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Scanning Memories

March 29, 2010

Researchers can distinguish between different memories using a brain scan.


Scanning for memories. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

What if you could distinguish a person’s memories just by scanning their brain? Well, scientists in England have figured out how to do it. University College London cognitive neuroscientist Eleanor Maguire and her colleagues showed several movie clips of everyday events to a group of volunteers. Then they scanned a region of their brains called the hippocampus using functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, while the volunteers recalled as much as they could from each movie. Maguire says her team then compared the brain images resulting from these distinct memories.

ELEANOR MAGUIRE (University College London):
So, given a set of memories, we could tell just from the patterns of activity in the hippocampus, which memory the person was recalling at the time.

She says the technique expands our understanding of how and where memories are formed in the brain. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.