The Flashbulb

Ever heard of flashbulb memories? They are highly descriptive and detailed “snapshots” of a certain event in the past that is significant to you for some reason, usually for an emotional reason. Flashbulb memories have been substantially researched, even though it has been proven that even these memories can be false. As we known, memory can often play tricks on us and is often unreliable, especially in eye-witness accounts. Flashbulb memories are interesting because they offer very vivid and often reliable information regarding a certain event (ex. JFK’s assassination, 9/11 etc..) because they hold an emotional significance. However, even flashbulb memories become less and less reliable over time. Certain aspects of the memory become unclear, are forgotten, or are even altered over time.

Neurological studies show that there is a connection between emotion and memory in the brain. Emotional arousal causes neurohormonal changes, which engages amygdala, which are involved in the storage and coding of memories. My experiment is an extension of Mark Mayford’s experiment using light in order to create false memories in a mouse’s brain. My creation, called the Flashbulb, works for human brains and allows us to use light in order to alter flashbulbs memories. This would essentially create a completely untrue but intensely vivid and descriptive memory in someone’s brain. After creating the memory, scientists could observe how much of the false memory the participant remembers over time. This would allow scientists to learn more about memory and why it is so unreliable.browntech

My artistic skills are lacking, however the general idea is to add genes into a human brain that are responsible for making memories, which are light-sensitive and can be manipulated. I think that this technology could definitely be invented in the near future. A very similar technique was invented for mice: scientists were able to manipulate a memory that already existed in a mouse’s brain and alter it. The mouse would then stay clear of certain places, for example, because they would have an unpleasant memory of it even though they had never entered that place before. This sort of experiment has never been done on humans, however. It would require some invasive procedures in order to implant the genes that make the proteins necessary for this procedure. However, other than this the technology is not terribly advanced. A great deal of research has been conducted in order to better understand memory, which is such an important aspect of our lives and yet is so unreliable.

Another interesting experiment that could be conducted using this technology is to implant a memory in someone who is suffering from anterograde¬†amnesia, which is a disease that prohibits patients from transferring short term memory to long term memory. It would be interesting to implant a flashbulb memory into his brain and observe the brain to see what happens to that memory and how it gets lost or forgotten by the patient. There are so many disorders that revolve around memory, and I think that this technology would aid researchers and could help develop treatments or cures. Let’s see what happens!

One response to “The Flashbulb”

  1. Carlos Aizenman says:

    Interesting concept, is this the Mayford experiment you refer to?

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