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Author Topic: How do I prove that it is a life event memory and not a dream memory?  (Read 8381 times)

Offline dentstudent

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I can remember back to when I was 2 or 3. At least I think I can. I "remember" very clearly painting in kindergarten and singing "Round and round the Mulberry bush" and so on. But are these my real memories, or could they be dreams that I am recalling as memories?


 

Offline Karen W.

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 Firstly kindergarten is generally 5 years old.. Is it different there? Secondly In my opinion and this is but a guess in my opinion,but they are more then likely memories unless you have some kind of photo that you have seen for many years and have been told that is what you did then. Otherwise I believe because you recall the voice and the song and a kinda of visualization then that would make it a memory. imprinted in your minds. Dreams can sometimes have lasting impacts in our minds especially when associated with trauma but for the most part others seem more inclined to fade away unlike memories of actions or things we actually experienced.. in my humble opinion! LOL

I bear the memories of very traumatic times and highly exciting times new things and old routines.. Dreams I only seem to remember if they were really bad or really disturbing in nature or just so weird that I dwell on it for sometime after..
 

Offline dentstudent

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"Play-School" as it was in the "old days" from the age of 3.
I'm wondering if we store dream memories in a different place on our brain to life-event memories, and can therefore make a distinction between them when we recall them. Of course, I've had traumatic dreams, but they are clearly unreal - I've not been scared to death by a talking carpet, or had fairies redecorate my hallway, or been in a flood where everyone over the age of 33 had to perish (all true dreams, I assure you). However, I've had dreams that seemed very real, and could in actuality occur - receiving tooth money and "feeling" the coins in my hands until I awoke. Therefore, there may be some memories which do seem to be life-events, but may be actually be recalled dreams.
My point is that I think I know which are which, but am I right?
 

another_someone

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Memories are always artificial constructs based upon fragmentary recollections.

As any police officer will tell you, if 3 people observe the same road accident, from exactly the same vantage point, 2 hours later you will have 3 different, and totally incompatible stories of the event that took place.

We receive sensory stimuli, but then we try and make sense of that stimuli, and to make sense we have to draw conclusions from and inevitably incomplete set of facts.  Unfortunately (maybe not so) few people are able to distinguish the synthesised conclusions from the fragmentary raw sensory data - it is just one complete memory.

I say that this may not necessary be as unfortunate as all that because it is the process of being able to fill in the gaps with imagination that constitutes intelligence - we cannot function by memory alone, but have to find a way to make sense of that memory.

As memories fade, and the amount of sensory information we still retain from the event diminishes, so the constructed reality becomes the only thing we can recall.  In part, this must be necessary as the constructed memory is an attempt to reduce the complexity of the disparate sensory information, and so will use fewer memory resources than trying to store all the disparate sensory information.

The other issue is social conditioning and social conformance.  Part of our education is to learn from others how we should interpret sensory information, which means society teaches us how to create memories.  In the extreme case, you can hypnotise people into constructing memories for that which they have absolutely no sensory information; but even without full hypnosis, we are all suggestible to some degree or another.

This tendency to allow others to shape our memories is one of the reasons why witnesses to crime should not be allowed to discuss the matter with each other prior to being interviewed by the police.  It is bad enough that 3 witnesses to the same event will have 3 incompatible memories of the event, but it becomes even worse when they all share the same memory of the event.
« Last Edit: 01/08/2007 13:45:26 by another_someone »
 

Offline neilep

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Stuart...I'd be happy to receive your earliest memory here http://www.thenakedscientists.com/forum/index.php?topic=2345.new#new
 

Offline dentstudent

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I'm not sure what you mean by "constructed reality". This makes it sound like a fabricated memory, and so may not be an actual one but some more easily stored version, which then may be readable as a the actual memory.

In thinking about recollection, it seems to me that visual memories appear as photographic stills yet audio memories can be streamed. I can see only a picture of Julian Lloyd Webber playing Elgar at the Barbican yet I can "hear" the music as it should be. I suspect the sources of this might be different, in that I'm not recalling the music from the actual situation, but a CD of the said concerto, but the point remains the same.

I'm not sure if I agree with your last paragraph, George, if only because I need further explanation. The social conditioning of interpretation of memories and therefore memory creation - I don't see how this is the case from dream memories. I can see this interpretation being correct for life-events, but a dream is usually something that is not shared and I think is stored differently - how does social conditioning interact with something that is entirely personal?
 

another_someone

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I'm not sure what you mean by "constructed reality". This makes it sound like a fabricated memory, and so may not be an actual one but some more easily stored version, which then may be readable as a the actual memory.

In thinking about recollection, it seems to me that visual memories appear as photographic stills yet audio memories can be streamed. I can see only a picture of Julian Lloyd Webber playing Elgar at the Barbican yet I can "hear" the music as it should be. I suspect the sources of this might be different, in that I'm not recalling the music from the actual situation, but a CD of the said concerto, but the point remains the same.

I think the key phrase here is "appear as photographic stills".

Firstly, one does not "see" (in one's mind) images in two dimensions, but in three dimensions - this alone means that the brain has interpreted the two dimensional sensory information into three dimensions (even when one does not have full binocular vision, cues such as size and parallax will be used to generate three dimensional images - but you will never remember the two raw dimensional sensory information you used to create the three dimensional image).

Let me put forward another scenario (this may be more true for some people than for others, but it is true of everyone to some extent).  If you see a person for the first time (you are not concentrating on them, they are merely part of the scene you observe), and they have some blemish on the side of their face, but you do not notice the blemish, then your mind will interpolate the image as if it was a blemish free face, and you could swear blind that no blemish existed on the face.

I'm not sure if I agree with your last paragraph, George, if only because I need further explanation. The social conditioning of interpretation of memories and therefore memory creation - I don't see how this is the case from dream memories. I can see this interpretation being correct for life-events, but a dream is usually something that is not shared and I think is stored differently - how does social conditioning interact with something that is entirely personal?

I was not talking specifically about dream memories, but about memories in general.

The issues with dream memories are the same, but magnified, in that they have fewer reality checks (although the reality checks can often part of the distortions one has even with real memories).  In a sense, the lack of reality check is one way in which one tries to separate 'real' memories from dream memories (if they seem too unreal, they are assumed to be a dream.  The problem is that this line is not always clear, and depends upon one's own prejudices about reality.  For instance, one may have a dream recollection of an early traumatic experience, but it may only appear to be a dream because you cannot believe it did happen to you.  A psychologist may then help convince you that the dream was actually a 'real' memory - the problem is, there is no real way of knowing if the memory was actually 'real', or has been promoted from dream to reality merely by the suggestion of the psychologist (ofcourse, people like Eth will no doubt come in and say that modern psychologists are aware of these risks, and try to mitigate against them - hopefully he will be right, at least most of the time).
 

Offline dentstudent

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Let me put forward another scenario (this may be more true for some people than for others, but it is true of everyone to some extent).  If you see a person for the first time (you are not concentrating on them, they are merely part of the scene you observe), and they have some blemish on the side of their face, but you do not notice the blemish, then your mind will interpolate the image as if it was a blemish free face, and you could swear blind that no blemish existed on the face.

I partially agree. I think that you are correct in saying that someone will maintain that the face is blemish free, but I think that their subconscious does notice this, and this information can be accessed, for example through hypnosis.


I was not talking specifically about dream memories, but about memories in general.

The issues with dream memories are the same, but magnified, in that they have fewer reality checks (although the reality checks can often part of the distortions one has even with real memories).  In a sense, the lack of reality check is one way in which one tries to separate 'real' memories from dream memories (if they seem too unreal, they are assumed to be a dream.  The problem is that this line is not always clear, and depends upon one's own prejudices about reality.  For instance, one may have a dream recollection of an early traumatic experience, but it may only appear to be a dream because you cannot believe it did happen to you.  A psychologist may then help convince you that the dream was actually a 'real' memory - the problem is, there is no real way of knowing if the memory was actually 'real', or has been promoted from dream to reality merely by the suggestion of the psychologist (of course, people like Eth will no doubt come in and say that modern psychologists are aware of these risks, and try to mitigate against them - hopefully he will be right, at least most of the time).

This is clear to me from the point of view of the psyche hiding these traumata as dreams in a kind of denial. However, what about the rather more benign imagery? It would seem that if your memory is of, say going to buy an ice cream or some other rather more ordinary event (i.e. non-traumatic), that therefore this is much more likely to have been a “real” event and not a dream.
 

another_someone

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I partially agree. I think that you are correct in saying that someone will maintain that the face is blemish free, but I think that their subconscious does notice this, and this information can be accessed, for example through hypnosis.

I am extremely wary of hypnosis - hypnosis (as I indicated above) can create as many artifices as it does create realities.  All hypnosis really is is giving absolute trust over to somebody else, and what they do with it (whether by malice or negligence) may not always be as you intended.

I suspect that some additional sensory memory is stored (in your terms, in your subconscious), but only for a short while (and by no means incomplete).  If some other 'reality check' causes you to question whether the face could really have been blemish free (that 'reality check' could be simply a hypnotist telling you it could not have been so), then it may cause you to reappraise your sensory information.  On the other hand, if that sensory memory is not accessed for some considerable time, I think it will generally atrophy, like a muscle that has not been used.  It is expensive to store memories that are not accessed, and my view is that the brain needs to garbage collect unused space for future memories.

The trouble is that if the 'reality check' later tells you that the face could not be blemish free, the brain can as easily interpolate fabricated sensory information in order to satisfy the 'reality check' (and this is my concern over memories recalled under hypnosis).

This is clear to me from the point of view of the psyche hiding these traumata as dreams in a kind of denial. However, what about the rather more benign imagery? It would seem that if your memory is of, say going to buy an ice cream or some other rather more ordinary event (i.e. non-traumatic), that therefore this is much more likely to have been a “real” event and not a dream.

Clearly, for you to have a memory of something (even of a believed traumatic event), you must have some sensory support of it, but the actual reality may juxtapose sensory information from different times and with different meanings.

In other words, if you remember going to buy an ice cream, then clearly there must be some 'real' memory of what an ice cream is, and how you go about buying it; but you may well remember going to buy an ice cream on your 5th birthday, when in fact it was your 6th birthday you bought an ice cream, and it was not the flavour that your memory told you it was.  All the memories are real, but they did not happen at the time, and in the sequence, or even in the contexts, that you remember them as.

Ofcourse, exceptional events, particularly traumatic events, are particularly difficult (I don't agree that it is so much a matter of denial, in the sense that one does not wish to remember; but rather that one is unable to fully make sense of the memories because they violate all of one's norms); but all memories are forced into some sort of normalisation in one way or another.
 

Offline dentstudent

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I only quote hypnosis, as I have no real idea about other methods of recall extraction (cue Eth). I'm sure there are plenty, and which are perhaps less externally suggestable.

I agree that the use of a memory retains it, or rather the lack of use tends to remove it, unless stimulated by some other sensory activation - often for example by an olfactory stimulus. I did however hear recently that you don't actually forget anything at all. What you merely lose is the ability to recall it. If you could retrain yourself or be in that situation again, you (might) be able to re-establish the link.

Also, much memory is point-referenced, so there is a time association with it. I agree however that these associations may become somewhat indistinct in latter life, but at least we know this way that they are real memories, and not dreams. My memory of picking bluebells with my Dad before seeing my Mum in hospital when she had my sister can only be from this time. I know this to be an actual memory as it was only discussed for a first time rather recently, and without prior knowledge.
 

another_someone

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I totally reject the notion that the brain can store every memory it has ever had.  I can see no way in which this either could, or need, be so.  What is the value of a memory one does not use (from an evolutionary perspective)?

I do agree that we can have snippets of very old memories, although I would doubt that they are raw sensory memories.

You say that you remember picking bluebells with your dad, but what is it you remember.  You have told me a remembered fact, and that you remember that as a fact is one thing.  What I would question is that the sensory information you remember of that occasion (as distinct from the summary fact) is anything like complete.  I suspect that you remember the fact, maybe have a few fragments of sensory information, and backfilled most of the rest of the sensory information with similar memories from future dates, but memories that make sense with the facts you know of the time.

How much of the conversation (word by word) can you remember of that time?  Can you remember how high the sun was in the sky?  Can you even remember the colour of shirt your dad was wearing on that day (possibly you can, but if so, I am sure that as I add more and more such questions, there will be more and more gaps in your knowledge, or sensory information that has been backfilled into the memory)?
 

Offline dentstudent

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You say that you remember picking bluebells with your dad, but what is it you remember.  You have told me a remembered fact, and that you remember that as a fact is one thing.  What I would question is that the sensory information you remember of that occasion (as distinct from the summary fact) is anything like complete.  I suspect that you remember the fact, maybe have a few fragments of sensory information, and backfilled most of the rest of the sensory information with similar memories from future dates, but memories that make sense with the facts you know of the time.

How much of the conversation (word by word) can you remember of that time?  Can you remember how high the sun was in the sky?  Can you even remember the colour of shirt your dad was wearing on that day (possibly you can, but if so, I am sure that as I add more and more such questions, there will be more and more gaps in your knowledge, or sensory information that has been backfilled into the memory)?

This takes me back to my earlier point, that the memory is more of a photographic still, and not a film. I've no answer to any of your questions, but this doesn't surprise or worry me! But then, even my memory of washing this morning is a still picture. Why should one be more true just because there's 34 years diffrence?
 

another_someone

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This takes me back to my earlier point, that the memory is more of a photographic still, and not a film. I've no answer to any of your questions, but this doesn't surprise or worry me! But then, even my memory of washing this morning is a still picture. Why should one be more true just because there's 34 years diffrence?

Yet you told me what you were doing (a movie), not what the image was that you had in your mind.

A still picture does not have a context, and can have many meanings.  The meanings come only with the context (assumed or remembered).

What is the picture you remember then?

One other thing - most memories (including the one you quote0 say "I was doing this" or "I was doing that", but a real image (unless it includes a mirror) can never include an "I"; the "I" is a context (a sensory free fact) that you remember with the image.
« Last Edit: 01/08/2007 16:50:37 by another_someone »
 

Heronumber0

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I wonder if I can extend this discussion into a slight tangent please? Are memories stored in several areas of the brain and then 'pulled together' e.g. a bit of sensory input added to a conscious event?

And, are people like schizophrenics in a living dream?

I  am sure that there nust be information on this from PET or other scans.
 

another_someone

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I wonder if I can extend this discussion into a slight tangent please? Are memories stored in several areas of the brain and then 'pulled together' e.g. a bit of sensory input added to a conscious event?

And, are people like schizophrenics in a living dream?

I  am sure that there nust be information on this from PET or other scans.

The first part, that memories are fragmented around the brain, I think must be inevitable.  We process different stimuli in different regions of the brain, so at very least the recall of the stimuli must be from different regions.  The integration of those stimuli into scenarios may well be in a region of its own.

I am not quite sure what you mean by the second half of the question - what is it about schizophrenia that you think is dreamlike?  Are you talking about hallucinations (which are not unique to schizophrenia, and probably only apply to a small minority of schizophrenics)?
 

Offline dentstudent

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Yet you told me what you were doing (a movie), not what the image was that you had in your mind.

I was describing what the event was, not describing a sequence as in a movie. When you look at a photo, you say “ah, this is me when I was at the sea when we visited my aging aunt Mathilda who lived in a small hut made of earth and wood” not “Ah this is me standing by the sea” because that’s obvious from the photo. It’s impossible to relate a moment in time without some descriptors of this type and so the description of an event to any 3rd person will inevitably sound is if it is a movie.
I would also add that there could be a sequence of stills, so when I was bitten by a dog, I remember going into the hallway, going to pet the dog, then the dog biting my finger as 3 separate images, but which relate a textual “movie”.
 

another_someone

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I was describing what the event was, not describing a sequence as in a movie. When you look at a photo, you say “ah, this is me when I was at the sea when we visited my aging aunt Mathilda who lived in a small hut made of earth and wood” not “Ah this is me standing by the sea” because that’s obvious from the photo. It’s impossible to relate a moment in time without some descriptors of this type and so the description of an event to any 3rd person will inevitably sound is if it is a movie.
I would also add that there could be a sequence of stills, so when I was bitten by a dog, I remember going into the hallway, going to pet the dog, then the dog biting my finger as 3 separate images, but which relate a textual “movie”.

Agreed - but the point I was making is that the memory of the description is a different matter from the memory of the image (even if you may associate the two).

More to the point, unless you are someone very exceptional, I would dispute that you have an accurate and complete memory of the image, but even there you recall fragmentary details of the image, and reconstruct the totality image in your mind from a recollection of the description of the event.

So you remember the dog biting your finger - what colour was the collar on the dog?
 

Offline dentstudent

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It was one of those brown leather ones that darken as it gets older. The dog was a King Charles Spaniel called (oddly, this is the bit I can't remember) (yet), and it had cataracts in both eyes. It bit me on the index finger of my right hand down to the knuckle, and I was the only one who said the damn thing shouldn't be put down.....It was in (about!) 1992.......
 

Offline dentstudent

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But then of course, you only have my word for this!
 

another_someone

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It was one of those brown leather ones that darken as it gets older. The dog was a King Charles Spaniel called (oddly, this is the bit I can't remember) (yet), and it had cataracts in both eyes. It bit me on the index finger of my right hand down to the knuckle, and I was the only one who said the damn thing shouldn't be put down.....It was in (about!) 1992.......

I am not so concerned about a lack of corroborating evidence, but it does seem from your description that this was a dog that you knew fairly well, and so there is nothing you have described in the incident (aside from the fact of the bite itself) that was unique to that moment in time (i.e. the collar you describe is, I suppose, a collar you had seen many times, and so the memory of the colour could have come from any of those times, and not uniquely from that image).

I suppose what I am looking for is some part of that image that could only have been within that image (i.e. it was not a repeat of something you had seen many times, either before of after), and was periphery to the main emotional content of that moment (remembering the bite is easy because there is strong emotional reinforcement of that mement, but it is the matters at that time that had no emotional meaning to you, yet are also not reinforced by memories later or earlier, that I am interested in).
 

Offline dentstudent

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I know that I was making a hot beverage at the time, in either 2 or 3 cups. I know that my girlfriend at the time and her mother were in the room next to the hallway and that I took one cup from my left hand with my right to place it on the table in the middle of the room. What colours the cups were, whether it was tea or coffee, what kind of table it was, what they were wearing, pass. No idea. Perhaps these are the bits of the memory that the brain "decides" to lose, as they are peripheral to the memory, and not important as such.

The dogs name was "Sammy". But as you say, this bit isn't important, as I must have known that already. But, how do I suddenly remember it? What is it that suddenly enables me to recall that piece of information, when 10 minutes ago, I couldn't?
 

Offline Karen W.

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You have have probably seen or done something in the period of time that either caught your eye visually or triggered a memory.. There are things in my past that I blocked that have been triggered by something as silly  as seeing my husband removed the belt from his pants... or to see someone use a riding crop on a horse..

every time I see something spin.. my mind immediately remembers a silly toy my daughter had when she was 2 or three weeks old...not even old enough to play with it! LOL... silly things like the color of something or a smell hitting my nose just right! It is weird how that works!
 

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OK, I will try and explain my understanding about how memory works, but I will stress that this is my own conjecture based on my observations, and not anything authoritative.

Firstly, memory obviously comes in many forms.

The most persistent type of memory is very crude and limited.  This is deeply learnt memory, either learnt by extreme repetition (particularly in early life) or by deep emotional trauma.  It is the kind of memory that, even when we have a very deep amnesia, will probably still allow us to talk in our native tongue.  It is the kind of memory that will allow a pianist who has amnesia to still play the piano, even if he may not necessarily know the names of the pieces of music he is playing, nor visualise the music, but his hands know where they must go, although he may not know why they should go there.  In the most extreme case, I suspect it is also related to the nature of addiction, since addiction too will make permanent changes to one's brain that will remain in place even if one has total amnesia about every fact of one's everyday life.  To a lesser extent, it also I suspect explains how I can sometimes travel along a road that I have not travelled in for many years, and have totally forgotten the route I should take, yet at each turning, I know which way I should turn, even though I cannot visualise the next turning I need to take until I have actually got there, see the junction, and then instinctively know whether I should turn left or should turn right.

At the opposite end of the spectrum we have sensory input, and I don't actually believe that sensory input is stored for more than the most transient time (hence why I don't believe that people have true photographic memories – although different people may remember more or less of the factual information within an image, it is still not the image itself that they remember).  When one closes one's eyes, and imagines some memory from the past, I don't believe you actually recall the images of the past so much as reconstruct the images from factual information that you stored pertaining to the image.  One example of this reconstruction of sensory information is in dreams.  An example of this is where a friend of mine recounted a dream she had where she was living in Roman Briton, and overheard some centurions speaking in Latin, and despite the fact that her knowledge of Latin was of a few Latin classes in school some almost  6 decades earlier, and she clearly could not have had the skills to understand complex conversational Latin, yet she was able to understand every word the centurions were speaking.  Clearly, this was nonsense; not least because, within her dreams, she could not have heard anything – her sensory perceptions could not have been associated with any sounds she heard then, or at any time in the past.  The only sensible explanation is that she created the facts of the meanings of the words she heard, and she, in her dream, created the fact that the language spoken was Latin, and then she tried to backfill the sensory information to match the facts that she believed she knew.  I believe the same is true of your memory of being bitten by the dog.  I do not believe you have any sensory memory of that incident, for if you do have a true visual recollection of the incident, it cannot be explained how you can remember that your mother and girlfriend were present, yet you do not recollect such components of the same visual image as anything pertaining to the clothing they were wearing.  Rather, you remember many facts of the incident, but the only way you are able to verbalise those facts is by trying to reconstruct a visual image by backfilling sensory information from the abstract facts that you recall.

As for the question about how we remember, and how we forget, and the boundary between them.  I believe the brain, aside from the habitually learned information that I started this post with, is mostly a very forgetful machine.  Facts that we learn every day we forget very, very quickly.  In order for the brain to remember information for any period of time, it has to keep constantly copying that information.  Every time you access a piece of information, you make a copy of that information (and incidentally make a copy of information that is closely related to that information).  Thus, if you keep copying information faster than you are forgetting information, then you will build up more and more copies of that information.  Once you cease to access the information regularly, and so cease to make regular copies of the information, the rate at which you lose the memories of the information will begin to exceed the rate at which new copies of that information is made.

We also know that the brain has both short term, and long term, memory.  I suspect there are many nuances between, where some memory in also in intermediate, and some memory is in very long term (the most extreme being the habitual memory where we have burnt in habitual motor skills, language skills, etc.).  How quickly memory can be accessed (in a totally random fashion – this is different if one is accessing memory sequentially, where the context of a previous recollection makes it easy to access something close by) depends on the size of the memory storage it is accessing.  Shorter term memory has a smaller capacity, so access to information within it is faster.  This shorter term memory relates to most recent events, and so is quick to be laid down, and quick to forget.  Nonetheless, memories within the shorter term memory that are heavily duplicated will be copied to longer (intermediate) term memories before they are lost from the shorter term memories (although I am expressing this as if a single piece of fact is moved from one storage to another, I don't actually believe that facts are discrete units, which is why one also copies some associated memories with the primary memory – it is more like each level of memory has a fuzzy image of a set of facts, and as time progresses, as long as the memory is actively being accessed, then the fuzziness gets ever more in sharper focus, but as the memory atrophies, so it becomes ever fuzzier again).  One has to bear in mind (if you'll pardon the pun) that the brain is a neural network, rather than a database engine; so is more like a hologram than a photograph (i.e. if you have a high definition photograph or two people standing next to each other, then if you cut that photograph in two, you then have a high definition photograph of one person; while, because each point on the hologram contains some information about every part of the image, if that same image is recorded on a hologram, and you cut that hologram in half, rather than being left with a high definition photograph on one person, you are left with a low definition hologram of two people).

As to why it sometimes takes a long time to access some old memories; I suspect that after having searched its recent memories, and failed to find the information it is looking for, the brain then goes about trying to construct lots of different keys with which it might be able to locate the information in the longer term storage.  It may be that some event may occur that might suddenly trigger the right key to be created, but even if this event does not take place, the brain keeps on trying one key after another.  Probably, while the brain is quiescent, it has less other tasks to undertake, and so can rush through more key trials, which is probably why one most often finds the memory one is looking for when one is actually resting, and apparently thinking of nothing.

I am not saying the above makes total sense, but it is the best sense I can think of at present to explain my observations of how the brain's memory works.
 

Offline dentstudent

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George – many thanks for spending the time unravelling the intricacies of your thought process. Perhaps we’re both learning something?

In principle, I agree with how your definitions relate to memory storage and retrieval. I have 1 area in which my thoughts are perhaps slightly different to yours, which can be highlighted in 2 areas in your text:

I do not believe you have any sensory memory of that incident, for if you do have a true visual recollection of the incident, it cannot be explained how you can remember that your mother and girlfriend were present, yet you do not recollect such components of the same visual image as anything pertaining to the clothing they were wearing.  Rather, you remember many facts of the incident, but the only way you are able to verbalise those facts is by trying to reconstruct a visual image by backfilling sensory information from the abstract facts that you recall

As to why it sometimes takes a long time to access some old memories; I suspect that after having searched its recent memories, and failed to find the information it is looking for, the brain then goes about trying to construct lots of different keys with which it might be able to locate the information in the longer term storage.  It may be that some event may occur that might suddenly trigger the right key to be created, but even if this event does not take place, the brain keeps on trying one key after another.  Probably, while the brain is quiescent, it has less other tasks to undertake, and so can rush through more key trials, which is probably why one most often finds the memory one is looking for when one is actually resting, and apparently thinking of nothing.

In the first paragraph, you discuss the premise that memory fills in the parts that it doesn’t remember with details from other events. In the second paragraph, you discuss the brain spending time finding keys to unlock memories that have remained closed for some time. My train of thought is this: My memory of the dog episode to date has been that I have recalled many times over the last 15 years the event and the pertinent information to the event, ie, those memories I shared yesterday. The recollection of clothing and so on are not relevant to the event in that the event title, if it were to be labelled for storage would be “Dog bite” and not “Things that people were wearing on such and such a date. Oh, and that dog thing too”. This means that I have not ever spent the time recalling or trying to recall what they were wearing. This is I think where we differ in thought. To me, this does not mean that I didn’t store this information somehow. All it means is that I haven’t accessed it for a considerable time, and hence the immediate links are missing. As you say, there may be elements that have been filled in through later or earlier events, in that I know about the collar, but that is not proof that I didn’t make a memory of it from that occasion. The second paragraph from your comments supports how I think it would be recalled, in that if I were given time, some other stimulus and perhaps trained in a different mechanism for extracting the memories, I would be able to. How much time, I don’t know. Perhaps even longer that our own lifetime?

So, as I say, in principle, I agree. Older memories are probably bits of an event which you then add knowledge to, to create a “pseudo” memory, but I do believe that it is all stored somewhere, and therefore that I do have a sensory memory of that incident - it’s just that the correct stimuli have not yet been applied, which is why it cannot yet be fully recalled.
 

Offline Karen W.

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Stuart do you remember that day when you got up.. had you already planed on the visit to the place you were bitten, or did that occur in your home? Perhaps thinking about the planing of that day and things you did before the event might trigger it, Did you shower that morning and did the dog bite your finger and draw blood did you get blood on your clothes. did it make a mess. did anyone help you remove the dig or did he just stop the attack or bite with your command.!4 years is a lot of time, things do get fussy with time and sometimes it helps to remember why or how your day started and why you were in the place you were when the bite happened.. that could help you recall things like clothing etc.. on you or the ladies at the time.
 

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