Texas Research Uncovers ‘Fast-Forward’ Nature of Memory

head-1058432_960_720Like a fading dream, our memories are not static entities; over time they shift and migrate between different territories of the brain. Since, as far as I know, Hermione’s Time Turner has not yet become a reality, our past experiences remain just that – recollections. However, have you ever wondered how your brain can play back a full memory, but instead of taking the hours over which the actual experience was subsisted, cover it all in seconds?

If so, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin have discovered the mechanism that may explain this capability and could aid scientist’s better comprehend schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, autism and other disorders that stem from distortions between real and fabricated experiences. This mechanism, which compresses information needed for memory retrieval, encrypts it on a brain wave frequency that’s detached from the one used for recording real-time experiences.

To expand on this, the study found that slow gamma rhythms are used to retrieve past memories, as opposed to the fast gamma rhythms that are used to encode memories about things happening in real-time. The reason stems from the fact that slow gamma rhythms have a higher storage capacity due to their longer wavelengths, which explains the “fast-forward” effect since the brain can process an increased number of data points on each wave. Hence, just like digital compression, when you replay a mental memory, these thoughts will have less of the rich detail found in the source material.

In relation to the study, which appears in the January journal Neuron, the researchers believe this investigation could explain why people with schizophrenia who are experiencing disrupted gamma rhythms have a hard time distinguishing between imagined and real experiences. Primarily, researchers plan to examine animals with neurological disorders similar to autism and Alzheimer’s in order to uncover the role, if any, that this mechanism plays and possible ways to counteract it.

Certainly, research such as the above could have a profound effect on the knowledge and treatment of neurological disorders. In companies, research is the pursuit of new knowledge, discovery, or creative activity in an area with the goal of advancing that area’s frontiers or boundaries. Moreover, in an international economic environment where innovation processes are increasingly open and decentralized, companies’ ability to innovate often depends on acquiring knowledge from research and development (R&D).  If you are conducting eligible R&D activities, you may be able to claim generous tax savings back on your investment. Swanson Reed offers professional proficiency across a range of industries and has supported many clients achieve tax cash savings under the R&D tax credit regime. Contact one of our specialist R&D Tax consultants to find out more about the scheme and if you are eligible.

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