Memory problems may be more about interference than forgetting

February, 2011

An animal study points to confusion between memories being central to amnesia, rather than a failure to recall.

We have thought of memory problems principally in terms of forgetting, but using a new experimental method with amnesic animals has revealed that confusion between memories, rather than loss of memory, may be more important.

While previous research has found that amnesic animals couldn't distinguish between a new and an old object, the new method allows responses to new and old objects to be measured separately. Control animals, shown an object and then shown either the same or another object an hour later, spent more time (as expected) with the new object. However, amnesic animals spent less time with the new object, indicating they had some (false) memory of it.

The researchers concluded that the memory problems were the result of the brain's inability to register complete memories of the objects, and that the remaining, less detailed memories were more easily confused. In other words, it’s about poor encoding, not poor retrieval.

Excitingly, when the amnesic animals were put in a dark, quiet space before the memory test, they performed perfectly on the test.

The finding not only points to a new approach for helping those with memory problems (for example, emphasizing differentiating details), but also demonstrates how detrimental interference from other things can be when we are trying to remember something — an issue of particular relevance in modern information-rich environments. The extent to which these findings apply to other memory problems, such as dementia, remains to be seen.

Reference: 

Related News

I’ve reported before on how London taxi drivers increase the size of their posterior

I have reported previously on research suggesting that rapamycin, a bacterial product first isolated from soil on Easter Island and used to help transplant patients prevent organ rejection, might improve learning and memory.

A new study has found that, when delivered quickly, a modified form of prolonged exposure therapy reduces post-traumatic stress reactions and depression.

We know that we remember more 12 hours after learning if we have slept during that 12 hours rather than been awake throughout, but is this because sleep is actively helping us remember, or because being awake makes it harder to remember (because of interference and over-writing from other experi

A study involving 75 perimenopausal women aged 40 to 60 has found that those with memory complaints tended to show impairments in

A new study explains how marijuana impairs

I always like gesture studies. I think I’m probably right in saying that they started with language learning. Way back in 1980 it was shown that acting out action phrases meant they were remembered better than if the phrases had been only heard or read (the “enactment effect”).

I’ve spoken before about the association between hearing loss in old age and dementia risk.

Students come into classrooms filled with inaccurate knowledge they are confident is correct, and overcoming these misconceptions is notoriously difficult. In recent years, research has shown that such false knowledge can be corrected with feedback.

Certainly experiences that arouse emotions are remembered better than ones that have no emotional connection, but whether negative or positive memories are remembered best is a question that has produced equivocal results.

Pages

Subscribe to Latest newsSubscribe to Latest newsSubscribe to Latest health newsSubscribe to Latest news