Observing the Formation and Recollection of Memories

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Science  23 Dec 2005:
Vol. 310, Issue 5756, pp. 1865
DOI: 10.1126/science.310.5756.1865i

Recent advances in analyzing the large data sets collected during functional brain imaging studies have revealed patterns of neuronal activity that can be associated reliably with the recall of remembered stimuli. After seeing pictures or listening to sounds, subjects are able, when prompted, to retrieve or reactivate their memories of these items, and brain scans taken during the retrieval period are similar to those taken when the same items were studied directly. Polyn et al. (p. 1963) now show that reactivation of such stored representations occurs prior to a verbal report of recollection in a free recall paradigm, where subjects were not prompted to remember specific items, but were reporting which of these items “resurfaced” in their memory and when. These results provide support for the theoretical framework of shifting brain states in dynamic cognition.

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