Posts Tagged ‘memory’

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Einstein’s Brain (…and the neuroscientist who studied it)

October 10, 2013

Marian Diamond began her graduate work in 1948 and was the first female student in the department of anatomy at UC Berkeley. The first thing she was asked to do when she got there was sew a cover for a large magnifying machine (?!?!?!?!).

“They didn’t know what to do with me because they weren’t used to having a woman. They thought I was there to get a husband. I was there to learn.”

Such challenges were not uncommon. Years later she requested tissue samples of Albert Einstein’s brain from a pathologist in Missouri. He didn’t trust her.

“He wasn’t sure that I was a scientist. This is one thing that you have to face being a woman. He didn’t think that I should be the one to be looking at Einstein’s brain.”

Marian persisted for three years, calling him once every six months, and received four blocks of the physicist’s brain tissue (about the size of a sugar cube).

Her research found that Einstein had twice as many glial cells as normal males — the discovery caused an international sensation as well as scientific criticism.

What are glial cells? Previously, scientists believe that neurons were responsible for thinking and glial cells were support cells in the brain. Now Researchers believe the glial cells play a critical role in brain development, learning, memory, aging and disease.

All text and Images via UC Research

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Amnesia and the Self That Remains When Memory Is Lost

January 3, 2013

Daniel Levitin: Tom was one of those people we all have in our lives — someone to go out to lunch with in a large group, but not someone I ever spent time with one-on-one. We had some classes together in college and even worked in the same cognitive psychology lab for a while. But I didn’t really know him. Even so, when I heard that he had brain cancer that would kill him in four months, it stopped me cold.

I was 19 when I first saw him — in a class taught by a famous neuropsychologist, Karl Pribram. I’d see Tom at the coffee house, the library, and around campus. He seemed perennially enthusiastic, and had an exaggerated way of moving that made him seem unusually focused. I found it uncomfortable to make eye contact with him, not because he seemed threatening, but because his gaze was so intense.

Excerpt from an article written by Daniel Levitin at The Atlantic. Read it HERE

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“The uncanny, phenomenology’s bad trip”

August 31, 2012

N 1919, SIGMUND FREUD devoted a brief essay to “The Uncanny” (das Unheimliche). Pages of dictionary definitions were followed by a long literary analysis of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s fantastic 1816 story “The Sandman,” in which a young medical student is threatened by various doubles of mad scientists and perfidious salesmen of glasses and optical instruments, falls in love with what turns out to be a mechanical doll, goes mad and finally kills himself. Examples of the uncanny, taken from Freud’s own experience as well from literature and superstition, included getting lost in the woods and always ending up in the same place, déjà vu, missing body parts, dead objects that turn out to be alive, the fear of being buried alive, meeting one’s double, the evil eye, and so on. From all this, Freud concluded that the uncanny is a mild shade of anxiety or unease that arises when the familiar suddenly appears strange. This occurs when something in the familiar experience or object triggers the return of repressed complexes (for example, castration anxiety), or when certain primitive ideas (for example, the belief that inanimate objects are animated) seem to be reconfirmed. “Among instances of frightening things there must be one class in which the frightening element can be shown to be something repressed which recurs,” Freud wrote:

This class of frightening things would then constitute the uncanny; […] if this is indeed the secret nature of the uncanny, we can understand why linguistic usage has extended das Heimliche [“homely”] into its opposite, das Unheimliche; for this uncanny is in reality nothing new or alien, but something which is familiar and old-established in the mind and which has become alienated from it only through the process of repression.

Excerpt from a review by Anneleen Masschelein on The Memory of Place : A Phenomenology of the Uncanny, LABR. Continue HERE

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MIRAGE: Performance Art with Substitutional Reality system

August 30, 2012


Substitutional Reality system could be used to study cognitive dysfunction in psychiatric patients.

Christopher Nolan’s 2010 blockbuster Inception is set in a distant future where military technology enables one to infiltrate and surreptitiously alter other people’s dreams. Leonardo Di Caprio plays Dom Cobb, an industrial spy tasked with planting an idea into the mind of a powerful businessman. The film has a complex, layered structure: Cobb and the other characters create dreams within dreams within dreams, but they cannot distinguish between reality and the dream states they fabricate.

Most of us distinguish between real and imagined events using unconscious processes to monitor the accuracy of our experiences. But these processes can break down in some psychiatric conditions. Patients with schizophrenia, for example, can experience auditory and visual hallucinations that they believe are real, while some brain damaged and delusional patients live in a world of perpetual false memories. Japanese researchers have developed an “Inception helmet” that manipulates reality to simulate such experiences, and could be used to study cognitive dysfunction in psychiatric disorders.

The Substitutional Reality (SR) system, developed by researchers at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute’s Laboratory for Adaptive Intelligence, is made of cheap, commercially available electronic components: a panoramic video camera used for recording, a computer for storing the recorded footage, and a head-mounted visual display that can switch seamlessly between the recorded footage and a live feed captured by a camera and microphone attached to it.

Excerpt of an article by Mo Constandi at The Guardian. Continue HERE
Image and video via MIRAGE

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Drawing city skylines from memory

August 28, 2012

Director/DP Noah David Smith recently teamed up with humble and Publicis to shoot a touching film for UBS featuring artist, Stephen Wiltshire. After spending the early years of his life as a mute Stephen found his voice through drawing. Later diagnosed with autism, drawing began to be the way he communicated with the world. At age nine he began to speak and his art continued to flourish.

Stephen Wiltshire has the amazing talent of drawing city skylines from memory. Having spent only a few hours in a helicopter flying from Brooklyn to the tip of Manhattan, he memorized the city skyline and headed back to a studio to begin his drawing. Stephen then spent the next 3 days sketching the skyline. The panoramic drawing will be featured on a billboard that will be displayed at JFK airport terminal.

Text via Humble TV

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Saltworks by Motoi Yamamoto

August 14, 2012

Motoi Yamamoto: Salt seems to possess a close relation with human life beyond time and space. Moreover, especially in Japan, it is indispensable in the death culture. After my sister’s death, what I began to do in order to accept this reality was examine how death was dealt with in the present social realm. I posed several related themes for myself such as brain death or terminal medical care and picked related materials accordingly. I then came to choose salt as a material for my work. This was when I started to focus on death customs in Japan. In the beginning, I was interested in the fact that salt is used in funerals or in its subtle transparency. But gradually I came to a point where the salt in my work might have been a part of some creature and supported their lives. Now I believe that salt enfolds the memory of lives. I have thus had a special feeling since I started using it as a material. Text via http://www.motoi.biz/

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Mind bending: Why our memories are not always our own

July 15, 2012

Without memories, we would be lost. Yet, in an extract from his new book,the psychologist Charles Fernyhough reveals that some of our most precious recollections are perhaps not ours at all.

Adult siblings generally do not face the same pressures as, say, married couples to agree on a story about their pasts. Individuals who have spent a lifetime trying to define themselves in opposition to each other are unlikely to be quite as motivated to settle their memory differences. And the fact is that adult siblings usually do not get as many opportunities as couples do to negotiate their memory disputes.

Excerpt of an extract from ‘Pieces of Light: The New Science of Memory’ by Charles Fernyhough. Read it at The Independent