now, that research may not be beneficial to me, but at least they’ll be beneficial to children today.  Unlike us, maybe when they’re adults, they’ll recall of that oh-so embarrassing memory of themselves that everyone else remembers. 

Feeling Down? Head to the Gym!

brain-on-exerciseWouldn’t it be nice if there was a guaranteed method to alleviate depression, improve memory, de-stress, focus, and stick to your goals? It sounds like a cognitive miracle, doesn’t it? Research has shown that exercise can do just that. This article in Women’s Health Magazine lists these five outcomes as the direct result of exercise. The article claims that increased exercise results in increased blood flow to the brain; this apparently helps cognition, memory, and stress levels. The article cites several medical and psychological studies to support its assertions, which is certainly pretty convincing.

First, the article asserts that exercise alleviates depression. Besides the experiment cited in the article, I found research, including the following study, that supports this assertion. The study states that changes in baseline physical activity levels were associated with changes in mental health. The relationship was strong in the between person conditions, but not as strong in the within person conditions. This likely indicates that depression and mental health are not solely dependent on activity levels, but are more holistically affected. However, the relationship did exist in both conditions.

The article next contends that exercise can help us de-stress. The above study on “mental health” included anxiety as well as depression. The study found that changes in exercise levels certainly related to changes in anxiety. Another study  found similar results: those who participated in Qigong exercise reported significantly lower levels of anxiety after a session of exercise.

The article also states that memory is improved by engaging in exercise. Many studies have shown this to be true of both rats and humans; in particular, a study of rats round that exercise facilitated memory acquisition, memory retention, and reversal learning. All three of these demonstrations of memory were improved after rats exercised regularly.

The last claim in the article is that exercise helps with attentional focus and sticking to goals, because exercise is often unpleasant and laborious and requires significant commitment, focus, and organization in order to go through with it successfully. This was a much more difficult assertion to validate with research. It assumes several steps of relation — first, that those who exercise do so with successful focus and perseverance. Second, it assumes that they are then able and willing to apply those skills to other situations, outside of their exercise habits. If both of these premises are true, then it might follow that the individuals who learn how to focus and persevere due to exercise then tend to demonstrate these abilities in other aspects of their lives. If that is the case, it seems inaccurate to me to attribute these outcomes directly to the exercise, but rather to simple learning.

Overall, I think the article that I found, though found a more of a mainstream popular culture magazine, was fairly accurate and well-researched in its claims regarding the cognitive benefits of exercise. The article was rather brief in its descriptions of the studies involved and the potential outcomes, but linked out to other articles providing further information on each claim, which I thought was very helpful.

I find this topic fascinating — I always feel like a better version of myself when I’ve been exercising regularly. My mood and overall sharpness seem higher. I find myself wondering if there are other benefits to exercising. Other studies have found that exercise may improve our ability to think creatively.  Do any of you find this to be true for you? What other cognitive benefits do you see in your life when you exercise regularly?


We all have memories that we would prefer to not remember or have memories of moments that had been forgotten happened until something triggered that memory to be conscious.  But what causes this to happen?  We could take PTSD for example, a fine case where memories that are so vivid and sensory driven, just as easily manifested, be so actively forgotten? Like we learned in class, the brain takes in sensory information that we don’t always pay attention to.  We may engage in experiences that encourage the retention of the memory but just as actively as the mind can take in information, it can also ignore information.  Giving rise to the theory that the brain has multiple processes that go into memory, both long term and short term. I wanted to know (a) if these cues that we use in our everyday lives to help us recollect memories, have the same function in a suppressed memory, (b) what happens in the brain when memories are repressed, and (c) what happens to these memories when they surface after being repressed?


(a) One study done on children and adults to show that the brain has the ability to actively suppress information/memories to limit unwanted material in their consciousness.  This is caused by the part of the brain increasing in activation (lateral PFC, in charge of short term and working memory) and had reduced activity of memory-related structures (Medial TL) including the hippocampus, the part of the brain that runs much of the translation for long term memory.  This results in less declarative memories, one type of long term memory that contains facts and events that help recall (or “declare”) memories.   This also shows that the brain has active control over memory processes, specifically declarative long term memory along with filtering and a number of processes.

(b) Another experiment was done where they had participants who were asked to memorize a list of word-picture pairs and were asked recall each pair and their brain function was recorded.  After, they were told to do a similar process except this time they were to not think of the picture that corresponded with the word.  A fMRI scan was done on each subject to monitor brain activity.  They found that the brain had an especially hard time suppressing the older pictures learned versus the newer set of pictures they were shown.  This showed psychologist that visual memory in long term memory was harder to repress than working/ short term memory.  They also found that over time, it was easier and easier for the subject to repress the visual memory of the word, i.e. higher subliminal priming.

The cognitive approach that was in the articles I read were what parts of the brain were used and what memory processes were inhibited in the active suppression period.  So far, the studies have shown that long term memory is still intact with the memories but is stored differently, hinting to maybe a different encoding system or connections as discussed in class.  We know that the brain has different stages of memory and different types of memory.  We also learned that certain memories have connections that help with quicker, better long term processing after being presented with a cue.

memory-block-628x300(c) But what happens to these old repressed memories that surface after years of repression? Studies have shown that a number of things can happen to these memories.  In the case of trauma, like PTSD and abuse victims, even more variations were seen.  Memories that are being repressed, especially those that follow trauma are extremely malleable.  They had been seen to increase in intensity to the complete “termination” of the memory (seen mainly in children of a young age).

Psychoanalysis and cognitive psychologist have been working hand in hand on more studies that ask questions like where did the memory go?  What mental processes keep the memories suppressed and are these processes that allow these memories to seep through when memories surface if they ever do?  I was interested in these articles because we talked about memory in class and I wondered how Brian Williams could just “make up” a memory and I found these articles that talked about the opposite, not making up memories but forgetting them.  I hope to find more articles in this topic to further my understanding on memory suppression and its cognitive processes.


Chronic stress and memory loss

When it comes to memory loss we often think of diseases like Alzheimer’s or traumatic brain injuries. As college students, we don’t think of the reasons as to why we forget our books in our cars or why that assignment slipped out minds. We simply put it to being absent minded or the fact that we have other things going on that distract us.  Stress isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when as a reason we forget things. However a recent study done in 2010 suggests that it may be the cause.

The study, A critical review of chronic stress effects on spatial learning and memory by Cheryl Conrad suggests that chronic stress vs. acute or high-levels of stress actually reduce spatial memory.  We have been learning recently about spatial memory, which is in charge of being familiar with our environment. We need our spatial memory to find our way around campus, We also need it for our spatial working memory to temporarily keep information while we take a test or work on an assignment. These qualities are extremely important in the daily lives of college students.

Researchers at the University of Iowa found the connection between the hormone found in stress-cortisol and short-term memory with rats. The amount of cortisol reduced the number of synaptic connections made in the pre-frontal cortex reducing the success of short-term memory.

There is a difference between long-term memory and stress. If the stress is acute or high such as experiencing an earthquake or getting into a car accident, your memory is actually improved and the ability to recall these events are easier because they are stored in the area responsible for survival. Low levels of chronic stress or anxiety can alter the brain and cause damage to memory. White matter in the brain is increases with stress, this is good for sending signals such as messages across the brain but reduces neurons that are in charge of information processing. This is shown in research on PTSD patients with increased white matter and long-term stress.

Researchers at Berkley suggest that the effects of long-term stress and anxiety in the younger generation may be the cause for mood disorders, learning disabilities and anxiety. From this I think we can all take the suggestions to reduce stress in our lives and manage a healthy balance. Anything from saying no to an extra meeting here and there or going for a walk on a nice day to get out of the office. We all need to practice self-care so we can take care of our memories in the long run.



Should We Believe Survivors?



Why do survivors of trauma sometimes give accounts of the crime that do not add up? Should we believe them? This question has been hotly debated in the social media sphere by people without much scientific knowledge of the psychology behind traumatic memories. However, an article about the Neurobiology of Trauma came up in my Facebook feed in response to the flawed Rolling Stone story [trigger warning] about sexual assault at the University of Virginia. The article’s main thesis is that we should believe survivors even if their account of the traumatic event is not entirely accurate. Like we have learned in class, our brain did not evolve to remember every aspect of our life literally, but is better at synthesizing information in order to see the big picture. The main reason to believe survivors, however, is that the brain changes size and shape as the result of a traumatic event, and this leads to memory problems, repression, and confusion.

Physically, the brain is altered in at least three fundamental ways, according to the article and backed by this peer-reviewed study. The left pre-frontal cortex, or part of the brain that controlled language capacity, shrinks in size. This makes it more difficult to communicate details of the trauma. Second, the hippocampus is affected and the survivor’s concept of time and space can be altered, creating a “fragmented understanding of the memory of the traumatic event”. Third, the amygdala regulates emotion and this part of the brain becomes hypersensitive and can lead to seemingly irrational behavior after trauma. These are all normal responses to an abnormal event.

Since this is a cognitive psychology class and we talk a lot about memory, I decided to focus my research on the fragmented understanding of traumatic memories. For one example, I found a journal article that studied change in trauma narratives. In this study, the participants were survivors of interpersonal assault and were instructed to write a narrative about their trauma before and after engaging in Cognitive Processing Therapy. The results showed that “sexual assault survivors may be less likely to disclose the details of the attack in the first narrative“, since 55% of the participants reported a forced sexual act in only one of the 2 narratives.

Another relevant study was done on survivors of the September 11th attacks. While these survivors did not necessarily face sexual violence, their experiences still fall under the category of trauma, defined by the American Psychological Association as “an emotional response to a terrible event”. The participants’ memory was assessed by the use of questionnaires and free recall. The results showed that “survivors’ recollections of 9/11 varied between assessment points and were moderated by their trajectory of posttraumatic stress”.

The same journal article also discusses two paradigms of trauma memory. The traditional thought was that memories of post-traumatic events were fixed and inflexible because the nature of the event was thought to create long lasting memories that were set in stone. However, this viewpoint is being challenged as a number of empirical studies suggest that traumatic memories may not be fixed; in fact, they can be distorted and malleable over time.

In conclusion, I believe that this information about the cognitive processing of traumatic memories demonstrates that arguments such as: “her story was incongruent” are not valid evidence to discount the experiences of survivors of sexual violence. We should stand with survivors because sexual assault is an issue that affects far too many college students. Some people insensitively say that survivors are “overreacting” or falsely accusing their perpetrator, but in reality:

picture from: https://rainn.org/get-information/statistics/reporting-rates

picture from: https://rainn.org/get-information/statistics/reporting-rates

For more information about this issue please visit: https://rainn.org/get-information

Am I Dreaming or Did That Just Happen??

Dreams have forever been a way for us to escape from reality into a perfect subconscious world created by ourselves. There have been plenty of times where I’ve woken up from the most pleasant dreams and tried to fall asleep again to complete them. Sometimes you’re able to hold on to them and remember every detail and sometimes the memory disappears as quickly as the morning comes. But what is it that makes our dreams possible you may ask? The simple answer is the cognitive function of memory.dream

According to Dreams and Memory, an article written by Patrick McNamara PhD. in 2013, dreams are nothing but fragments of memory being pieced together in your subconscious mind. Dreaming occurs when a person reaches rapid eye movement sleep or REM sleep. It is theorized that while you’re in this stage your mind enters your memories and creates a dream narrative based off of your wishes, goals, subconscious feelings etc.  No real studies have been done on the memory process and dreaming, only because your conscious mind uses memory as well. Therefore it’s hard to say memory is the sole cause of dreaming.

Dr. McNamara also went into detail about a fellow psychologist named Professor Sue Llewellyn, who proposed that the cognitive system in REM dreaming used the same ancient art of memory techniques which helped to improve memory. Basically, because REM dreaming uses episodic memory networks, semantic networks, dreams are retained in the hippocampus (the main center for memory), and not to mention, they allow for encoding during REM-NREM sleep cycles, they over all can improve and sharpen our memory. This theory has not been tested and proves to be quite difficult to test, but has opened the doors for a lot of discussion and new theories to come out of the psychology world. In fact there has already been debates about whether there is clear evidence to say loss of dreaming results in memory deficits. There have been studies on people who claim to have never had dreams and when tested have shown that their memories are intact. One of the difficult things about doing an experiment on this matter is the fact that it will be very hard to try and find someone who truly does not have the ability to dream.

Overall, I found this article to be very interesting and relevant because memories and dreams in my book go hand in hand. I’m always dreaming and recognizing either people I have seen or places that I’ve been in the past. I’ve always found it quite interesting that when you’re watching a movie or something before bed, even reading a book, something that is actively engaging your mind, your memory somehow holds on to it and is able to incorporate it into your dreams. Another thing that interests me about dreams is that fact that sometimes you can remember the entire thing vividly with no mistakes, but sometimes you can only remember small fragments of it and as the day goes on you lose those fragments as well. Because this article was not a research experiment, there were not many facts to report, it was mostly theories that different psychologist had on the matter. I thought it was a well informed and written article which was able to break down the theories so that the audience could clearly understand what was happening. But it did bring up a lot of good points and ideas to the table that we can think about in class when we talk more about memory and how it works. Dreams and interpretations of dreams will always be a mysterious topic for psychologist and scientist alike, but it’s because of that mysteriousness that makes the subject of dreams and memory even more exciting.