Saturday, September 10, 2016

Association, Attention, and Gamma Waves

Associative memory gets broken down by frequency band and location.

Do you have your own madelaine? A place, song, taste, or feel that transports you into the past? That is associative memory, retrieving a more complete set of experiences based on a relatively simple, (if uncannily specific) cue. It may seem effortless, but under the hood, a great deal is obviously going on. Memory is associated with the hippocampus structure deep within the brain. Missing that structure blocks formation of new memories or retrieval memories by association. (Though some older memories may still be available- it is not clear yet whether memories are stored exclusively in the hippocampus, or are only staged there for eventual transfer to other parts of the cortex for long-term storage.)
"Specifically, dense recurrent connections among CA3 pyramidal cells [in the hippocampus] are thought to allow, after a single exposure, for auto-associative reinstatement of a previous learning pattern upon receiving a retrieval cue. Consistent with a role for pattern completion, selective knock-out of the CA3 NMDA receptor was shown to result in impaired memory on a Morris water maze when only partial environmental cues were available, i.e. when performance presumably relied more strongly on successful pattern completion."

A recent paper makes use of direct recording in the brains of surgical patients to observe neural activity and rhythyms as they learn and recall events. Given enough analysis, one can "fingerprint" particular experiences, and see that they are represented similarly when they first occur, and again when they are remembered. The acuity of being able to put electrodes directly into the hippocampus is far higher than the non-invasive methods of fMRI.

The test was to present patients with words and pictures to make an association. Then later, the word alone was presented and the patient asked to remember the full scene. Or a control word with no association was presented. The latter was called item recognition, which involves others types of recall, while the former was called associative recognition.

Correlation between the first presentation and the recall event, in activity from the hippocampus electrodes. For associative recall, (vs item recall) the correlation is clearly higher and more complex. The AR surrogate data comes from the average of the original readings during the presentation of the AR stimulus/scenes, rather than their recall, as an additional control similar to the item recall.
It is clear that associative recall generates a richer experience and richer readings from the hippocampus. That is not news, really. What was interesting was that the researchers had access to far more activity detail and could especially look at the rhythmic effects of this recall.

A dramatic increase in gamma waves as recall happens. Concurrently, alpha waves decline.

That is basically it for this rather short paper. They make the key points that recall involves re-representation of the original stimulus, in some form that is detected by these electrode readings, though far from being understood or decoded by them. And secondly that this recall is accompanied, on this very local basis, by a big increase in gamma wave activity and a decrease in alpha wave activity. This all agrees with the developing paradigm, which is that alpha wave patterns correlate with default / resting brain activity, while gamma waves happen during attention and intense thought. Gamma waves are not carriers of information the way radio waves are, but seem to represent the coordination of select areas of the brain as they form ad-hoc coalitions to attend to some thing- the spotlight of attention, and of consciousness.



  • Capitalism is going to the dogs.
  • And ends up sabotaging our infrastructure and lives, if there's a profit.
  • A philosophy and culture of non-accountability.
  • Yes, a right-wing conspiracy. And love of innuendo.
  • Trump puts it out there for all to see.
  • But who is really paying attention?
  • Certainly not his own party.
  • Please, please don't pay us any taxes!
  • Good thing she's not governor.
  • Climate apathy is bad too.
  • Sometimes, math is just a curtain to hide intuition and bias.
  • Gazprom: corruption, bloat, and decline.

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