In order to remember similar events, the brain exaggerates the difference between them. This results in divergent brain activity patterns but better memory performance, according to new research published in JNeurosci.
Memory is subjective. Different people recall the same event in unique ways, and people exaggerate the difference between similar events in their own life. Yet this type of bias can be advantageous when it helps the brain distinguish between similar things and prevent confusion.
In a study by Zhao et al., participants memorized different sets of faces paired with colored objects. Some objects were identical except for slight color differences. At the start of training, the participants had a hard time distinguishing pairs when the objects were almost identical. However, after two days of practice and testing, performance improved. Participants were then shown a face and imagined the corresponding object while the researchers measured their brain activity with fMRI. Recalling two similar objects resulted in different activity patterns in the intraparietal sulcus, a brain area involved in the subjective aspect of memory. The more dissimilar the brain activity, the better the participants' memory performance and the more they exaggerated the color difference in a post-scan test.
Manuscript title: Adaptive Memory Distortions Are Predicted by Feature Representations in Parietal Cortex
JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today, the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact, while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.
About The Society for Neuroscience
The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.