Do you ever doubt your own memory? New research at the Institute suggests that some of the things we think we remember could be wrong. It seems that our brains are surprisingly willing to exchange a true memory for a false one, just on the basis of friends’ claims. The scientists not only demonstrated just how easy it is to create false memories, they showed that the switch in memory has a signature pattern of brain activity. The most significant feature? They found strong connectivity between areas of the brain known to be involved in memory and learning, and the amygdala, which, among other things, plays a role in social interaction.
This of course, raises a number of interesting issues and questions. One of the more significant could be this: If memory is so malleable, what is it really for? We may believe our memories to be a personal record of events, but might there be a social aspect to memory that is better served by a tendency to adjust our memories to those of the group?
The amygdala, more often associated with emotions, has been showing up in a number of studies dealing with various aspects of memory conducted by this group and others at the Institute. The implication, here, could be that the rational, information-processing parts of our brain don’t really work independently of the emotional, social parts.