Memory construction: a brief and selective history


  • 1 Department of Psychology, City, University of London, London, UK.
  • PMID: 35331087
  • DOI: 10.1080/09658211.2021.1964795

In this short article, we provide a brief introduction to the idea that memory involves constructive processes. The importance of constructive processes in memory has a rich history, one that stretches back more than 125 years. This historical context provides a backdrop for the articles appearing in this special issue of Memory, articles that outline the current thinking about the constructive nature of memory. We argue that memory construction, either implicitly or explicitly, represents the current framework in which modern memory research is embedded.

Keywords: Memory construction; autobiographical memory; false memory; knowledge representation; memory accuracy.

  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Mental Recall

Eyewitness Testimony and Memory Construction

Learning objectives.

  • Describe the unreliability of eyewitness testimony
  • Explain the misinformation effect

Memory Construction and Reconstruction


When someone witnesses a crime, that person’s memory of the details of the crime is very important in catching the suspect. Because memory is so fragile, witnesses can be easily (and often accidentally) misled due to the problem of suggestibility. Suggestibility describes the effects of misinformation from external sources that leads to the creation of false memories. In the fall of 2002, a sniper in the DC area shot people at a gas station, leaving Home Depot, and walking down the street. These attacks went on in a variety of places for over three weeks and resulted in the deaths of ten people. During this time, as you can imagine, people were terrified to leave their homes, go shopping, or even walk through their neighborhoods. Police officers and the FBI worked frantically to solve the crimes, and a tip hotline was set up. Law enforcement received over 140,000 tips, which resulted in approximately 35,000 possible suspects (Newseum, n.d.).

Most of the tips were dead ends, until a white van was spotted at the site of one of the shootings. The police chief went on national television with a picture of the white van. After the news conference, several other eyewitnesses called to say that they too had seen a white van fleeing from the scene of the shooting. At the time, there were more than 70,000 white vans in the area. Police officers, as well as the general public, focused almost exclusively on white vans because they believed the eyewitnesses. Other tips were ignored. When the suspects were finally caught, they were driving a blue sedan.

As illustrated by this example, we are vulnerable to the power of suggestion, simply based on something we see on the news. Or we can claim to remember something that in fact is only a suggestion someone made. It is the suggestion that is the cause of the false memory.

Eyewitness Misidentification

Even though memory and the process of reconstruction can be fragile, police officers, prosecutors, and the courts often rely on eyewitness identification and testimony in the prosecution of criminals. However, faulty eyewitness identification and testimony can lead to wrongful convictions (Figure 1).

A bar graph is titled “Leading cause of wrongful conviction in DNA exoneration cases (source: Innocence Project).” The x-axis is labeled “leading cause,” and the y-axis is labeled “percentage of wrongful convictions (first 239 DNA exonerations).” Four bars show data: “eyewitness misidentification” is the leading cause in about 75% of cases, “forensic science” in about 49% of cases, “false confession” in about 23% of cases, and “informant” in about 18% of cases.

Figure 1 . In studying cases where DNA evidence has exonerated people from crimes, the Innocence Project discovered that eyewitness misidentification is the leading cause of wrongful convictions (Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University, 2009).

How does this happen? In 1984, Jennifer Thompson, then a 22-year-old college student in North Carolina, was brutally raped at knifepoint. As she was being raped, she tried to memorize every detail of her rapist’s face and physical characteristics, vowing that if she survived, she would help get him convicted. After the police were contacted, a composite sketch was made of the suspect, and Jennifer was shown six photos. She chose two, one of which was of Ronald Cotton. After looking at the photos for 4–5 minutes, she said, “Yeah. This is the one,” and then she added, “I think this is the guy.” When questioned about this by the detective who asked, “You’re sure? Positive?” She said that it was him. Then she asked the detective if she did OK, and he reinforced her choice by telling her she did great. These kinds of unintended cues and suggestions by police officers can lead witnesses to identify the wrong suspect. The district attorney was concerned about her lack of certainty the first time, so she viewed a lineup of seven men. She said she was trying to decide between numbers 4 and 5, finally deciding that Cotton, number 5, “Looks most like him.” He was 22 years old.

By the time the trial began, Jennifer Thompson had absolutely no doubt that she was raped by Ronald Cotton. She testified at the court hearing, and her testimony was compelling enough that it helped convict him. How did she go from, “I think it’s the guy” and it “Looks most like him,” to such certainty? Gary Wells and Deah Quinlivan (2009) assert it’s suggestive police identification procedures, such as stacking lineups to make the defendant stand out, telling the witness which person to identify, and confirming witnesses choices by telling them “Good choice,” or “You picked the guy.”

After Cotton was convicted of the rape, he was sent to prison for life plus 50 years. After 4 years in prison, he was able to get a new trial. Jennifer Thompson once again testified against him. This time Ronald Cotton was given two life sentences. After serving 11 years in prison, DNA evidence finally demonstrated that Ronald Cotton did not commit the rape, was innocent, and had served over a decade in prison for a crime he did not commit.

Link to Learning

To learn more about Ronald Cotton and the fallibility of memory, watch these excellent Part 1 and Part 2 videos by 60 Minutes .

Ronald Cotton’s story, unfortunately, is not unique. There are also people who were convicted and placed on death row, who were later exonerated. The Innocence Project is a non-profit group that works to exonerate falsely convicted people, including those convicted by eyewitness testimony. To learn more, you can visit .

Dig Deeper: Preserving Eyewitness Memory: The Elizabeth Smart Case

Contrast the Cotton case with what happened in the Elizabeth Smart case. When Elizabeth was 14 years old and fast asleep in her bed at home, she was abducted at knifepoint. Her nine-year-old sister, Mary Katherine, was sleeping in the same bed and watched, terrified, as her beloved older sister was abducted. Mary Katherine was the sole eyewitness to this crime and was very fearful. In the coming weeks, the Salt Lake City police and the FBI proceeded with caution with Mary Katherine. They did not want to implant any false memories or mislead her in any way. They did not show her police line-ups or push her to do a composite sketch of the abductor. They knew if they corrupted her memory, Elizabeth might never be found. For several months, there was little or no progress on the case. Then, about 4 months after the kidnapping, Mary Katherine first recalled that she had heard the abductor’s voice prior to that night (he had worked one time as a handyman at the family’s home) and then she was able to name the person whose voice it was. The family contacted the press and others recognized him—after a total of nine months, the suspect was caught and Elizabeth Smart was returned to her family.

Elizabeth Loftus and the Misinformation Effect

Cognitive psychologist Elizabeth Loftus has conducted extensive research on memory. She has studied false memories as well as recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse. Loftus also developed the misinformation effect paradigm , which holds that after exposure to incorrect information, a person may misremember the original event.

According to Loftus, an eyewitness’s memory of an event is very flexible due to the misinformation effect. To test this theory, Loftus and John Palmer (1974) asked 45 U.S. college students to estimate the speed of cars using different forms of questions (Figure 2). The participants were shown films of car accidents and were asked to play the role of the eyewitness and describe what happened. They were asked, “About how fast were the cars going when they (smashed, collided, bumped, hit, contacted) each other?” The participants estimated the speed of the cars based on the verb used.

This video explains the misinformation effect.

You can view the transcript for “The Misinformation Effect” here (opens in new window) .

Participants who heard the word “smashed” estimated that the cars were traveling at a much higher speed than participants who heard the word “contacted.” The implied information about speed, based on the verb they heard, had an effect on the participants’ memory of the accident. In a follow-up one week later, participants were asked if they saw any broken glass (none was shown in the accident pictures). Participants who had been in the “smashed” group were more than twice as likely to indicate that they did remember seeing glass. Loftus and Palmer demonstrated that a leading question encouraged them to not only remember the cars were going faster, but to also falsely remember that they saw broken glass.

Photograph A shows two cars that have crashed into each other. Part B is a bar graph titled “perceived speed based on questioner’s verb (source: Loftus and Palmer, 1974).” The x-axis is labeled “questioner’s verb, and the y-axis is labeled “perceived speed (mph).” Five bars share data: “smashed” was perceived at about 41 mph, “collided” at about 39 mph, “bumped” at about 37 mph, “hit” at about 34 mph, and “contacted” at about 32 mph.

Figure 2 . When people are asked leading questions about an event, their memory of the event may be altered. (credit a: modification of work by Rob Young)

Studies have demonstrated that young adults (the typical research subjects in psychology) are often susceptible to misinformation, but that children and older adults can be even more susceptible (Bartlett & Memon, 2007; Ceci & Bruck, 1995). In addition, misinformation effects can occur easily, and without any intention to deceive (Allan & Gabbert, 2008). Even slight differences in the wording of a question can lead to misinformation effects. Subjects in one study were more likely to say yes when asked “Did you see the broken headlight?” than when asked “Did you see a broken headlight?” (Loftus, 1975).

Other studies have shown that misinformation can corrupt memory even more easily when it is encountered in social situations (Gabbert, Memon, Allan, & Wright, 2004). This is a problem particularly in cases where more than one person witnesses a crime. In these cases, witnesses tend to talk to one another in the immediate aftermath of the crime, including as they wait for police to arrive. But because different witnesses are different people with different perspectives, they are likely to see or notice different things, and thus remember different things, even when they witness the same event. So when they communicate about the crime later, they not only reinforce common memories for the event, they also contaminate each other’s memories for the event (Gabbert, Memon, & Allan, 2003; Paterson & Kemp, 2006; Takarangi, Parker, & Garry, 2006).

The misinformation effect has been modeled in the laboratory. Researchers had subjects watch a video in pairs. Both subjects sat in front of the same screen, but because they wore differently polarized glasses, they saw two different versions of a video, projected onto a screen. So, although they were both watching the same screen, and believed (quite reasonably) that they were watching the same video, they were actually watching two different versions of the video (Garry, French, Kinzett, & Mori, 2008).

In the video, Eric the electrician is seen wandering through an unoccupied house and helping himself to the contents thereof. A total of eight details were different between the two videos. After watching the videos, the “co-witnesses” worked together on 12 memory test questions. Four of these questions dealt with details that were different in the two versions of the video, so subjects had the chance to influence one another. Then subjects worked individually on 20 additional memory test questions. Eight of these were for details that were different in the two videos. Subjects’ accuracy was highly dependent on whether they had discussed the details previously. Their accuracy for items they had not previously discussed with their co-witness was 79%. But for items that they had discussed, their accuracy dropped markedly, to 34%. That is, subjects allowed their co-witnesses to corrupt their memories for what they had seen.

Controversies over Repressed and Recovered Memories

Other researchers have described how whole events, not just words, can be falsely recalled, even when they did not happen. The idea that memories of traumatic events could be repressed has been a theme in the field of psychology, beginning with Sigmund Freud, and the controversy surrounding the idea continues today.

Recall of false autobiographical memories is called false memory syndrome . This syndrome has received a lot of publicity, particularly as it relates to memories of events that do not have independent witnesses—often the only witnesses to the abuse are the perpetrator and the victim (e.g., sexual abuse).

On one side of the debate are those who have recovered memories of childhood abuse years after it occurred. These researchers argue that some children’s experiences have been so traumatizing and distressing that they must lock those memories away in order to lead some semblance of a normal life. They believe that repressed memories can be locked away for decades and later recalled intact through hypnosis and guided imagery techniques (Devilly, 2007).

Research suggests that having no memory of childhood sexual abuse is quite common in adults. For instance, one large-scale study conducted by John Briere and Jon Conte (1993) revealed that 59% of 450 men and women who were receiving treatment for sexual abuse that had occurred before age 18 had forgotten their experiences. Ross Cheit (2007) suggested that repressing these memories created psychological distress in adulthood. The Recovered Memory Project was created so that victims of childhood sexual abuse can recall these memories and allow the healing process to begin (Cheit, 2007; Devilly, 2007).

On the other side, Loftus has challenged the idea that individuals can repress memories of traumatic events from childhood, including sexual abuse, and then recover those memories years later through therapeutic techniques such as hypnosis, guided visualization, and age regression.

Loftus is not saying that childhood sexual abuse doesn’t happen, but she does question whether or not those memories are accurate, and she is skeptical of the questioning process used to access these memories, given that even the slightest suggestion from the therapist can lead to misinformation effects. For example, researchers Stephen Ceci and Maggie Brucks (1993, 1995) asked three-year-old children to use an anatomically correct doll to show where their pediatricians had touched them during an exam. Fifty-five percent of the children pointed to the genital/anal area on the dolls, even when they had not received any form of genital exam.

Ever since Loftus published her first studies on the suggestibility of eyewitness testimony in the 1970s, social scientists, police officers, therapists, and legal practitioners have been aware of the flaws in interview practices. Consequently, steps have been taken to decrease suggestibility of witnesses. One way is to modify how witnesses are questioned. When interviewers use neutral and less leading language, children more accurately recall what happened and who was involved (Goodman, 2006; Pipe, 1996; Pipe, Lamb, Orbach, & Esplin, 2004). Another change is in how police lineups are conducted. It’s recommended that a blind photo lineup be used. This way the person administering the lineup doesn’t know which photo belongs to the suspect, minimizing the possibility of giving leading cues. Additionally, judges in some states now inform jurors about the possibility of misidentification. Judges can also suppress eyewitness testimony if they deem it unreliable.

More on False Memories

In early false memory studies, undergraduate subjects’ family members were recruited to provide events from the students’ lives. The student subjects were told that the researchers had talked to their family members and learned about four different events from their childhoods. The researchers asked if the now undergraduate students remembered each of these four events—introduced via short hints. The subjects were asked to write about each of the four events in a booklet and then were interviewed two separate times. The trick was that one of the events came from the researchers rather than the family (and the family had actually assured the researchers that this event had not happened to the subject). In the first such study, this researcher-introduced event was a story about being lost in a shopping mall and rescued by an older adult. In this study, after just being asked whether they remembered these events occurring on three separate occasions, a quarter of subjects came to believe that they had indeed been lost in the mall (Loftus & Pickrell, 1995). In subsequent studies, similar procedures were used to get subjects to believe that they nearly drowned and had been rescued by a lifeguard, or that they had spilled punch on the bride’s parents at a family wedding, or that they had been attacked by a vicious animal as a child, among other events (Heaps & Nash, 1999; Hyman, Husband, & Billings, 1995; Porter, Yuille, & Lehman, 1999).

More recent false memory studies have used a variety of different manipulations to produce false memories in substantial minorities and even occasional majorities of manipulated subjects (Braun, Ellis, & Loftus, 2002; Lindsay, Hagen, Read, Wade, & Garry, 2004; Mazzoni, Loftus, Seitz, & Lynn, 1999; Seamon, Philbin, & Harrison, 2006; Wade, Garry, Read, & Lindsay, 2002). For example, one group of researchers used a mock-advertising study, wherein subjects were asked to review (fake) advertisements for Disney vacations, to convince subjects that they had once met the character Bugs Bunny at Disneyland—an impossible false memory because Bugs is a Warner Brothers character (Braun et al., 2002). Another group of researchers photoshopped childhood photographs of their subjects into a hot air balloon picture and then asked the subjects to try to remember and describe their hot air balloon experience (Wade et al., 2002). Other researchers gave subjects unmanipulated class photographs from their childhoods along with a fake story about a class prank, and thus enhanced the likelihood that subjects would falsely remember the prank (Lindsay et al., 2004).

Using a false feedback manipulation, we have been able to persuade subjects to falsely remember having a variety of childhood experiences. In these studies, subjects are told (falsely) that a powerful computer system has analyzed questionnaires that they completed previously and has concluded that they had a particular experience years earlier. Subjects apparently believe what the computer says about them and adjust their memories to match this new information. A variety of different false memories have been implanted in this way. In some studies, subjects are told they once got sick on a particular food (Bernstein, Laney, Morris, & Loftus, 2005). These memories can then spill out into other aspects of subjects’ lives, such that they often become less interested in eating that food in the future (Bernstein & Loftus, 2009b). Other false memories implanted with this methodology include having an unpleasant experience with the character Pluto at Disneyland and witnessing physical violence between one’s parents (Berkowitz, Laney, Morris, Garry, & Loftus, 2008; Laney & Loftus, 2008).

Importantly, once these false memories are implanted—whether through complex methods or simple ones—it is extremely difficult to tell them apart from true memories (Bernstein & Loftus, 2009a; Laney & Loftus, 2008).

Think It Over

Jurors place a lot of weight on eyewitness testimony. Imagine you are an attorney representing a defendant who is accused of robbing a convenience store. Several eyewitnesses have been called to testify against your client. What would you tell the jurors about the reliability of eyewitness testimony?


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  • Problems with Memory. Authored by : OpenStax College. Located at : . License : CC BY: Attribution . License Terms : Download for free at
  • False Memories and more on the Misinformation Effect. Authored by : Cara Laney and Elizabeth F. Loftus . Provided by : Reed College, University of California, Irvine. Located at : . Project : The Noba Project. License : CC BY: Attribution
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Constructive memory: past and future

Memoria constructiva: pasado y futuro, mémoire constructive: passée et future, daniel l. schacter.

Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

Human memory is not a literal reproduction of the past, but instead relies on constructive processes that are sometimes prone to error and distortion. Understanding of constructive memory has accelerated during recent years as a result of research that has linked together its cognitive and neural bases. This article focuses on three aspects of constructive memory that have been the target of recent research: (i) the idea that certain kinds of memory distortions reflect the operation of adaptive cognitive processes that contribute to the efficient functioning of memory; (ii) the role of a constructive memory system in imagining or simulating possible future events; and (iii) differences between true and false memories that have been revealed by functional neuroimaging techniques. The article delineates the theoretical implications of relevant research, and also considers some clinical and applied implications.

La memoria humana no es una reproducción literal del pasado, sino que se basa en procesos constructivos que algunas veces tienden al error y la distorsión, La comprensión de la memoria constructiva ha avanzado durante los últimos años como resultado de la investigación que ha relacionado sus bases cognitivas y neurales. Este artículo se enfoca en tres aspectos de la memoria constructiva que han sido objetivos de la investigación reciente: 1) la idea que ciertos tipos de distorsiones de memoria reflejan cómo operan los procesos cognítivos de adaptación que contribuyen al eficiente funcionamiento de la memoria, 2) el papel del sistema de memoria constructiva en la imaginación o simulación de posibles eventos futuros y 3) las diferencias entre memorias verdaderas y falsas, las que han sido evidenciadas por técnicas de neuroimágenes funcionales, Este artículo bosqueja las sugerencias teóricas de la investigación más importante y también considera algunas consecuencias clínicas y aplicadas.

La mémoire humaine n'est pas une reproduction littérale du passé; elle est plutôt fondée sur des processus constructifs parfois susceptibles d'erreurs et de distorsion. La compréhension de la mémoire constructive s'est accélérée ces dernières années grâce à la recherche qui a établi un lien entre ses bases cognitives et neurales. Cet article s'intéresse aux trois aspects de la mémoire constructive qui ont fait l'objet de recherches récentes: 1) l'idée que certains types de distorsion mnésique reflètent l'effet de processus cognitifs adaptatifs qui contribuent à un fonctionnement efficient de la mémoire; 2) le rôle d'un système de mémoire constructive dans l'imagination ou la simulation des événements futurs possibles; 3) et des différences entre les mémoires vraie et fausse révélées par des techniques de neuro-imagerie fonctionnelle. Cet article décrit les implications théoriques d'une recherche pertinente, et présente également quelques implications cliniques et appliquées.


In an interview that took place some years ago at a hospital in Geneva, a 63-year-old female psychiatrist, Mrs B, recollected a pleasant visit earlier that day with her mother and brother. She also looked forward to a reception later in the day that she would be hosting at her home. Mrs B was utterly convinced that these events were real, but in fact they were not: Mrs B was herself a patient in the hospital, where she was recovering from a brain hemorrhage. Mrs B had confabulated these events, which had no basis in reality. 1

While the disconnection between memory and objective reality that is evident in Mrs B's case is attributable to her brain damage, not all such disconnections reflect the influence of brain pathology; far from it. For example, memory and reality often conflict in eyewitness testimony, where different observers of the same event sometimes recollect that event in dramatically different ways. One striking but fairly typical example is provided by the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, an innocent man who was fatally shot in July 2005 by London police in a subway station, because he had been misidentified by them as one of several men responsible for a failed bombing attempt the previous day. Eyewitness accounts of what transpired differed substantially. 2 While the officers “recalled running on to the Underground platform at Stockwell and challenging de Menezes by shouting 'Armed Police,' before shooting him seven times in the head,” 17 civilian witnesses had no memory that this phrase had been uttered. The police claimed that de Menezes had gotten up and moved “aggressively” at them, but according to the memories of some witnesses, de Menezes never got up from his seat. Indeed, “Everyone recalled a slightly different sequence of events, even when it came to such basic facts as the number of bullets fired or the clothes de Menezes was wearing.” 2

While it is difficult to be certain whose memories are accurate and whose are not in such a case, it seems reasonably clear that some witnesses to the de Menezes shooting remembered it incorrectly. Such a conclusion is consistent with many controlled studies showing that eyewitnesses are prone to memory errors, including highly confident but demonstrably false memories. 3 - 5 These faulty memories can have serious consequences: inaccurate eyewitness testimony was a key factor in approximately 75% of the first hundred cases of individuals exonerated by DNA evidence after being convicted of crimes they did not commit. 6 , 7

These and related observations lend support to a view of memory that has its roots in the work of the British psychologist Bartlett, 8 who argued, based on his experimental observations of mistakes and distortions in the recall of stories, that human memory is not a simple rote or reproductive system. By contrast, memory involves complex constructive processes that are sometimes prone to error: when we remember, we piece together fragments of stored information under the influence of our current knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs.

A good deal of progress has been made in understanding the constructive nature of memory since the publication of Bartlett's 8 classic studies. That progress has begun to accelerate during recent years, as a result of research using the methods of cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience to elucidate both the cognitive and neural processes that underpin constructive memory. 9 - 13 The purpose of the present paper is to consider recent ideas and evidence concerning three aspects of constructive memory for which significant new findings and ideas have emerged during the past few years. First, the article will consider the idea that certain kinds of memory distortions reflect the operation of adaptive cognitive processes — that is, processes that contribute to the efficient functioning of memory, but as a result of doing so, also produce distortions. 14 - 17 Second, it will focus on recent research that is beginning to elucidate the nature of an adaptive cognitive process that has been linked to constructive memory: imagining or simulating possible future events. 18 , 19 Third, it will consider whether it is possible to reliably distinguish between true and false memories, and discuss some recent attempts to do so using functional neuroimaging techniques.

Are memory distortions adaptive?

Clinical instances of confabulation following brain damage, such as the case of Mrs B considered earlier, encourage the view that memory distortion reflects dysfunctional cognitive processing. And, indeed, it is known that various kinds of brain damage can result in an increased incidence of memory distortion. For example, during the 1990s Schacter et al studied a patient, BG, who suffered damage to his right frontal lobe after a stroke. 20 , 21 BG showed a dramatic increase in the incidence of a memory error known as false recognition , where one claims to recognize as familiar an object, face, word, or scene that is in fact novel. Across a range of memory tests, BG falsely recognized — with high confidence — various kinds of novel stimuli. More recently, Moulin et al 22 described a related syndrome in cases of dementia and diffuse temporal lobe pathology, that they termed déjà vecu , where patients claim to recollect past “experiences” that are actually novel. For example, patient AKP constantly stopped watching television because he claimed to remember seeing every show previously, and when going on a daily walk, “AKP complained that it was the same bird in the same tree singing the same song... He also read car number plates and stated that the drivers must have very regular habits, always passing by at the exact same time every day.” 22

Links between memory distortion and dysfunctional processing have also been made in healthy, non-braindamaged individuals. Several studies have found that individuals who frequently report disruptions in consciousness or dissociative experiences also tend to show increased rates of false recognition and related memory distortions. 23 - 26 More recent research has linked propensity to memory distortion with low intelligence 27 and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. 28 Based on these kinds of observations, it seems justified to conclude that memory errors and distortions, and the constructive memory processes that give rise to them, reflect deficient processing and perhaps fundamental flaws in the architecture of the memory system.

In contrast to this line of reasoning, there is mounting evidence that several different kinds of memory distortions reflect the influence of adaptive processes that are beneficial for cognitive function, but nonetheless also result in memory errors. 15 This line of argument can be traced to the classic studies of Bartlett, 8 who took what could be characterized as an adaptive view when discussing the memory distortions that he observed during recall of stories. Bartlett believed that these distortions were based on the operation of a schema that serves to organize and interpret incoming information in light of previous experiences. My own writing about the seven “sins” of memory, 16 , 17 has tried to make the case that each of the seven sins reflect, to some extent, the operation of adaptive cognitive processes. However, while these and related arguments 9 , 14 are plausible, there has been relatively little direct experimental data in support of them until the past few years. As an example, let us consider evidence that has accumulated for the adaptive nature of what are called gist-based or associative memory distortions. 15

Gist-based and associative memory errors are closely related. Gist-based errors occur when people falsely remember a novel item that is similar to an item that they encountered previously, making their memory decision based on the gist of what happened, whereas associative memory errors occur when people falsely remember a novel item that is an associate of previously studied items. Understanding of these kinds of memory distortions has been advanced by studies using the “DRM paradigm,” which was developed initially by Deese, 29 and later modified by Roediger and McDermott. 30 In this procedure, participants hear or view lists of related words (eg, candy, sour, sugar, bitter, good, taste, tooth, etc) that are all associates of a nonpresented “critical lure” word (eg, sweet ). Numerous studies have shown that participants often falsely recall or recognize the non-presented associates, and do so with high confidence. 31 , 32 Researchers have used related paradigms for producing gist -based memory errors. For example, after studying patterns or shapes that are physically similar to a nonpresented prototype, participants later are likely to falsely recognize the novel prototype as a previously studied item. 33 , 34 Similarly, after studying numerous pictures or words from a particular category, people are likely to later show false recall or false recognition of nonpresented category members from the previously presented categories. 35 , 36

While such responses are classified appropriately as memory distortions — people claim to remember items that they have never encountered before — those errors also reflect retention of useful information concerning the general themes, appearances, or meanings that participants did encounter. Retention of such information can facilitate the ability to generalize and abstract, 9 , 16 , 17 , 37 , 38 and in that sense can be considered adaptive.

Several kinds of experimental evidence support the idea that gist-based and associative memory errors indeed reflect the operation of adaptive processes. First, both associative and gist-based false recognition are reduced in patients with amnesic syndromes resulting from damage to the medial temporal lobes, thereby suggesting that such errors normally reflect the operation of a healthy memory system. 39 - 41 Second, recent studies have linked associative false recognition and creativity. In one study study, Howe et al 42 presented DRM associate lists to children and adults before these participants attempted to solve compound remote associate task problems. Participants were presented with three word puzzles (eg, walk/beauty/over ) and attempted to generate a solution word that is associated with all three target words (eg, sleep ). When they were primed with DRM lists (eg, bed, rest, awake, tired, dream, etc) for which the solution word on the problem-solving task was the critical lure (eg, sleep ), both children and adults showed improved performance on the problem-solving tasks compared with problems that were not primed by DRM lists. Importantly, however, this effect was observed only when participants falsely recalled the critical lure, thereby bolstering the authors' claim that false memories can have beneficial effects on cognitive function under certain conditions. In another recent study linking creativity and associative false recognition, Dewhurst et al 43 showed that susceptibility to DRM false recognition is predicted by performance on a remote associates task. This task is generally viewed as a measure of convergent thinking — a component of creativity that taps an individual's ability to generate broad and numerous associations, and can thus be considered an adaptive cognitive process. By contrast, DRM false recognition was not predicted by performance on a task that required generating alternate uses of an object, which is thought to tap divergent thinking (ie, the capacity to generate a range of different possible solutions to a problem).

Third, a growing number of neuroimaging studies have documented that many of the same brain regions are active during associative/gist-based true and false recognition. 34 , 44 , 47 Consistent with the foregoing studies, Garoff Eaton et al 48 observed extensive overlap in neural activity when participants made false recognition responses to shapes that were visually similar to those that they had studied (ie, during gist-based false recognition). In contrast, there was no neural overlap between true and false recognition when participants had false alarms to novel shapes that were unrelated to previously studied shapes, which likely reflected guessing, or other processes that did not reflect gist-based responding. Thus, gist-based false recognition, but not unrelated or “baseline” false recognition, recruits the same regions that are associated with true recognition.

Fourth, neuroimaging studies that have examined the origins of gist-based or associative false recognition during the process of encoding have likewise provided evidence in line with an adaptive interpretation. For example, it has been demonstrated that levels of gist-based false recognition of new words from previously studied categories are associated with increased activation of left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex during encoding of categorized words 49 , 50 ; similar findings have been obtained when participants encode common objects and later falsely recognize new objects from the same category. 51 Critically, these studies also showed that recruitment of left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex is associated with increased subsequent true recognition and earlier work linked this region with semantic or elaborative encoding processes. 52 Taken together, the foregoing findings provide an empirical basis for arguing that semantic elaboration processes during encoding, which serve the adaptive function of promoting long-term retention, can also contribute to memory distortion.

Finally, a closely related line of evidence comes from a recent fMRI study that applied the same kind of encoding-based analysis described in the aforementioned studies to false recognition of contextual associations. Aminoff et al 53 had participants encode a series of object pairs while in the scanner by trying to mentally relate the objects to a context.

The pairs consisted of either two contextually related objects that belong to the same context, such as a bulldozer and a yellow construction cone, or two objects that are typically not associated with a specific context or contextually related to each other, such as a camera and a pair of scissors. The next day, participants were given an old/new recognition test that included previously studied objects, unrelated new objects, and, critically, new objects that were contextually related to one of the previously studied context pairs (eg, a construction helmet). We hypothesized that increased activity during encoding in cortical regions previously identified as part of a network that supports contextual processing 54 , 55 would predict subsequent false recognition of contextually related objects, and the results supported this hypothesis. Perhaps most important from an adaptive perspective, encoding-related activity in the retrosplenial complex predicted subsequent false recognition of contextually related objects. Bar and Aminoff 54 have theorized that this region is involved in the processing of “context frames,” which represent generic or prototypical information about a context. Activation of a context frame during encoding is adaptive because it can facilitate recognition of other objects in the environment by allowing predictions about what is likely to occur in a particular context. 56

These studies provide compelling evidence favoring an adaptive account of gist-based and associative errors. Schacter et al 15 also discussed additional evidence and ideas that point toward an adaptive interpretation for other kinds of memory distortions, including post-event misinformation effects 10 and imagination inflation, 57 - 59 where imagining events can lead to false beliefs and memories that they did occur. Our adaptive account of imagination inflation relied heavily on recent observations concerning the role of a constructive memory system in imagining future events, which will be discussed in the next section of the paper.

Constructive memory and imagining the future

Numerous experiments have demonstrated ways in which imagining events can lead to the development of false memories for those events. 57 - 64 During the past several years, neuroimaging studies have revealed striking overlap in the neural processes that are engaged when people remember past events and imagine future events or novel scenes, 65 - 70 and behavioral studies have documented similarly striking similarities in the corresponding cognitive processes. 18 , 19 , 71 - 79 The similarities documented in these studies can help to understand why memory and imagination can be easily confused: they share common neural and cognitive underpinnings.

In addition, we have argued that these observations are relevant to thinking about the adaptive functions of a constructive memory system. Specifically, Schacter and Addis 18 have put forward the constructive episodic simulation hypothesis , which holds that past and future events draw on similar information stored in memory (episodic memory in particular) and rely on similar underlying processes. Episodic memory, in turns, supports the construction of future events by extracting and recombining stored information into a simulation of a novel event. Such a system is adaptive because it enables past information to be used flexibly in simulating alternative future scenarios without engaging in actual behaviors, but it comes at a cost of vulnerability to errors and distortions that result from mistakenly combining elements of imagination and memory.

One of the most intriguing findings from neuroimaging studies that is relevant to the constructive episodic simulation hypothesis concerns the robust activation of the hippocampus — a region that has long been implicated in memory — when individuals imagine or simulate future events. Consider, for example, a study by Addis et al 65 in which participants were scanned while they were either remembering a past experience or imagining an event that might occur in the future. Addis et al divided each of these tasks into two phases. In the initial construction phase, participants generated either a remembered or an imagined event in response to a cue word (eg, “dress”) and made a button-press when they had an event in mind, which typically required about 7 or 8 seconds. In the immediately following elaboration phase, participants generated as much detail as possible about the remembered or imagined event. The most striking finding was that brain activity was highly similar during remembering the past and imagining the future. This overlap was most apparent during the elaboration phase, when participants focused on generating details about the remembered or imagined event. A core network 77 of brain regions that had previously been implicated in the retrieval of episodic memories, and has also been linked to a variety of internally driven cognitive processes, 80 , 81 showed common activation during both remembering and imagining, including the hippocampus, parahippocampal and retrosplenial cortices, medial prefrontal and frontopolar cortices, and lateral parietal lobe.

The common activation observed in the hippocampus was especially intriguing, possibly reflecting the retrieval or integration of event details into the remembered or imagined representation. Moreover, during the construction phase, the right hippocampus was engaged to a greater extent when participants imagined future events than when they remembered past events. Because the hippocampus has been implicated in relational processing (ie, linking together previously unrelated items 82 ), Addis et al suggested that this finding might reflect the additional relational processing required when one recombines disparate details into an imagined future event. 18 , 83 , 84

Following up on the foregoing findings with respect to hippocampal activity, Addis and Schacter 85 examined the relationship between brain activity and the amount of detail reported for remembered and imagined events during the elaboration phase. Addis and Schacter observed that activity in the left posterior hippocampus was correlated with the amount of detail comprising both remembered and imagined events, whereas the left anterior hippocampus responded specifically to the amount of detail comprising imagined but not remembered events. In line with the previous discussion, Addis and Schacter suggested that this latter finding could reflect activity associated with the recombination of details into an imagined future event.

More direct evidence on this point is provided by a study that made use of a novel experimental recombination paradigm. 86 Participants initially provided episodic memories of actual experiences that included details about a person, object, and place involved in that event. During a later scanning session, they were cued to recall some of the events that had actually occurred. For the conditions in which they imagined events, the experimenters randomly recombined details concerning person, object, and place from separate episodes. Then, during scanning, participants were given cues for a person, object, and place taken from distinct episodes, and were instructed to imagine a single, novel episode that included the specified details. In some cases, participants were instructed to imagine possible future events, whereas in others, they were instructed to imagine events that might have occurred in the past. As in previous studies, robust hippocampal activity was observed when participants recombined details into an imaginary scenario.

While these findings are consistent with a role for the hippocampus in recombining episodic details, Martin et al have recently examined whether the hippocampus also plays a role in a closely related process: encoding recombined details into memory. Several decades ago, Ingvar 88 developed an idea that he called “memory of the future”: when we simulate an upcoming future scenario, we need to encode and store that simulation for later use in order to maximize its adaptive effect on future behavior. Although next to nothing is known about the neural processes that support “memory of the future,” Martin et al 87 hypothesized a role for the hippocampus. To investigate the issue, we examined whether hippocampal activity during simulations of future experiences is related to memory for those simulations by using the experimental recombination paradigm described earlier 86 together with the well-established “subsequent memory” procedure, where brain activity during encoding is related to whether an item is later remembered or forgotten on a memory test. The subsequent memory procedure has been used successfully in numerous previous studies on the neural correlates of encoding processes. 89 , 90

During scanning, participants imagined future events comprised of recombined person, location, and object details that were taken from their own memories provided in a prescanning session. A few minutes after completion of the scan, participants were given an unexpected cued recall test that probed memory of their simulation: they were provided with two details from the simulation and were instructed to recall the third detail. Simulations for which participants provided the missing detail were classified as “remembered,” and those for which participants did not provide the correct missing detail were classified as “forgotten,” thereby providing an objective measure of whether the details from each simulation had been successfully encoded.

Results showed that the core network identified in previous studies, including the hippocampus, was active when participants imagined future events ( Figure 1 ) . Critically, we also found that simulations classified as “remembered” based on subsequent recall performance were associated with greater activity in right hippocampus at the time of encoding than were simulations that were classified as “forgotten” ( Figure 2 ) . Further, we found that participants rated the successfully remembered simulations as more detailed than simulations that were subsequently forgotten, and that activation in brain regions that showed an encoding effect was modulated by the level of detail. These observations suggest that constructing a lasting “memory for the future” is related to how well details comprising a simulation were retrieved from memory and recombined during encoding.

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In a related line of research on another aspect of “memory of the future,” Szpunar et al 91 have examined how well individuals remember simulations of positive, negative, or neutral simulations of possible future events. Episodic simulations typically refer to emotionally arousing events: recent evidence indicates that roughly two thirds of thoughts about everyday future events are either positively or negatively charged. 92 To investigate memory for such simulations, we used a variant of the experimental recombination-subsequent memory procedure used by Martin et al 87 in the previously described study in which participants imagined future events comprised of recombined person, location, and object details. Each recombined set of details was presented along with one of three emotional tags — either positive, negative, or neutral. On each trial, participants were instructed to generate a plausible future event that might occur within the next 5 years and that would evoke in them the emotion indicated by the emotional tag. Memory was tested either after a 10-minute delay or a 1-day delay using the cued recall procedure described above, ie, participants were provided with two details from the simulation and were instructed to recall the third detail (no scanning was performed in this experiment).

After the 10-minute delay, recall of details associated with positive and negative simulations was significantly greater than recall of details associated with neutral simulations — a finding that is consistent with a large body of literature indicating that memory for emotional experiences is typically enhanced compared with memory for neutral experiences. 93 , 94 Strikingly, however, at the 1-day delay, the details associated with negative simulations were remembered significantly less often than the details associated with positive and neutral simulations.

We related this finding to previous studies that have documented a phenomenon known as “fading affect bias”: emotional reactions tend to fade more quickly over time for negative than positive everyday experiences. 95 Perhaps rapid fading of negative affect over time rendered details associated with negative simulations more difficult to recall than those associated with positive or neutral simulations. Although additional research will be required to understand this finding, it may be related in interesting ways to the simulation of future events in clinical populations with affective disorders. A number of studies have shown that patients with depression 96 , 97 and anxiety 98 , 99 exhibit impaired simulations of future events that tend to lack specific detail and are often negatively biased. These observations, as well as related observations of impaired future simulations in other psychiatric and neurological disorders (for reviews, see refs 19,78), highlight the clinical relevance of research concerning imagining the future. They also suggest that it will be interesting to examine memory for positive and negative simulations in depressed and anxious patients in order to determine whether patterns consistent with x201c;fading affect bias” — ie, impaired recall of negative simulations after a long delay versus a short delay — are absent or reduced in such patients.

Distinguishing betwee true and false memories

The observation that memory and imagination depend, at least in part, on a common neural network, raises an important question: how does the brain distinguish between memories for actual past experiences and those that have only been imagined? One clue comes from the Addis et al 86 study discussed earlier, in which participants were scanned while remembering actual events consisting of key person-place-object details, or imagining experiences comprised of recombined details from different memories. As in previous studies, the core network discussed earlier was activated for both remembering and imagining. In addition, however, Addis et al 86 noted that distinct subsystems within the core network were preferentially associated with imagining and remembering, respectively. The imagining network consisted of medial temporal lobe including anterior hippocampus, bilateral medial prefrontal cortex, inferior frontal gyrus, polar and posterior temporal cortex, and medial parietal cortex. The remembering network included posterior visual cortices such as fusiform, lingual and occipital gyri and cuneus, as well as parahippocampal gyrus and posterior hippocampus. Addis et al 86 suggested that the association of posterior visual cortices with memory for actual experiences might indicate that reactivation of sensory-perceptual details during memory retrieval recruits the neural regions involved in the original processing of the remembered information. Consistent with this suggestion, neuroimaging studies of memory for previously studied pictures have revealed reactivation during retrieval of some of the same visual processing regions that were active during encoding. 100

These observations dovetail nicely with an idea initially advanced by cognitive psychologists, often referred to as the sensory reactivation hypothesis , that true memories tend to contain more sensory and perceptual information than do false memories. 62 , 101 Consistent with this hypothesis, behavioral studies have shown that retrieval of true memories is associated with increased access to sensory and perceptual details compared with retrieval of false or imaginary memories. 101 - 105

More recently, neuroimaging studies in which participants are scanned during retrieval of true and false memories have provided additional evidence consistent with the sensory reactivation hypothesis. For example, in several neuroimaging studies using the DRM semantic associates paradigm, participants who were scanned during retrieval showed increased activity in sensory-perceptual regions during true recognition as compared with false recognition. 44 - 46 However, whether or not such effects are observed may depend on subtle features of the experimental design. 13 , 47 , 106

In an attempt to examine sensory reactivation effects using material known to engage perceptual processing pathways, Slotnick and Schacter 34 used novel visual shapes as target stimuli. All the shapes that participants studied were physically similar to prototype shapes that were not presented during encoding. Following presentation of the study list, participants made old/new recognition decisions about previously studied shapes, nonstudied related shapes, and nonstudied unrelated shapes. Slotnick and Schacter 34 hypothesized that true recognition of previously studied shapes, as compared with false recognition of nonstudied related shapes, would be accompanied by a sensory signature involving increased activation of visual processing regions. Consistent with this hypothesis, there was significantly greater activity during true than false recognition in regions of primary visual cortex (eg, BA 17, 18) that are concerned with processing such features of target stimuli as orientation and color. By contrast, higher-order visual areas in occipito-temporal cortex (eg, BA 19, 37) showed comparable levels of activity during true and false recognition.

Consistent with the foregoing, additional evidence supporting the sensory reactivation hypothesis has been reported in studies using fMRI to examine the widely known post-event misinformation effect. 10 In misinformation studies, participants are exposed to an original event consisting of a sequence of activities, and are later given inaccurate information about some aspect of the original event; on a subsequent memory test, participants sometimes falsely remember that the post-event misinformation was part of the original event. In the first fMRI study of the misinformation effect, Okado and Stark 107 scanned participants while they viewed vignettes (ie, event sequences) that each contained a critical detail (eg, in one vignette, a man puts a stolen wallet in his jacket pocket), and also during the post-event misinformation phase, when participants were exposed to erroneous information about what had happened in the original event (eg, the man put the stolen wallet in his pants pocket). Two days later, participants were given a memory test including both events that occurred in the original vignette and those that appeared only in the misinformation phase. Okado and Stark 107 found that the occurrence of the misinformation effect — ie, when participants claimed that a bit of misinformation was part of the initial vignette — was predicted by level of activity in the medial temporal lobe during encoding of both the original event and the misinformation.

In a twist on this paradigm designed to examine the role of sensory reactivation in the aforementioned effects, Stark et al had participants view vignettes similar to those used in the Okado and Stark 107 study. The next day, during the misinformation phase, participants listened to a series of sentences; most of them accurately described what had occurred in the vignette that the participant viewed the previous day, but some contained misinformation. Fifteen minutes later, participants were scanned while they took a memory test that included items from the original vignette and the misinformation phase. Thus, true memories — items from the vignette that participants accurately claimed that they saw in the first phase — were based on prior visual experience (ie, viewing the vignettes). By contrast, false memories — items from the misinformation phase that participants inaccurately claimed that they saw in the first phase — were based on auditory information acquired during the misinformation phase. Stark et al found that true memories were associated with greater activity in visual cortex than were false memories (which were associated with activity in auditory cortex), thereby providing further support for the sensory reactivation hypothesis. Indeed, Stark et al 108 noted that true recognition was preferentially associated with activity in early or primary regions of the visual cortex, thereby supporting and extending the results of Slotnick and Schacter 34 in a very different kind of experimental paradigm (see also ref 109).

Concluding comments

The research reviewed here indicates that we are beginning to establish a neurocognitive foundation for understanding the kinds of constructive memory processes that have been documented and investigated by numerous cognitive psychologists dating back to the pioneering studies of Bartlett. 8 This research provides evidence in support of claims that memory distortions often reflect the operation of adaptive processes, that an important function of a constructive memory is allowing individuals to flexibly use past experiences to simulate possible future events, and that sensory reactivation can help to distinguish true from false memories.

While the theoretical implications of research on constructive memory are important, as noted earlier in the article this research also has clinical and applied implications. Research on memory distortion, for example, played an important role in informing and shaping the debate over the accuracy of recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse that raged for over a decade during the 1990s and 2000s. 110 , 111 Demonstrations that imagining events that never happened can sometimes produce false memories for those events 59 , 112 alerted both researchers and clinicians to the possible dangers of encouraging patients in psychotherapy to imagine childhood experiences that might or might not have occurred. And, indeed, recent research indicates that there are good reasons to doubt the accuracy of memories of sexual abuse recovered during psychotherapy (in contrast to memories recovered outside of a therapeutic context, which tend to be accurate). 111

Research on constructive memory is also relevant understanding inaccuracies in eyewitness memory, which are all too often implicated in wrongful convictions of innocent individuals. 4 , 5 One frequently posed question concerns whether it is possible to distinguish between accurate and inaccurate eyewitness memories, perhaps by using neuroimaging techniques. Although, as discussed earlier, there are both cognitive and neural differences between true and false memories, it is not at all clear that those differences can be reliably detected in individual cases, as required in the courtroom: most studies that have used neuroimaging to distinguish true and false memories have done so by averaging across subjects and groups. 113 Some recent evidence indicates that neuroimaging can be used to gain insights into the subjective experience of remembering in an individual subject on a single trial. Using a classification technique known as multi voxel pattern analysis, researchers were able to use a pattern classifier to accurately detect when individuals believed that they were remembering a specific event, regardless of whether the event had actually occurred. 114 However, the pattern classifier could not reliably determine the objective status of memory for single events, that is, whether the rememberer's belief about the event was accurate — a failure that would clearly limit its applicability in the courtroom, at least for now. Other limitations of current research include the fact that laboratory studies have typically used college students as participants, whereas a much more diverse set of individuals are involved in real-world cases of eyewitness memory, and have also tended to use materials, such as word lists or pictures of shapes and objects, that may have limited application to everyday experiences. 115

Interestingly, recent work using structural imaging has revealed that individual differences in reality monitoring ability — ie, the capacity to distinguish whether a previously encountered item came from an internal or external source — are linked to structural differences across individuals in the volume of the paracingulate sulcus within the medial anterior prefrontal cortex, a region that was previously linked to reality monitoring performance in functional neuroimaging studies. 116 It should be useful to examine in future research whether information from structural imaging can be combined with functional neuroimaging data to improve discrimination between true and false memories in individual cases.

In light of the foregoing considerations and the material discussed earlier, it is clear that research on constructive memory can help to address some major theoretical questions concerning the nature and function of memory, as well as key applied issues that have important clinical and everyday consequences. Much work remains to be done in order to deepen our understanding of the neural basis and cognitive properties of constructive memory. But it seems clear that attempting to understand constructive memory processes by integrating perspectives from cognitive psychology and neuroscience has proven to be a productive approach in recent years, and there is every reason to believe that such an approach will continue to pay dividends in the future.


Preparation of this chapter was supported by NIMH MH060941. I thank Clifford Robbins for help with preparation of the manuscript.

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Home > Books > New Frontiers in Brain - Computer Interfaces

Introducing a Novel Approach to Study the Construction and Function of Memory in Human Beings: The Meshk Theory

Submitted: 09 May 2019 Reviewed: 12 June 2019 Published: 13 February 2020

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.87991

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This study reviews the crucial role of memory in the human brain. For this purpose, previous investigations and researches about the construction and function of memory were studied. The mechanism of the memory function was reviewed, and crucial drivers for the working of the memory were indicated. Then an applied memory model that could serve as a framework to study the memory function was also introduced. Therefore, the memory unit was introduced as a basic information structure. Also, a structured platform for the memory unit was determined for encoding the information and data in the brain. Then a pattern of information coding was detected. Thus, a basic framework to study the memory function was conceived. The results of this thesis pave the way for the discovery of a basic algorithm to understand the memory function in the human. Also, this study introduces a simple way to overcome Alzheimer disease (AD). This way can be applied to research on the prevention and treatment of this disease.

  • Meshk theory
  • triple drivers
  • memory model
  • memory unit
  • memory coding strand
  • music therapy
  • Alzheimer disease

Author Information

Mohammad seyedielmabad *.

  • Kurdistan University, Iran
  • Tarbiat Modares University, Iran

*Address all correspondence to: [email protected]

1. Introduction

Memory is one of the greatest unsolved secrets encountered by human generation. There are a lot of questions about memory. The memory remains a mystery until now. A lot of scientists have studied memory, but there have been no certain results until now. Only recently has it been determined that memory is a faculty of the mind. They have discovered that information is encoded, stored, and retrieved in a region which is called “hippocampus” [ 8 ]. Also, they have found that memory is vital to experiences and related to the limbic system of the brain [ 8 ]. Models of memory provide abstract representations of how memory is believed to work [ 3 ]. There are several models that have been proposed over the years by various psychologists [ 3 ]. Controversy is involved as to whether several memory structures exist [ 3 ]. For decades, neuroscientists have attempted to unravel how the brain makes memories [ 22 ]. Atkinson-Shiffrin and working memory are the different kinds of memory models that have been available in the last decades. The human brain is estimated to have approximately 86 billion neurons [ 12 ], and each neuron has tens of thousands of synapses, leading to over 100 trillion synaptic connections [ 2 ]. Concurrence monitoring of 100 trillion synaptic connections is an impossible work. On top of this astronomical complexity, one needs to map each connection or neuron to a given stimulus, yet possible numbers of stimuli that can be used are infinite given the complex, ever-changing nature of the world we live in [ 27 ]. This is one of the most difficult issues faced by neuroscientists. As such, the unifying mathematical principle upon which evolution constructs the brain’s basic wiring and computational logic represents one of the topmost difficult and unsolved meta-problems in neuroscience [ 1 , 9 ]. Because of that, it is required to introduce an innovative approach to solve this problem. Recently, Dr. Tsien and his colleagues introduced an approach about memory that is known to “thought experiment.” They have done a lot of studies in the last decades about memory. It seems that this approach has an important contribution in the area of neuroscience. One useful concept in pursuing this line of reasoning is cell assembly, a term coined by Hebb [ 11 ] to describe the supposed computational building block or computational primitive in the brain. This notion has attracted keen interest, especially with emerging large-scale recording techniques [ 6 , 13 , 15 , 16 , 18 , 19 , 25 ]. Hebbian cell assembly was postulated to be comprised of a group of neurons with strong excitatory connections that are formed after learning [ 13 , 26 ]. Dr. Tsien and his colleagues focus their research on the hippocampus, particularly a region called CA1, which is important to forming memories of events and places in both people and rodents [ 19 , 24 ]. The hippocampus has four parts including CA1, CA2, CA3, and CA4, and each section can be divided into nine sections. The study results of scientists add to a growing body of work indicating that a linear flow of signals from one neuron to another is not enough to explain how the brain represents perceptions and memories [ 17 ]. Rather the coordinated activity of large populations of neurons is needed [ 19 ]. Human memory is a great performance organ. Also, the memory function is due to its structure. While the architecture of memory detects, it is possible to distinguish the memory function. This approach can be used to overcome neural diseases especially Alzheimer disease (AD) according to music. Alzheimer disease is a neurodegenerative disorder featuring gradually progressive cognitive and functional deficits as well as behavioral changes [ 4 ]. More than 30 million people in the world are suffering of Alzheimer disease (AD(. It is a deadly disease that resulted in about 1.9 million deaths in 2015 and therefore is one of the most costly diseases. The previous investigation showed that music has an effect on treatment of AD. It is necessary to carry out a comprehensive study about music therapy of Alzheimer disease. It is a simple and low-cost way that takes less time for prevention and treatment of AD. Music is known as part of mathematics, and music composers work in the field of mathematic rules. In mathematics, a circle has 360°. So, all mathematical rules are in this field of degrees. Therefore, human memory works at 360° and connects to a complete loop. Barbad is one of the first ancient musicians in Kurdistan. He compiled 360 types of music that were made in 200 AC. Kurdistan is a strategic region that was separated to four parts between Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria after World War 1. Kurd is a term that concerns people in Kurdistan that are related to the ancient Sumerians (10). Kurdistan is a historical place that had governments in the ancient periods. One of them is known as Sassanian. In this period, music was prevalent, and many people worked on mathematics, and so, music was built on the structure and function of the human brain. According to this approach, music shows the inherence of human memory. Hence, music can relieve and improve the nerves and memory. The last studies that have been done by a lot of scientist prove this claim. Some of these investigations led to the wonderful discovery. It is required to carry out a comprehensive study about human memory for introducing a simple and applied way to overcome Alzheimer disease. The objectives of this study respond to the following questions:

What is human memory?

What is the simple structure of memory in the human brain like?

How does human memory work?

More importantly, what is a simple way to overcome Alzheimer disease?

2.1 Triple drivers

In Einstein’s special theory of relativity, E = mc 2 , energy and mass are equivalent and transmutable. It is possible to explain the relativity theory of Einstein for the brain. According to Meshk theory, the memory structure and function of the human brain depend on three main factors ( Figure 1 ). The word Meshk is known in the Sumerian and Kurdish languages to the human brain. These drivers provide the inherence of human memory as shown below:

research on memory construction

The triple drivers that provide the inherence of human brain, the gray circles, blue circle, and green triangular indicate the NR, SP, and WE, respectively.

research on memory construction

The human memory in the function circle is based on three basic drivers including water, energy, and substances. Water is a driver for creation and operation of memory. The quantum brain dynamic (QBD) theory claims that water comprises 70% of the brain and proposes that the electric dipoles of the water molecules constitute a quantum field [ 34 , 35 ]. Therefore, human memory works in a general circle provided by water called “water equivalence (WE).” While memory neurons are working, WE is an important factor for coding and encoding memory information. The last studies have shown that conscious experience correlates not with the number of neurons firing but with the synchrony of that firing [ 38 ]. Ears are likely to be related to this process because the ear is connected to the brain’s equilibrium process. For a long time, the oldest part of the brain was thought of as a “control room” for human motions [ 42 ]. Now there is evidence that the cerebellum also stores the temporal information about the music we are listening to, and then it recalls this information while reproducing the music [ 42 ]. Moreover, an amazing fact is that the cerebellum was discovered to be a center for emotions [ 42 ]. Also, the water equivalence of the brain can lead to a powerful electromagnetic (EM) field in the brain. The electromagnetic theories of consciousness propose that consciousness can be understood as an electromagnetic phenomenon [ 36 ]. Electromagnetic field theories of consciousness propose that consciousness results when a brain produces an electromagnetic field with specific characteristics [ 36 , 37 ].

In the conscious electromagnetic information (CEMI) theory, McFadden proposes that the digital information from neurons is integrated to form a conscious electromagnetic information field in the brain [ 39 ]. Since the brain is a 300° Kelvin tissue strongly associated with its environment [ 44 ], it is possible that the noise and warm environment of the brain cause to transform the water crystals. This transformation, resulting in internal equivalence of the brain, leads to the operation of intrinsic memory. This process can form the basis of memory structure. Dr. Masaru Emoto and colleagues (1996) studied water crystals [ 31 , 32 ]. They proposed that human consciousness has an effect on the molecular structure of water and therefore emotional energies and vibrations could change the physical structure of water [ 33 ]. Brain activities in human infants have shown evidence of existence of the intrinsic memory. The high ability to learn a language in infants is an important evidence that proves this claim. There is a fundamental potential in infants that enables them to advance learning and behaviors. This is a fundamental difference between human beings and others. There is a mechanism in the human brain in which “Nunch resonance (NR)” enables the brain to accelerate and increase reactions to stimuli from the environment. According to Figure 2 , each nunchaku includes two parts that are linked together by a connection. A part of the nunchaku inputs the force and energy and then transmits it to the other part by a connection. Owing to the resonance in this process, the output force is much more than the input. It is what McFadden termed as “amplifying the microscopic quantum effects.” In the CEMI theory, the synchronous firing of neurons is argued to amplify the influence of the brain's electromagnetic field fluctuations to a much greater extent than would be possible with the unsynchronized firing of neurons [ 39 ]. Exciting recent research shows that nontrivial quantum effects are present in biological systems and not just in spite of, but sometimes because of, the interaction with the noisy and warm environment [ 51 ]. Furthermore, because the brain is a complex nonlinear system with high sensitivity to small fluctuations, it is likely that it can amplify microscopic quantum effects [ 51 ]. It is also possible that light photons derived from the eye are related to this process. In general relativity (GR) and the equivalence principle developed by Einstein, it is argued that black holes are regions of space where gravitational attraction is very strong, because even light cannot escape. It is possible that there are spots with a black energy attribute on the front lobe of the human brain. The mineral substances in the function circle of the human brain are provided by a process called “substance or mass proportion (SP).” It is likely that the heart and sense organs are important parts for this process. The concurrence of the triple drivers is required for encoding information in the memory. Triple driver compatibility is required to encoding information in memory. According to Einstein’s special relativity theory, E = mc 2 , energy and mass are equivalent and transmutable. In this equation, c 2 is the determinative factor, and so it can be concluded that WE is the main driver for recalling information in the brain.

research on memory construction

A schematic of the nunchaku function.

2.2 Memory model

Most of the memory models presented in the past decades have been based on time. The terms of memory, including short-term, long-term, and working memory, are defined by time. In Einstein’s special theory of relativity, E = mc 2 , time and space are not invariable. According to the Meshk theory, space and time are variable and parts of the inherent memory. Therefore, memory in the human brain is indicated in a new model called “Manna model.” In this new model, memory is divided into three parts fundamental, central, and peripheral. The base structure of memory in this model is shown in Figure 3 . Fundamental memory is inherent intelligence. This can be called intrinsic memory and has existed since the advent of mankind. This memory is very cryptic and so unknown so far. The spatial and temporal information are parts of the memory nature. The ability of infants to swim and learn a language is clearly an example that confirms the nature of fundamental memory in human beings. All learning processes in the central memory of human are connected to fundamental memory that is called “recalling of the internal information.” The environmental information includes visual, auditory, and sensory data. The eye, ear, and heart are the centers of receiving the visual, auditory, and sensory information from the environment and transmitting them to the brain ( Figure 2 ). It is possible that sensitive organs send their signals to the heart and, after coordination, the information is sent from the heart to the brain. The peripheral memory is specialized to receive environmental information from the eye, ear, and heart and transmit them to the central memory. At the start, external information is transferred from the peripheral to the central memory. In the process of being transferred, some of the data is removed, and some remains. By coupling of blocks in the fundamental to the central memory, internal information is retrieved. The “coupling process” is a turning point in reminding of internal information from the fundamental memory. The water equivalence (WE) is an important factor for operating the coupling process. The coupling process can be the starting point for neural momentum in the brain neural circuit. Therefore, in human memory, it is necessary to receive information from the auditory, visual, and sensory systems for making memory coding unit. At the same time, the information in the fundamental and central memory is also binded as binary codes. The coupling process leads to the creation of this important structure. This is what Dr. Tsien and colleagues termed as “neural cliques.” They discovered that these overall network-level patterns are generated by distinct subsets of neural populations or neural cliques [ 19 ].

research on memory construction

The Manna model, the gray circles, blue circle, and green triangular indicate the peripheral, central, and the fundamental memories, respectively.

According to the theory of connectivity by Dr. Tsien, a clique is a group of neurons that respond similarly to a select event and thus operate collectively as a robust coding unit [ 14 , 19 , 20 , 21 , 23 ]. Table 1 indicates each event as three blocks are active and the others are inactive. The investigators represented clique activity as a string of binary codes that revealed details of the event an animal experienced [ 19 ]. In the string fragments shown here, 1 means a particular clique is active, and 0 signifies inactivity [ 19 ]. The idea of quantum coherent waves in the neuronal network is derived from Frohlich [ 35 ]. He viewed these waves as a means by which order could be maintained in living systems and argued that the neuronal network could support the long-range correlation of dipoles [ 35 ]. Repeated stimulation in a continuous and rhythmic way is a critical factor in operating the coupling process. As more and more memory blocks are turned on and active, more processes of recalling the internal information are performed. Therefore, more information and data are extracted from the fundamental memory. In the human brain, there are millions of memory blocks that are not used during the lifetime. Thus, people have entire blocks in fundamental memory but only turn on some of the blocks in their lifetime ( Table 2 ). The active blocks make up the central memory in the human brain. The recalling of internal information and data from the fundamental memory is different about people. This process is different from elementary to advanced levels. It is dependent on the quality and the quantity function of coupling process in the memory. In mathematics, the entire angle of a circle is 360 grades (360°). The human brain works in a 360° field and therefore in two mutual directions ( Figure 4 ). The Manna alphabet framework is interestingly conformed to the algorithm of the human brain structure ( Table 3 ). This alphabet could be the best basic format to receive and transmit data and information by the human. Manna is a term that concerns people to the south of Urmia Lake in Kurdistan [ 7 , 29 ]. There are a lot of mysteries about the Manna that has not been discovered until now. The only thing that has been distinguished is that the people of that age were blessed with great intelligence. They developed music, agriculture, animal husbandry, industry, medicine, and astronomy. According to ancient literature, Sumerians and Mannea had an advanced alphabet with 37 and 36 letters, respectively [ 10 , 30 ]. The Mannea were an ancient ethnic group, and a rich trove of literature written by them exists [ 28 , 5 ]. This literature and books covered various topics including music, agriculture, astronomy, medicine, industry, and more importantly water engineering. The Manna alphabet included four partitions with a specific algorithm, and each part had nine letters. This algorithm made a basic structure for humans to communicate and understand the relation between the people from the ancient period until now. This alphabet can be a suitable pattern for decoding memory architecture in humans.

The binary codes, (A) earthquake and (B) elevator drop.

research on memory construction

The building blocks of fundamental memory in the human brain. Black blocks are the memory in use, and white blocks are inactive memory.

research on memory construction

The circles that indicate the memory coding directions, (A) base direction of the memory coding, (B) complementary direction of the memory coding, and (C) entire directions of the memory coding.

The structure of Manna alphabet between 600 and 800 BC.

3.1 Memory unit

There is a need for a paradigm shift from behaviorist stimulus-response concepts toward notions of predictive coding in self-organizing recurrent networks with high-dimensional dynamics [ 45 , 47 ]. Neuronal networks with nonlinear neurons and densely connected feedback loops can generate dynamics that is more complex, variable, and rich than expected [ 48 , 49 , 50 ]. Therefore, the two structures of the hippocampus located in the limbic system can operate in reciprocal connection to the coding of the information in the brain. According to the Meshk theory, the information and data received from the environment encode in a structure is called “memory unit.” Each memory unit is actually a perception unit in the human brain. It is necessary to operate one or a few perception units to figure out the problems and issues. According to the Manna model features described in the previous sections, each memory unit includes three parts: visual, auditory, and sensory. Therefore, each perception unit makes three functional codes ( Figure 5 ). At the same time, the central and fundamental codes are binded together by coupling process to create the binary codes described in the previous section. For an individual event, three sections in the memory unit have to work, and each section has a functional code. It is likely to operate numbers of the memory units for an individual event. This is dependent on the quality and quantity of internal information that might be extracted from the fundamental memory. Locating consciousness in the brain’s electromagnetic (EM) field, rather than the neurons, has the advantage of neatly accounting for how information located in millions of neurons scattered through the brain can be unified into a single consciousness. In this way, EM field consciousness can be considered to be “joined-up information” [ 41 ]. This is an important part of the issue that could help scientist to solve the brain puzzle. When neurons fire together, their EM fields generate stronger EM field disturbances [ 40 ]. Therefore, synchronous neuron firing will tend to have a larger impact on the brain’s EM field (and thereby consciousness) than the firing of individual neurons [ 41 ]. The synchronous neuron firing is like a symphony orchestra or philharmonic orchestra with a lot of musical instruments. The harmony of playing music causes to create of a strong and impressive conclusion. Without each part of the symphony orchestra, the music is imperfect. The generation by synchronous firing is not the only important characteristic of conscious electromagnetic fields as in Pockett’s original theory; spatial pattern is the defining feature of a conscious field [ 36 ]. In a philharmonic orchestra, there is an accurate spatial and temporal pattern that is well organized. It can lead to creating of a memorable artistic masterpiece. In Meshk’s theory, spatial and temporal patterns are part of the intrinsic memory features. The CA1 region of the hippocampus receives inputs from many brain regions and sensory systems, and this feature most likely influences what type of information a given clique encodes [ 22 ].

research on memory construction

The coupling of memory blocks in the human brain. Plates F, C, and P show the fundamental, central, and peripheral memories, respectively.

3.2 Memory coding strand

The nervous system can be seen as a nested hierarchy of nonlinear complex networks of molecules, cells, microcircuits, and brain regions [ 46 , 51 ]. The Manna alphabet has a simple structure for understanding the brain. It is an appropriate programming system for the human brain and could be the first one designed by humans. In this way, the alphabet conforms to the structure of information coding in human memory. Therefore, in the coding process, signals received by the brain from the environment translate into special characters. These characters are arranged based on the external information received from the environment. A recorder strand of information is divided into four parts, and each part includes a memory unit (three memory codes) ( Figure 6 ). The two strands of memory, akin to strands of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), run in reciprocal connection and are thus parallel. The two strands of memory are coupled together for making a crucial structure. The base strand is made in the fundamental memory, and the couple one is in the central memory. These two strands make memory coding strand that enables the brain to advance learning and behaviors in humans. In this structure, information processing is done in a simple way by the human brain. Therefore, it could possibly be a fast way to distinguish problems and issues. Figure 7 shows the overall architecture and human memory function in the Manna model. According to this approach, the reminder of the internal information process is carried out in five general stages; A and B have potential levels, and D and E are active levels of the memory. In general, in detail of this model, eight levels of human memory function have been deciphered. Also, the basic algorithm for the memory of the human is an exponential function. This function is transcendental and indicates the features of human memory coding. The function is as follows:

research on memory construction

The pattern of human memory coding. A, B, C, and D are the memory units.

research on memory construction

The functional levels of Manna model.

where N is the number of memory units connected in different possible ways; e is the Napier’s constant; i is the information they are receiving; and 1 is just part of the math that enables you to account for all possibilities.

4. Conclusion

The fundamental memory in animals is alternatively an ability that is known to instinct. In comparison to the fundamental memory in human, the animal instinct is primitive. It means that animal species have inherent intelligence, but the quality and quantity function of coding the information is different from the human. While the fundamental memory function is known, most problems and ambiguities about memory including short-term, long-term, working memory, and learning process are being answered. For instance, in the Manna model, learning is an activity that is described as a reminder of the internal information from intrinsic memory to central memory. It is said that all of the information and data are in the atmosphere and we have to discover them, but it is likely that internal information is in the fundamental memory. While the learning process is a reminder of information from the fundamental memory, it is required to make a connection between the fundamental and central memory. This connection is made by the coupling process. This process creates memory units and, therefore, leads to the formation of a memory coding strand. Indeed, in the Manna model, the memory unit is a unit of reminder information. In this model, the coupling process is a turning point in the neural circuit and can be the basis of the memory function. Also, like to the structure of Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), memory is formed to a spiral train structure. According to general relativity of Einstein, the observed gravitational attraction between masse results from the warping of space and time by those masses. Human memory is made of U shape components that convoluted together. The curvature in the U shape components intensively increases efficiency in the structure and function of memory. The two strands of memory are coupled together for making an applied and unique architecture. In human beings, this architecture is working for advance learning and behaviors. The Manna model is a simple and applied memory model that clearly explains the construction and function of memory. This model provides a functional framework to distinguish the memory function and therefore discover a basic algorithm for memory in the human brain. Consequently, using an applied and simple model, scientists can find a simple solution to overcome the brain and mind disorders, especially for Alzheimer disease (AD).

One of the important solutions to Alzheimer disease is the music therapy that scientists are investigating about. The music utilizes a large variety of basic brain functions; it is closely tied to emotion and seems to be advantageous to survival in line with Darwinian natural selection [ 43 ]. It is sometimes claimed that swimming is the best exercise one can do since it requires one to work nearly every group of muscles [ 43 ]. The music can be thought of as the brain’s analog to swimming [ 43 ]. It’s a most basic and passive form; it exercises timing functions, matches patterns, and makes predictions [ 43 ]. Like swimming as the best exercise to recover and retrieve body muscles, music has the ability to retrieve and remind the brain’s internal information. It is necessary to design a technique for music programming in specific time periods. This technique enforces the brain to manage the fundamental memory for the recall of information without using drugs and surgeries. According to the Meshk’s theory, a simple technique dubbed as “special music programming” is organized to retrieve memory and mind. This technique is made up of two sections, including harmonic music composes and repetitive courses. Synchronicity of body muscle movement is a basic principle in swimming. Similarly for a particular person, the music harmony and scheduling of repetition time in this technique are key factors that have been ignored in previous research on music therapy of the mind. It is possible to dub these important principles as spatial and temporal equivalence (for a particular person). The repetition of harmonic music in the certain time periods is a turning point in stimulating the mind for recalling information in the Alzheimer disease. This simple technique is divided into 72 sections (36 pairs) each section having special composes and time. Each pair can be performed in a day (morning and one in the evening). Each period is 40 days, because the day after 9 days of the program, there is 1 day to rest the mind. Therefore, there are nine repetition periods in the year. In general, the program includes 324 working days and 36 resting days in the year. This simple technique depends on the architecture and functions of human memory and thus is remarkable to retrieve memory in Alzheimer patients. Also, it is applied to prevent the disease for people in different ages. The Mozart and Beethoven symphonies can be applied in this way, because these symphonies are compatible with the structure and function of human memory. The Kurdish and Iranian traditional music that was named Dastgah, including Mahur, Homayun, Nava, Segah, Cahargah, Rast-Panjgah, and Sur, can be very appealing. According to the Meshk theory, this adaptation is logical and it is not casual. The influence of music and symphonies on the mind has been investigated in the past decades, but is not organized in repeating certain courses (for a special person). That is why previous investigations on the music therapy of the mind have not succeeded and have remained as a cryptic problem up to now. Crucial points of this study can be applied in research about the music therapy of the mind and other investigations.

Conflict of interest

The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

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    Research on memory construction indicates that memories of past experiences are likely to be: distorted by our current expectations. An inability to

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