Overheads for the 3rd (last) exam

Exceptional memory

Who has good memory?

What are the differences in people's memory ability?

Why are some people so good at certain memory tasks?

Is it genetic?

Is it practice?

Is it background knowledge?



Rockies vs. Diamondbacks Colorado 7th inning

Kile flied out to right. Lansing singled to center. E Burks doubled to left, Lansing scored. C Goodwin ran for E Burks. Clint Sodowsky relieved Andy Benes. L Walker singled to right, C Goodwin scored. Bichette singled to right, L Walker to third. V Castilla homered to center, L Walker and Bichette scored Helton walked. N Perez flied out to shallow left center. Manwaring lined out to second. 5 Runs, 5 Hits, 0 Errors (74 words)

Chicago vs. Detroit

Pippen made a 3-pointer 2:07 into overtime, Jerry Stackhouse missed a 3 on Detroit's next touch and Jordan made two foul shots with 2:23 left after being held with a clear path to the basket. That made it 100-95, and Jordan added a tough turnaround jumper with 1:49 left for a 102-97 lead.

After Hill scored, Rodman had his back to the basket when he flipped an over-the-shoulder pass to a cutting Pippen for a layup that restored a five-point lead and more or less ended Detroit's last hope. (98 words)

Jim Beam stakes at Turfway Park

Event of the Year, the 4-5 favorite covered the the 1 1/8-miles in one minute, 47 seconds -- just two-fifths of a second off the track and stakes record set by Hansel in 1991 -- giving jockey Russell Baze his third win of the day. Yukon Pete led the field to the half-mile marker in 45 1/5 seconds before Baze got Event of the Year in gear as the colt raced four-wide to the three-quarter pole in a quick 1:09 2/5. Event of the Year easily held off Yarrow Brae, ridden by Willie Martinez, and third place finisher Truluck, with Pat Day, to the wire.

(101 words)

Individual differences in memory abilities

How much do people differ in memory abilities?

Underwood, Boruch, and , Malmi (1978)

Study of individual differences in memory

200 undergraduates in 10 sessions with 24 memory tests

What is the pattern of correlations between different memory tasks?

Key results:

• Large individual differences between college students

• Differences in performance were a function of task demands

• Some better at abstract words, others better at memory span...

Implications: we are typically not good at everything and if you are good at one memory task, you might not be good at another.



What about all those memory experts?

Expertise and Memory

Studies of expertise and memory:

Ceci & Liker (1986) memory in horse race betters

Strategies used: horse's closing speed, track conditions, purse size, jockey abilitiy

Need memory of previous encounters with horse/jockey/conditions

No correlation to intelligence

Memory for musical pieces in musicians

Well structured music, chunking of music

Chi: Children's memory for chess positions

Other studies of Chess:

Studies of chess experts: Degroot (1966)

• No major differences in intellectual abilities

• Masters and Grandmasters do not look ahead a greater number of moves (depth of search)

• Very rapid pattern recognition of familiar arrangements of chess pieces

(50,000 unique patterns stored in a grandmaster)

• Grandmasters could reproduce whole chessboards from memory with 5 seconds of study time

• Ability to chunk information for better processing in STM and storage in LTM

• Experts not better at reconstructing chess boards with randomly placed pieces Chase & Simon (1973)

Similar findings for other domains

Bridge, Electronic Circuits

Keys to encoding in experts:

• Chunking

• Hierarchical knowledge structures in LTM

Organization permits quick retrieval

Memory skill makes for faster access, less strain on working memory


Skilled memory theory (Chase & Ericsson, 1982)

Exceptional feats of memory are not due to innate, neurological differences between people. Instead they are due to having sufficient practice and motivation.


Key principles of skilled memory theory:

1) Information must be encoded in a meaningful manner using previous knowledge to form associations

2) During encoding it is necessary to attach specific retrieval cues to the material so that it can be accessed from LTM by using the cues

3) Extensive practice increases the speed of encoding and retreival operations

Skilled memory results in encoding so that information in LTM is used in a way similar to that of STM.

How do we get exceptional memory?

Individuals with extraordinary memory abilities

Mnemonists: people who use mnenomic techniques

S.V Shereshevskii (S)

Studied by Luria (1968) Mind of a mnemonist

• Large memory span (70 digits presented 3-4 secs. apart)

• Recall of digits in any order (backwards, forward, diagonally)

• Good recall of words, nonsense syllables, numbers, sounds, oral or visual items

• Recall of lists presented many years earlier

Explanations for S's performance:

1) Possible eidetic memory

• S reported being able to "see" table of numbers and could just read it off

2) Synesthesia: Sensory experiences in one modality evoke sensory experiences in other modalities

• Sounds produce images of lights, color and produce certain tastes

• "What a crumbly yellow voice you have"

• The same stimuli evoked the identical synesthetic reaction

3) Used method of Loci

• Walking the streets of Moscow

• Recall errors due to not noticing items on his "walks"

V. P.

Digit span of 17

Not affected by Brown-Peterson distractor task

Very high retention of stories

Explanations for V.P.'s performance

• Generated idiosyncratic verbal associations for material to be remembered

• Associated words/ nonsense material to words/stories/names/dates he already knew

• Spoke 9 languages

• High IQ (136)



Creating a mnemonist: S. F. (Chase & Ericsson, 1981, 1982)

Practice on memory span tasks over 2 years

1 hour/day 3-5 days/week


Read a sequence of random digits (1/sec)

Recall in correct order.

If correct, increase number of digits by 1

If incorrect decrease number of digits by 1

Explanation for S.F.'s performance

• Running times: 3492 = 3 min. 49.2 secs. (almost world record mile time)

• Other associations of ages and dates

• Hierarchical retrieval structure of chunks

Replications of study on S.F.

D.D. developed her own chunking system

Elderly can learn task as well.

Rajan Mahadevan

31,811 digits of pi for Guinness book of world records

Working on 40K digits of pi

Phone numbers

6X6 number matrices

No transfer to other abilities, memory

Explanations for Rajan's peformance

Idiosyncratic semantic associations

"111" is a Nelson, since Admiral Nelson had 1 leg, one arm, and 1 leg



Idiot Savants

Persons of generally low intelligence with some remarkable skill

Autistic savants:


no close attachements

repetitive movements

Need to preserve sameness

Savants are not as common in retarded individuals as in autistic individuals


1) Damage to left hemisphere leads to compensatory development of right hemisphere (music, art skills, mechanical ability) (Brink, 1980)

2) Abnormalities in hippocampus and amygdala affecting ability to do memory consolidation (Mauman & Kemper, 1985)

3) Skilled memory theory Ericsson and Faivre (1988)

Savants are experts in their area of interest

(just like us)



Eidetic imagery

Some people can maintain an image in memory as if it is in front of them

• Eidetic image is not an afterimage (doesn't move with your eyes, or change color)

• Eidetic image is not photographic memory. There are distortions and additions


Who has eidetic imagery?

2-15 percent of School-aged children

Verbalizing while viewing image interferes with memory

(this suggests why adults do not have the ability)


One case of extraordinary adult eidetic imagery


Excellent recall of images

Could see two pictures of random dot stereogram separated by 10 secs and superimpose them to get image.



Improving your memory


Mnemonic Techniques

Internal strategies/methods to help encode, store, retrieve information

Techniques can be visual or verbal

What are the key parts of a mnemonic technique?

• Improve attention to details of information

• Increase effort in encoding the information

• Helps organize the information


Naive Mnemonics

Techniques that are naturally used without formal training

• Repetition (repeating phone numbers)

• Rhymes: Thirty days hath september,

• Chunking

• Forming images

• First letter mnemonics:

Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie

"Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge"


Technical Mnemonics

Techniques that must be learned

• Method of loci

• Peg-word system

One is a gun, two is a shoe, three is a tree

four is a door, five is a hive, six is sticks

seven is heaven eight is a gate nine is a line,

ten is a hen


• Number-letter mnemonic



































1142=tight run

13564=team lasher

939-8323 =??

646-1980 =??

Do mnemonic systems really help?

Although these technical approaches can help improve your memory:

• It is hard to apply to complex material (poems. stories, psychology)

• Evidence shows that people rarely use technical mnemonics

• Even memory researchers seldom use technical mnemonics

• After training, people seldom keep up their mnemonics techniques

• People typically use external methods (lists) to help


Useful Mnemonic techniques

Linkword language system

Link english word with foreigh word in an interacting image


Memorizing the days of the week for a year

Knuckles for months with 31 days

Memorize 12 numbers for first sunday of each month

1998 = 4 1 1 5 3 7 5 2 6 4 1 6

What day of the week is January 8th?

What day of the week is August 24th?

What day of the week is Christmas?

External Memory:

External memory plays a major role in our daily lives


Why do we need external memory?

When do we need to use it?

We are aware of our memory abilities and apply it when necessary.

What are the problems with external memory?


Non-commercial memory aids


Commercial Memory aids

A product designed to help a person with memory tasks

Types of memory aids:

Memory Prosthetic: Facilitates memory performance

Memory corrector: Corrects potential memory errors

Memory Robot: Device that performs memory task for user

How Effective are commercial memory aids?

Alarm clocks, timers: Big success

Devices to help you find your remote control or keys

Major problem with commercial memory aids is that using them can often be hard than the actual memory task. (Programming a VCR)

External Knowledge Sources

Dictionaries, Encyclopedia, phonebooks, files, computers

What are the problems with external knowledge sources?


The Brain

Methods of studying the brain:

Clinical Observations


Electrical Activity

Electroencephalogram (EEG)

Brain Imaging:

CAT scan

PET scan




How does memory work in the brain?

What are the biological processes involved in forming/retrieving memories

Primary questions: How and Where are memories stored?

Searching for the Engram: A memory trace present in the brain after something has been learned

How localized are memories?


Karl Lashley (1929): Locating memories.

Train rats to navigate maze. After 10 perfect trials, destroy parts of brain, test whether it can run maze.

Why didn’t he find the location of memories?

Rat had learned many memories (kinesthetic cues (position of body), proprioceptive (where we are in relationship to our body), olfactory cues.



Neurons and Neural communication

Neurons are nerve cells.

Dendrites: receive information

Axons pass information on to other neurons or to muscles or glands

Myelin sheath: insulates axons, speeds impulses

Information flows from Cell body down to axon


When do cells trigger?

Neuron receives signals on dendrites and cell body

signals can be inhibitory or excitatory

If excitatory - inhibitory signals are greater than a threshold, then the neuron fires.


Cerebral Cortex

80% of the weight

Highly interconnected set of neurons (1 neuron connected to 1000s of others)

Made up of folds, actually large sheets of neurons, folded up. More surface area that way



Is there learning from DNA or is it just in the Brain?

Studies in 60s and 70s. Feed planaria other planaria who have been trained to respond to light.

Showed learning, but failed to replicate.

How does our brain change during learning and memory?

Raise rats in impoverished vs. rich environments

Rats in enriched environments have:


Habituation and Sensitization in the Aplysia

Aplysia: ~20,000 large neurons

Gill reflex to touch of siphon.

Habituation: Decrease in gill reflex with repeated presentations

Sensitization: Increase in gill reflex with electric shock



Synaptic changes underlying learning: Long Term Potentiation (LTP)

Electrical stimulation of nerve pathways can lead to increases in excitatory presynaptic and postsynaptic potentials.

Increase lasts for weeks or months

Long Term Potentiation: Neurons that receive stimulation tend to give bigger responses the next time they are stimulated.

Changes in strength of pre and post-synaptic connections

Evidence for learning: If a pathway is used, it tends to be strengthened


How are memories formed? Hebb’s two-stage process of memory formation.

Stage 1: Stimuli causes cell assemblies (groups of interconnected neurons) to set into motion a reverberating electrical signal. (like STM)

Stage 2: If reverberations continue for long enough, anatomical changes in neurons and synaptic connections result in stronger connections (like through LTP)

Disruptions of memory is primarily vulnerable during the first stage

Consolidation theory

How is memory transferred from STM to LTM?

Memory in transition from STM to LTM is susceptible to disruption

Consolidation theory of memory: information is gradually, and under only under certain circumstances, placed into LTM.

Evidence: Retrograde amnesia:

Loss of memory for events occurring prior to the onset of a disturbance causing amnesia

Information that occurred immediately preceding blows to the head tend not to be consolidated.


Trauma interferes with neural activity that permits consolidation of information in STM or in LTM that is still being consolidated

Often doesn’t affect memories occurring much earlier before trauma.


Inducing amnesia to test Consolidation theory

Electroconvulsive shock (ECS)

Chorover & Schiller (1965)

Rats attached to wires that could induce ECS

Conditioned rats to do a passive avoidance task

Varied time between footshock and ECS




Implications: Consolidation process can be interrupted disrupting formation of memories.

It is still not clear exactly how long consolidation takes to happen.


Arousal and Memory Consolidation

The arousal hypothesis: The amount of memory consolidation is related to the degree of neural activity in the brain following learning

ECS has less effect on amnesia on rats given electrical stimulation to the hippocampus, reticular formation, and amygdala.




How do drugs affect memory?

Many factors in a drug that can have a facilitory or inhibiting effect.

Remember drug-dependent memory?

Some drugs:

Psychoactive Drugs: Benzodiazepines (BZs)

Valium, Librium: For panic disorder, anxiety, tension etc.

BZs impair memory ability affecting encoding of information into STM/LTM



Acetylcholine used for forming memories: Increases in ACH can enhance or reduce memory ability

Scopolamine: disrupts active processing of information

Norepinephrine: Can enhance memory in proper doses when administered directly after learning


Conclusions: Acetylcholine and norepinephrine increase neural activity: Evidence for arousal affecting memory.


Stimulants: Amphetamines can enhance memory when:


Elderly given either sugar or saccharin sweetened lemonade.

Tested for memory:

Sugar group had better memory

Other evidence:

Poor memory in elderly related to poor regulation of blood glucose.

Rats learn better with sugar

Glucose enhances level of activity in the brain.


Does consolidation occur when we sleep?

Recall of material is worse when REM sleep is disrupted

REM sleep occurs most with infants, least with elderly.


Where does consolidation occur in the brain?

Medial temporal regions: Hippocampus, amygdala

Diencephalon region: Mammilary bodies, dorsomedial thalamic nuclei

Declarative knowledge (facts, information): seems to be affected by consolidation

Are these areas where LTM and STM for declarative information is stored? No

These areas are used for processing information into LTM.

LTM information is stored in cerebral cortex

How do we know that declarative and non-declarative memories are stored differently?

Why does consolidation take time to occur?

What would life be like if it occurred instantaneously?


Memory Disorders

Some common memory anomalies

Déja Vu

Feeling of having already experienced a situation

Most common among people who have propensity to daydream or are in heightened anxiety, sensitivity or fatigued state.

Why does it occur?

Good and bad Theories

Jamais Vu

Lack of recognition of something highly familiar.

Explanation: Seeing something when the re are no or different contextual cues


Time-Gap Experience

Lack of recall of items from a particular gap of time, typically after doing a monotonous task

Types of memory disorders:

Organic: based on physiological impairment

Psychological: Based on dissociation of memory

Non-organic Disorders: Dissociative Memory Disorders

Can be due to personality change

Psychogenic Amnesia:

Stressful or anxiety provoking event causes loss of recall of important personal information.

Loss of information going back years to whole life.

Examples: rape, killing, accidents

Some abilities from past remain.

Amnesic episode can last for days to years

Recover can occur with recall of missing information

Key characteristic: Amnesic is aware that information is missing from life.



Psychogenic Fugue

Like psychogenic amnesia, however person moves from home and assumes new identity

(can remarry, get new friends, take on different personality)

Person does not seem to be concerned about past

Can recover prior life, although often not completely.



Multiple Personality Disorder

Dissociative disorder where multiple personalities are present

Evidence for multiple identities, each with different memories

However, very rare. Mostly found in U.S.

May be a cultural phenomenon.


Organic Disorders

How do we know if a disorder is organic or not?

Assessment tools, some disorders may be both.

What causes Organic Memory Disorders?

Recovery from comas there is typically some Retrograde Amnesia (RA)

RA decreases with recovery, although there may always be some loss of memory

Anterograde Amnesia (AA) after injury:

Problem with transferring information into LTM.


Classic Amnesia Syndrome

RA and AA episodes following a loss of consciousness

Due to bilateral damage to brain (typically medial temporal lobes, hippocampus, amygdala)


The case of H.M.: Removal of medial temporal lobes to treat epilepsy

Slight RA, but severe AA

Looses track of conversation

Couldn’t remember new house

Still believes his parents are alive

Has some limited recall of important events (Kennedy assassination)

Mirror tracing

Word stem completion STA --à STAPLE



What information is preserved in classic Amnesia?

Transient Global Amnesia

RA and AA that lasts a few minutes, hours or days

Can be due to many factors, trauma, stress, sexual intercourse, drugs

Could be due to temporary lack of blood-flow to regions of the brain.

Specific memory disorders.

Localized specific memory disorders

Due to injury to specific brain areas

Aphasia: Difficulty expressing/understanding language

Apraxia: Inability to perform purposeful movements

Prospagnosia: Damage to both hemispheres resulting in loss of ability to recognize familiar faces.



Korsakoff’s Syndrome

Discovered by Sergei Korsakoff (1887)


Cause: Damage to many portions of brain (dorsalthalamic nuclei, mammillary bodies, frontal lobes)

Cause due to: Thiamine deficiency, alcohol

(alcoholics tend to have poor vitamin intake and interferes with intestinal absorption of thiamine)




Primary undifferentiated dementia: Progressive impairment of the brain (changes to brain tissue) with eventual death

Most common type: Alzheimer’s disease:

Onset of cognitive and behavioral symptoms

Symptoms start off small , so easy to rationalize

Distinguishing features:

Cause of AD: ??

Viral, amount of aluminum exposure, hereditary?

Treatment: ??