AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 29, Number 2, 2020


Researchers Uncover Our Brain’s Filing System for Storing Experiences

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A team of neuroscientists has uncovered how our brains organize, over time, our experiences: that is, according to their similarities.

“It is as if in order to make sense of the world, the brain re-organizes individual distinct experiences into information clusters—perhaps signaling the emergence of conceptual knowledge,” observes Lila Davachi, an associate professor in NYU’s Department of Psychology and the senior author of the paper.

The work, co-authored with Alexa Tompary, a recent NYU doctoral recipient, explored how memories become transformed over time—a core question in memory research.

In their study, the researchers examined a specific dynamic: whether and how the brain would represent the similarities or shared features across individual experiences.

To do so, they conducted an experiment in which subjects learned a series of object-scene associations. Over the course of the experiment, they viewed several individual objects (e.g., a tennis racquet) on a computer screen, with each object paired with pictures of four repeating scenes (a beach scene, for example) The researchers then tested subjects’ ability to match the objects with the scenes they viewed at two time periods: immediately after the experiment and one week later.

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