Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Buzz About How Memory Recall Works in our Brains.

     In this article the poetic analogy of a bee searching for the proper food (often pollen) amidst greenery and flowers using the process of going from one bush to another to that of the process occurring when we recollect information from our memory.   This has been tested in quite a few experiments on active memory, including a recent study done by the Psychology department at the University of Warwick (UK) and set up by Prof. Thomas Hills.  The study used 141 students in a test where they were asked to list the names of as many animals as possible in 3 minutes, a common type of verbal fluency task. The proposed strategy for retrieval does match up with the outcome of these tests, in which most responded by thinking of one type or category of animal at a time, such as all the domestic animals they could think of first and then all mammals, sea creatures, or whatever information was most rehearsed as a clustered grouping within the brain.  On average (a mean) of the results shows a total of 37 animals and focused on six main sub-sets of organization.  This would suggest that information stored actively is remembered in context to larger concepts to make it easier for us to recall, perhaps because this has proved to be most efficient in terms of behavioral evolution. Another example of an "optimal foraging model" for comparison given is that of the a small bird that feeds on berries, and will eat a capacity from one plant and switch to another, probably because this process ensures the fruit-bearing plant will reproduce with the remaining seeds and berries, thus they will have a supply of food in the future. So I guess it is no surprise that the contestants that were able to recall the highest number of animal general types systematically jumped from cluster to cluster as well as abandoned a category if it took to long to search for another name/answer, the familiar trend for many animal interactions that have been observed in terms of mental operations.  Theoretically the system was thought to be one of the original cognitive abilities in the brain, responsible for speed of understanding and spatial perception.  This particular mental mechanism is thought to have since evolved greatly in some species, especially in humans and some of our ape relations to allow management of more voluntary abilities, along with abstract thought.

** Other researchers and scientists in the fields of Psychology or Neurology responded to this with support linking previous experiments recorded through correlation and other archival research, and it was published in a Journal called Psychological Review February, 2011.

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