New research suggests the mere act of walking through a doorway helps people forget, which could explain many millions of confusing moments that happen each day around the world. A study published recently in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology found that participants who walked through doorways in a virtual reality environment were significantly more likely to forget memories formed in another room, compared with those who traveled the same distance but crossed no thresholds.
Notre Dame University researcher Gabriel Radvansky says doorways serve as a type of “event boundary” that the brain uses to separate and store memories. When you enter a new room, your brain updates its understanding of what’s going on in the new environment, which takes some mental effort. This parsing of memory, albeit subtle, leaves the information encoded in the other room (i.e. “Now I’m going to my room to fetch some knickers”) less available in your new location.
Recognizing this tendency could help you avoid future lapses. Or you could take Radvansky’s advice, as (jokingly—I think) told to Postmedia News: ”Doorways are bad. Avoid them at all costs.”
“Every kid starts out as a natural-born scientist, and then we beat it out of them. A few trickle through the system with their wonder and enthusiasm for science intact.”— Carl Sagan (via starsinhereyes)
Computers are great at performing functions in the same way over and over again. They’re not so great at adapting to situations they haven’t seen before. Now a group of researchers from MIT is using the human brain as a model for the circuits in a machine -– and opening the way to a computer that can really learn.
The key is plasticity. Plasticity is the quality of human brains that makes them able to change in response to stimuli. It’s one reason many neuroscientists think we remember and learn. It also underlies the ability of the brain to recover from injuries.
The MIT researchers designed a computer chip that can simulate the activity of a single brain synapse. The synapse is the connection between two neurons, through which information flows. But it isn’t like a wire. Synapses are gaps and chemical signals, in the form of neurotransmitters, jump across them and bind to receptors. Those receptors activate ion channels. When an ion channel is opened and closed it changes the cell’s electrical potential and if the change is large enough, an electrical impulse is fired — called an action potential.