Memory Forum

Interesting Neuroscience Links

by Josh Cohen on February 4, 2012

Here are some of the articles that have been sitting in my Firefox tabs. I thought people might be interested in reading some of them:

Hypnosis Lets Regular People See Numbers as Colors

Can synesthesia be accessed by people without synesthesia? Mnemonic techniques create a kind of artificial synesthesia, so this topic interests me.

The researchers, led by Roi Kadosh of University College, London and
Luis Fuentes of Spain’s University of Murcia, put three women and one man under hypnosis, then instructed them to perceive digits in color:
one as red, two as yellow, three as green, and so on.

Upon waking, the subjects found it difficult to find numbers printed in black ink against correspondingly colored backgrounds. The numbers seemed to blend in — a telltale sign of synesthesia. When the hypnosis was removed, the ability vanished.

How the synesthesia formed so suddenly isn’t clear, but the researchers said that new neural connections are probably not responsible. “Such new anatomical connections could not arise, become functional, and suddenly degenerate in the short time scale provided by the current experiment,” they wrote.

Check out the video on musical synesthesia from the article:

One subject in the video experiences a taste for each musical interval:

  • Minor 2nd: sour
  • Major 2nd: bitter
  • Minor 3rd: salty
  • Major 3rd: sweet
  • Augmented 4th: mown grass
  • Perfect 4th: disgust
  • 5th: pure water
  • Minor 6th: cream
  • Major 6th: low fat cream
  • Minor 7th: bitter
  • Major 7th: sour
  • Octave: no taste

It almost makes sense. Minor 3rd is sad–salty tears. Major 3rd is a sweet sound. So are the 6ths. Minor 7th signals a change in the music–bitter. 2nds and 7ths are related and could be sour. 5ths are a pure sound.

Brain Scanners Know Where You’ve Been

Brain scans can predict where subjects are in a virtual room. This article is interesting, because memory palaces involve navigating through similar “virtual rooms”.

The researchers used an fMRI machine to measure hippocampal blood flow in four subjects who navigated a room in virtual reality. They focused on groups of neurons identified by Maguire in an earlier study of London taxi drivers, whose hippocampi were hyperdeveloped by years of mental navigation through the city’s mazelike streets.

After analyzing activation patterns and correlating them with a record of test subjects’ movements, Maguire’s team found that patterns could actually be used to predict location.

See also, Brain Scanner Can Tell What You’re Looking At, and one of the most amazing things I’ve seen, Scientists use brain imaging to reveal the movies in our mind:

Seeing Red: Tweak Your Brain With Colors

Colors can affect performance on tasks:

…test subjects given attention-demanding tasks did best when primed with the color red. Asked to be creative, they responded best to blue. . .

Previous research on red’s effects on the brain have found that it attracts people to food and can enhance sexual arousal. But research on the color’s cognitive effects have been mixed: Studies have linked red to cognitive impairment on IQ tests, telemarketing pitches and analytical problem-solving, but also to improvements on low-demand tasks and clerical work. The latest findings tip the balance toward the red-as-brain-booster results and fits with work that showed a link between the color and arousal of neurobiological awareness and vigilance.

Marijuana Could Be Good for Memory — But Not if You Get High

This one is bound to be controversial:

…research suggests that low doses of marijuana could be good for memory, and even help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.  When given a compound similar to THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, rat brains displayed reduced levels of inflammation associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The drug also stimulated the production of proteins associated with memory formation and brain cell growth.

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