What is episodic memory?
“Episodic memory” is a term for the part of your brain that stores and retrieves memories; it is also known as “short term memory.” Clearly remembering the specific name of an item stored in your short-term memory is different from remembering its location in space. Episodic memory can store not just what you’re thinking about at any given moment, but also which items you remember from a certain time period, or even from different times.
One of the more interesting things about episodic memory is that it seems to be born with us; we have very good memories for our own names and faces, even if we don’t have very good memories for other things. This suggests that memory is fundamentally a product of our birthright: it isn’t something we evolve over millions of years or even billions of years.
But while so much is known about the brain and how it works (or doesn’t work), there isn’t much known about episodic memory. Why does recalling something feel so evocative? When was the last time you had to hold something in your hand? Or smell something?
Which brings us to one of the most important questions: why do people remember things when they did not experience them firsthand? What makes some people able to recall details they never saw or heard, while others are unable to recall anything at all? Why do some people remember their favorite places, while others can only seem to recall where they were when they were two minutes ago? Why can some people remember where they were when their house was on fire but others can only recall their house burned down years ago? How did this particular house get burned down in the first place? Is this house in fact still standing somewhere out there somewhere today?
While much has been written on these questions (and many fascinating articles exist), there hasn’t been a great deal of academic research done on them. For example, almost no serious research has been done into whether rats have episodic memories or not — which again begs the question why does it matter if rats have them or not (as long as there aren’t ethical concerns)? And because neither rats nor humans are human-like animals with brains like ours (which would mean episodic memories exist), why should we care if we do too?! What kind of animal might be able to build artificial brains like ours someday and use them for things such as artificial
The importance of episodic memory
Episodic memories are memories of actions or events that occur in the past. They are created when the brain processes incoming information and updates its memory of events and experiences.
For example, if you have a smartphone, you can create an experience that shows you a picture of your son (a) before he was born; (b) after he was born; (c) with his baby pictures, and (d) without pictures. You can also create an experience that shows you a different picture every day for a week, showing you a different picture each day for a week.
It is commonly believed that memory is like a computer program: it has some rules on how to store data, how to retrieve it, etc. But what if we could do something else with it? What if we could make our minds run differently? What if we could get the brain to create an episodic memory? It might sound crazy, but there are already some scientific studies on this topic: one study showed that people who were taught to associate certain words with particular locations in space had less difficulty recalling material they had already studied than untrained people who were asked to recall material they had only recently studied.
In another study, researchers showed participants random images of faces in color, black and white or gray. They had no control over which color images the presented faces were in — what mattered was the manner in which they were presented to them.
The most interesting part about this work is not its experimental design — it’s something more fundamental: by controlling the way information is presented to their participants, researchers can manipulate their own episodic memories — specifically their ability to remember what they have just seen.
How episodic memory works
Let’s start with a question that is easy to answer and that most people will be able to answer quickly: what is episodic memory?
Episodic memory is the ability we have to remember specific events in our lives as they happened. That includes memories of our own experiences, as well as memories relating to other people or events. It’s something we do much more naturally than we realize.
The ability to remember specific events through multiple consecutive layers of memory (usually in a linear way) is the hallmark of episodic memory; it’s also one of the most important abilities we have for navigating our world.
What is the first step in learning new trivia? This question you will be asked and your answer will determine how many points you will get. You are given a card with three cards on it — one on each side. One tells you how many points you should get, and it changes every time you take the test. The second card tells you how many points you should get if your answer was correct, and if your answer was incorrect, it tells you how many points should be deducted from your score for each incorrect answer (in effect, giving yourself an extra point for every incorrect answer).
(you must complete this test at least once)
You are told “A group of young men was traveling together on a ship when an ill-fated merchant ship sank off from the coast of Japan. A group of young men was traveling together on a ship when an ill-fated merchant ship sank off from the coast of Japan. One hundred years later, in another part of Japan, a young man was being visited by his friends when he saw four dark figures approaching his house unannounced and unnoticed They asked him what he was doing there alone He said that he had come home early because his friends had gone out sailing A few days later they returned unexpectedly No one knew where they had gone They took their leave after promising to return soon and went their separate ways When they did not return home An alarm went up throughout town and everyone began searching through everyone else’s belongings searching for them They eventually found them dead in their own rooms The young man who had been visiting his friends was arrested for murder Many suspected he might be innocent He never denied killing his friends but claimed that he killed them because they were responsible for stealing some money from him The townspeople believed him However, after extensive investigation by many different authorities including police detectives His
Types of Episodic Memory
Episodic memory is an important part of human cognition for many things. In short, it’s what allows us to remember how we got there, as well as how we got to where we are now. It is also a fundamental part of our ability to:
• understand the world around us, and the actions that happen within it
• recognize people in our environment (and their actions)
• remember something that happened in the past that isn’t currently present (e.g., the name of a person)
If you haven’t heard of episodic memory before, you may be interested in learning more about it. Episodic memory has been studied in various contexts for decades but has only really gained traction as an area of research recently — thanks to advances in computer processing power which allow for audio-visual recording and analysis of large amounts of data. Such advances have made it possible to build systems that can recognize different types of episodic memory from very diverse sources: images; words; handwriting; spoken audio; and so on.
People generally have a fairly good idea of what memory is, though few people know what it is not. Many questions about memory arise from the obvious ones: How long do we remember something? What do we remember? What do we forget? What are our memories?
There are many questions that don’t seem to be related to memory at all: Where did I go yesterday? Who is that guy behind me in line who keeps glancing at me while I’m waiting in line? The answers to these questions and others like them aren’t as clear as they may seem — and that’s because they aren’t.
Episodic memory isn’t a single thing. There are many variants on the same idea, each of which differentiates itself from each other in terms of how it makes us feel, what it does for us, and how the things it does for us affect our lives.
It was only 20 years ago that the first scientific studies of episodic memory began to emerge. It wasn’t until the 1980s when psychological studies started being done on episodic memory that researchers began to study what is actually happening in the brain when we remember things. It wasn’t until 1996 when psychologists found out that this part of our brain called the diencephalon (the seat of executive function) plays a role in the formation of episodic memories — but given how little this part is known exactly, their results were still considered conflicting.
The topic quickly became a hot one among neuroscientists and psychologists alike, and finally, in 2006, scientists got their hands on a new piece of hardware called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). This technology has been used by neuroscientists since the 1990s (and was originally specifically used by neurologists), but had never been applied to mental activity. Now researchers were able to use fMRI data collected while subjects performed several tasks on an fMRI machine:
• They could look at people like you or me and check out how different parts of our brains reacted during various tasks;
• They could study individual differences between individuals who had very different brains;
• They could observe processes occurring inside the brain (like thoughts or feelings) without having direct access to them;
• They could measure changes in blood flow within certain parts of the brain during certain types of tasks (like remembering something);
• They could watchwords being typed on a keyboard.