Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Episodic memory


Unilateral hand clenching increases neuronal activity in the frontal lobe of the contralateral hemisphere. Such hand clenching is also associated with increased experiencing of a given hemisphere’s “mode of processing.” Together, these findings suggest that unilateral hand clenching can be used to test hypotheses concerning the specializations of the cerebral hemispheres during memory encoding and retrieval. We investigated this possibility by testing effects of unilateral hand clenching on episodic memory. The hemispheric Encoding/Retrieval Asymmetry (HERA) model proposes left prefrontal regions are associated with encoding, and right prefrontal regions with retrieval, of episodic memories. It was hypothesized that right hand clenching (left hemisphere activation) pre-encoding, and left hand clenching (right hemisphere activation) pre-recall, would result in superior memory. Results supported the HERA model. Also supported was that simple unilateral hand clenching can be used as a means by which the functional specializations of the cerebral hemispheres can be investigated in intact humans.

Concepts: Memory, Episodic memory


Obesity has become an international health crisis. There is accumulating evidence that excess bodyweight is associated with changes to the structure and function of the brain and with a number of cognitive deficits. In particular, research suggests that obesity is associated with hippocampal and frontal lobe dysfunction, which would be predicted to impact memory. However evidence for such memory impairment is currently limited. We hypothesised that higher BMI would be associated with reduced performance on a test of episodic memory that assesses not only content, but also context and feature integration. 50 participants aged 18-35, with BMIs ranging from 18 to 51, were tested on a novel what-where-when style episodic memory test: The “Treasure-Hunt Task”. This test requires recollection of object, location, and temporal order information within the same paradigm, as well as testing the ability to integrate these features into a single event recollection. Higher BMI was associated with significantly lower performance on the What-Where-When memory task and all individual elements: object identification, location memory, and temporal order memory. After controlling for age, sex and years in education, the effect of BMI on the individual what, where and when tasks remained, while the WWW dropped below significance. This finding of episodic memory deficits in obesity is of concern given the emerging evidence for a role for episodic cognition in appetite regulation.

Concepts: Psychology, Brain, Cognition, Memory, Hippocampus, Episodic memory, Procedural memory, Amnesia


Psychological and neurobiological evidence implicates hippocampal-dependent memory processes in the control of hunger and food intake. In humans, these have been revealed in the hyperphagia that is associated with amnesia. However, it remains unclear whether ‘memory for recent eating’ plays a significant role in neurologically intact humans. In this study we isolated the extent to which memory for a recently consumed meal influences hunger and fullness over a three-hour period. Before lunch, half of our volunteers were shown 300 ml of soup and half were shown 500 ml. Orthogonal to this, half consumed 300 ml and half consumed 500 ml. This process yielded four separate groups (25 volunteers in each). Independent manipulation of the ‘actual’ and ‘perceived’ soup portion was achieved using a computer-controlled peristaltic pump. This was designed to either refill or draw soup from a soup bowl in a covert manner. Immediately after lunch, self-reported hunger was influenced by the actual and not the perceived amount of soup consumed. However, two and three hours after meal termination this pattern was reversed - hunger was predicted by the perceived amount and not the actual amount. Participants who thought they had consumed the larger 500-ml portion reported significantly less hunger. This was also associated with an increase in the ‘expected satiation’ of the soup 24-hours later. For the first time, this manipulation exposes the independent and important contribution of memory processes to satiety. Opportunities exist to capitalise on this finding to reduce energy intake in humans.

Concepts: Psychology, Food, Memory, Hippocampus, Appetite, Episodic memory, Amnesia, Restaurant


The Northwestern University SuperAging Program studies a rare cohort of individuals over age 80 with episodic memory ability at least as good as middle-age adults to determine what factors contribute to their elite memory performance. As psychological well-being is positively correlated with cognitive performance in older adults, the present study examined whether aspects of psychological well-being distinguish cognitive SuperAgers from their cognitively average-for-age, same-age peers.

Concepts: Psychology, Middle age, Cognitive psychology, Cognition, Memory, Gerontology, Old age, Episodic memory


Sleep plays an important role in the consolidation of memory. This has been most clearly shown in adults for procedural memory (i.e. skills and procedures) and declarative memory (e.g. recall of facts). The effects of sleep and memory are relatively unstudied in adolescents. Declarative memory is important in school performance and consequent social functioning in adolescents. This is the first study to specifically examine the effects of normal sleep on auditory declarative memory in an early adolescent sample. Given that the majority of adolescents do not obtain the recommended amount of sleep, it is critical to study the cognitive effects of normal sleep. Forty male and female normal, healthy adolescents between the ages of ten and fourteen years old were randomly assigned to sleep and no sleep conditions. Subjects were trained on a paired-associate declarative memory task and a control working memory task at 9 am, and tested at night (12 hours later) without sleep. The same number of subjects was trained at 9 pm and tested 9 am following sleep. An increase of 20.6% in declarative memory, as measured by the number correct in a paired-associate test, following sleep was observed compared to the group which was tested at the same time interval without sleep (p<0.03). The performance on the control working memory task that involved encoding and memoranda manipulation was not affected by time of day or relationship to sleep. Declarative memory is significantly improved by sleep in a sample of normal adolescents.

Concepts: Time, Cognitive psychology, Sleep, Memory, Hippocampus, Episodic memory, Long-term memory, Declarative memory


Several experiments have demonstrated an intimate relationship between hippocampal theta rhythm (4-12 Hz) and memory. Lesioning the medial septum or fimbria-fornix, a fiber track connecting the hippocampus and the medial septum, abolishes the theta rhythm and results in a severe impairment in declarative memory. To assess whether there is a causal relationship between hippocampal theta and memory formation we investigated whether restoration of hippocampal theta by electrical stimulation during the encoding phase also restores fimbria-fornix lesion induced memory deficit in rats in the fear conditioning paradigm. Male Wistar rats underwent sham or fimbria-fornix lesion operation. Stimulation electrodes were implanted in the ventral hippocampal commissure and recording electrodes in the septal hippocampus. Artificial theta stimulation of 8 Hz was delivered during 3-min free exploration of the test cage in half of the rats before aversive conditioning with three foot shocks during 2 min. Memory was assessed by total freezing time in the same environment 24 h and 28 h after fear conditioning, and in an intervening test session in a different context. As expected, fimbria-fornix lesion impaired fear memory and dramatically attenuated hippocampal theta power. Artificial theta stimulation produced continuous theta oscillations that were almost similar to endogenous theta rhythm in amplitude and frequency. However, contrary to our predictions, artificial theta stimulation impaired conditioned fear response in both sham and fimbria-fornix lesioned animals. These data suggest that restoration of theta oscillation per se is not sufficient to support memory encoding after fimbria-fornix lesion and that universal theta oscillation in the hippocampus with a fixed frequency may actually impair memory.

Concepts: Amygdala, Memory, Hippocampus, Episodic memory, Procedural memory, Semantic memory, Declarative memory, Theta rhythm


Decades of research have established two central roles of the hippocampus - memory consolidation and spatial navigation. Recently, a third function of the hippocampus has been proposed: simulating future events. However, claims that the neural patterns underlying simulation occur without prior experience have come under fire in light of newly published data.

Concepts: Time, Amygdala, Mathematics, Engineering, Memory, Episodic memory


Despite our optimistic belief that we would behave honestly when facing the temptation to act unethically, we often cross ethical boundaries. This paper explores one possibility of why people engage in unethical behavior over time by suggesting that their memory for their past unethical actions is impaired. We propose that, after engaging in unethical behavior, individuals' memories of their actions become more obfuscated over time because of the psychological distress and discomfort such misdeeds cause. In nine studies (n = 2,109), we show that engaging in unethical behavior produces changes in memory so that memories of unethical actions gradually become less clear and vivid than memories of ethical actions or other types of actions that are either positive or negative in valence. We term this memory obfuscation of one’s unethical acts over time “unethical amnesia.” Because of unethical amnesia, people are more likely to act dishonestly repeatedly over time.

Concepts: Psychology, Greek loanwords, Memory, Hippocampus, Philosophy, Human behavior, Episodic memory, Amnesia


The creation of memories about real-life episodes requires rapid neuronal changes that may appear after a single occurrence of an event. How is such demand met by neurons in the medial temporal lobe (MTL), which plays a fundamental role in episodic memory formation? We recorded the activity of MTL neurons in neurosurgical patients while they learned new associations. Pairs of unrelated pictures, one of a person and another of a place, were used to construct a meaningful association modeling the episodic memory of meeting a person in a particular place. We found that a large proportion of responsive MTL neurons expanded their selectivity to encode these specific associations within a few trials: cells initially responsive to one picture started firing to the associated one but not to others. Our results provide a plausible neural substrate for the inception of associations, which are crucial for the formation of episodic memories.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Brain, Human brain, Cerebral cortex, Memory, Hippocampus, Episodic memory


The hippocampus is critical for the acquisition and retrieval of episodic and contextual memories. Lesions of the dentate gyrus, a principal input of the hippocampus, block memory acquisition, but it remains unclear whether this region also plays a role in memory retrieval. Here we combine cell-type specific neural inhibition with electrophysiological measurements of learning-associated plasticity in behaving mice to demonstrate that dentate gyrus granule cells are not required for memory retrieval, but instead have an unexpected role in memory maintenance. Furthermore, we demonstrate the translational potential of our findings by showing that pharmacological activation of an endogenous inhibitory receptor expressed selectively in dentate gyrus granule cells can induce a rapid loss of hippocampal memory. These findings open a new avenue for the targeted erasure of episodic and contextual memories.

Concepts: Memory, Cerebrum, Hippocampus, Neurogenesis, Granule cell, Episodic memory, Amnesia, Semantic memory