Posted by & filed under Consciousness, Higher-Order Cognitive Functions in Aging, Intelligence, Language-Thought, Learning, Memory, Neuroscience.

Description: What do you know about how memory works? You likely have a basic understanding of how information comes in through or senses (via a very short term sensory store), pauses in working memory (if we work on it) and perhaps eventually gets processed into long term memory. Does that take you bac to a basic Psychology course? You may also recall that the hippocampus seems to be particularly important as the area of the brain where short-term, working, memory contents are processed into long term memory. The well known case study of HM who had his hippocampus removed for medical reasons and who, after, could recall long term memories he had before surgery but who could not lay down any new long term memories most clearly showed that the hippocampus is critical to long term memory storage. Now, here is an important question. How are memories actually stored? How do we manage to keep the similarities and, sometimes, subtle differences in people, objects, or events we take in sorted out? And do we humans do this in similar or different ways than do animals? Answering this question requires that we go beyond talking generally about memory stores and get specific about how memories get stored at the level of neurons, because they are doing the storage work right? Now THAT is something you probably have not heard anything about. It is new to me and I teach Introductory Psychology. To begin to follow what the linked article has to say (and to even glimpse why it might be a huge deal), it will help if you have a definition of pattern separation in mind. Pattern separation involves amplifying the, sometimes subtle, differences between similar people, places, event, or things so they can be recalled later as distinct and not get mushed together as more of the same. How we do that (perhaps within the hippocampus or in an area called the dentate gyrus) has been considered an important part of how we can get down to understanding memory at the level of neurons or patterns of neuronal firing. Ok, now with that in mind I am not going to ask you to generate nay hypotheses, just hold onto your hat and read the article linked below.

Source: Human intelligence just got less mysterious, Science News, ScienceDaily.

Date: November 5, 2020

Photo Credit: Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

Article Link:

OK, so, are you enthused about  the whole new way of looking at human memory as compared to animal memory and about the potential insights this view might provide use with regarding our ability to think in complex reflective ways? Well, I have to admit that I am still a bit foggy about the details of this new perspective, but I am very interested to see what comes of it. I will be looking for more work on the concept of pattern separation and on this new way to look at human memory that may not be built on pattern separation they way our animal models of memory currently are.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are some of the ways that human thought might be seen as different than animal thought or information processing (look past our desire to attribute all sorts of deep thoughts to our pets)?
  2. What is pattern separation and why might it be an important part of memory?
  3. Now the tough question, what is the discussion within the linked article saying about pattern separation an human memory that might be very important?

References (Read Further):

Quiroga, Rodrigo Quian (2020) No Pattern Separation in the Human Hippocampus. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2020.09.012

Quiroga, R. Q. (2019). Plugging in to human memory: advantages, challenges, and insights from human single-neuron recordings. Cell, 179(5), 1015-1032. Link

Quiroga, R. Q. (2019). Neural representations across species. Science, 363(6434), 1388-1389.

Yassa, M. A., & Stark, C. E. (2011). Pattern separation in the hippocampus. Trends in neurosciences, 34(10), 515-525. Link

Rolls, E. (2013). The mechanisms for pattern completion and pattern separation in the hippocampus. Frontiers in systems neuroscience, 7, 74. Link

Stark, S. M., Yassa, M. A., Lacy, J. W., & Stark, C. E. (2013). A task to assess behavioral pattern separation (BPS) in humans: Data from healthy aging and mild cognitive impairment. Neuropsychologia, 51(12), 2442-2449. Link

Azab, M., Stark, S. M., & Stark, C. E. (2014). Contributions of human hippocampal subfields to spatial and temporal pattern separation. Hippocampus, 24(3), 293-302. Link

Engle, R. W. (2018). Working memory and executive attention: A revisit. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 13(2), 190-193. Link

Ji, Y., Gamez, D., & Huyck, C. (2018, December). A brain-inspired cognitive system that mimics the dynamics of human thought. In International Conference on Innovative Techniques and Applications of Artificial Intelligence (pp. 50-62). Springer, Cham. Link

Rolls, E. T. (2018). The storage and recall of memories in the hippocampo-cortical system. Cell and tissue research, 373(3), 577-604. Link