Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Different signal paths for spontaneous and deliberate activation of memories

Entirely different signal paths and parts of the brain are involved when you try to remember something and when you just happen to remember something, prompted by a smell, a picture, or a word, for instance. This is shown by Kristiina Kompus in her dissertation at Umeå University in Sweden.

Imagine you are asked to remember what you were doing exactly one week ago. You would probably have to make quite a mental effort to sift through your memories. On another occasion, a smell, a picture, or a word might suddenly and unexpectedly trigger a vivid memory of something that happened to you.

Science still does not fully understand why our brain sometimes automatically supplies us with a memory that we have done nothing to deliberately call to mind, whereas why, on other occasions, we cannot remember things even though we make efforts to recall them.

The studies in Kristiina Kompus's dissertation show that these two different ways of remembering things are initiated by entirely different signal paths in the brain. Efforts to retrieve a specific memory are dealt with by the upper part of the frontal lobe. This area of the brain is activated not only in connection with memory-related efforts but also in all types of mental efforts and intentions, according to the dissertation. This part of the brain is not involved in the beginning of the process of unintentionally remembering something as a response to external stimuli. Instead, such memories are activated by specific signals from other parts of the brain, namely those that deal with perceived stimuli like smells, pictures, and words. Sometimes such memories are thought to be more vivid and emotional; otherwise they would not be activated in this way. But Kristiina Kompus's dissertation shows that this is not the case - memories do not need to be emotionally charged to be revived spontaneously, unintentionally. Nor do memories that are revived spontaneously activate the brain more than other ies.

The studies also reveal that our long-term memory is more flexible that was previously believed. There is not just one single neurological signaling path for reliving old memories but rather several paths that are anatomically separate. This discovery is important, since it helps us understand how we can help people who have a hard time remembering things, regardless of whether this is related to aging or to some disorder in the brain. It may also help people who are plagued by unpleasant memories that constantly haunt them. This can happen following traumatic experiences, but also in depression.

The dissertation uses a combination of two imaging methods for the brain: functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG). The methods yield different information about the function of the brain. By combining them, Kristiina Kompus has been able both to determine what part of the brain is activated and how the activation proceeds over extremely brief time intervals, on the order of milliseconds.

Kristiina Kompus is an English speaker. She can be reached at: Phone: +46 (0)90-786 51 86, ext. 12. Mobile: +46 (0)70-758 79 24 E-mail:

Pressofficer: Betil Born, +46-(0)703-88 60 58,

Bertil Born | idw
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Advanced analysis of brain structure shape may track progression to Alzheimer's disease
26.10.2016 | Massachusetts General Hospital

nachricht Indian roadside refuse fires produce toxic rainbow
26.10.2016 | Duke University

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel light sources made of 2D materials

Physicists from the University of Würzburg have designed a light source that emits photon pairs. Two-photon sources are particularly well suited for tap-proof data encryption. The experiment's key ingredients: a semiconductor crystal and some sticky tape.

So-called monolayers are at the heart of the research activities. These "super materials" (as the prestigious science magazine "Nature" puts it) have been...

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Prototype device for measuring graphene-based electromagnetic radiation created

28.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Gamma ray camera offers new view on ultra-high energy electrons in plasma

28.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

When fat cells change their colour

28.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>