1) Two Long Reads About Memory
Both of these come from the BPS Digest for this week. The first is about the loss of memory following a stroke. It uses concepts we study in our course to explain what it is like to lose and then regain memory: short term memory, episodic memory, semantic memory, procedural memory. It is the last of these which shows the road to recovery. The second is about super-autobiographical memory. The interest here is to understand what these cases tell us about how memory works. We happen in Year 1 to have been looking at the cognitive approach and machine reductionism. The research suggests that people with super-autobiographical memory do not have different mechanisms for memory. The key seems to be to understand their motivation for remembering everything, some of which is bound up in difficult childhood events. There is some evidence of differences in function in these people compared to controls and there is reference to Maguire’s research on taxi drivers. The article states clearly that despite advances in neuroimaging, it is still hard to offer a coherent account of cause and effect.
2) Also On Memory
This Science Weekly podcast on memory is superb. It offers an up to date take on what cognitive neuroscience can tell us about how memory works.
3) Exposure And Phobia
Behavioural therapies work on the principle that by exposing someone with a phobia to a feared stimulus so that they have to confront their fear, it is possible to counter-condition the phobia. The problem with this is the distress which is caused if the feared stimulus is confronted all in one go as in the case of flooding and with the time this takes if the exposure happens gradually as in systematic desensitisation. This article looks at changes in the brain which occur when someone is exposed to a feared stimulus for such a brief period of time that they were not aware of it. However, the parts of the brain which both activate and control the fear response were shown to respond. This shows a possible way forward for treating phobias: expose people at a sub-conscious level first.
4) The Implications Of fMRI
Research has been going on for a while about using brain imaging techniques to see if someone is lying. Here’s a link to the Brains On Trial programme with Alan Alda first broadcast four years ago. This article explains where the research has got to now and what the implications might be.
5) Personality Over Time
This article looks at research which has tested a group of participants at two points more than sixty years apart in order to assess the consistency of their personalities. Consistency is low. This might tell us something about nature and nurture. The article dwells on issues of research method which this research raises.
6) Social Cognition
Another Guardian podcast, this time about social cognition. With social cognition, coming up for Year 2, this is well worth a listen.