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Posit Science | by jurvetson
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Posit Science

I liked the decorative placards for each of the offices... as seen at their San Franscisco HQ today.

 

I also saw Soft Wired, a pre-print of the founder's new book on brain plasticity and how to proactively sculpt the sensory cortex to be a better learner

 

I was reminded of an interesting article I read recently in the MIT Tech Review on Daniela Schiller's research on memory consolidation and fear training:

 

"memories are reshaped and rewritten every time we recall an event. And, the research suggested, if mitigating information about a traumatic or unhappy event is introduced within a narrow window of opportunity after its recall—during the few hours it takes for the brain to rebuild the memory in the biological brick and mortar of molecules—the emotional experience of the memory can essentially be rewritten."

 

In animal studies, a Pavlovian response can be erased with one ECT timed to occur right after the trigger event. And by interfering with protein synthesis in the amygdala, memories could be erased after their recall.

 

The biochemical work suggested that "memories essentially had to be neurally rewritten every time they were recalled."

 

And "intervening during the brief window when the brain was rewriting its memory offered a chance to revise the initial memory itself while diminishing the emotion (fear) that came with it. By mastering the timing, the NYU group had essentially created a scenario in which humans could rewrite a fearsome memory and give it an unfrightening ending. And this new ending was robust: when Schiller and her colleagues called their subjects back into the lab a year later, they were able to show that the fear associated with the memory was still blocked."

 

And the enigmatic conclusion: "if we are all rewriting our memories every time we recall an event, the memory exists not as a file in our brain but only as the most recent rewrite of a scenario. Every memoir is fabricated, and the past is nothing more than our last retelling of it. Archival memory data is mixed with whatever new information helps shape the way we think—and feel—about it. “My conclusion,” says Schiller, “is that memory is what you are now. Not in pictures, not in recordings. Your memory is who you are now.”

 

“The safest memories are those you never remember.”

 

And that, well, that blew my mind.

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Taken on August 1, 2013