Semantic Memory as the Root of Imagination

Imagination is what makes our sensory experience meaningful, enabling us to interpret and make sense of it, whether from a conventional perspective or from a fresh, original, individual one. It is what makes perception more than the mere physical stimulation of sense organs. It also produces mental imagery, visual and otherwise, which is what makes it possible for us to think outside the confines of our present perceptual reality, to consider memories of the past and possibilities for the future, and to weigh alternatives against one another. Thus, imagination makes possible all our thinking about what is, what has been, and, perhaps most important, what might be.”—Nigel J. T. Thomas (2004, as cited in Manu, 2006, p. 47)1.

Investigations of the information processing mechanisms that underlie imaginative thought typically focus on a single branch of imagination, such as prospection, mental imagery or creativity, and are often generalized as being insightful to understanding the workings of imagination in general. In reality, however, there is very little in the way of theoretical or empirical exchange between the scientific communities that conduct research within the different domains of imagination. As a result, the research impetus in each of the sub-domains may be skewed to the pursuit of hypotheses that are not particularly viable in terms of understanding imagination as a whole. An example of this is pegging the roots of imagination to the processes of episodic memory—a reasonable assumption to make based on studies of episodic prospection. However, the associated findings and theoretical conclusions that follow are not entirely consistent with the literature on the mechanisms underlying creativity (Bubić and Abraham, 2014), which is another core realm of imagination.

In an effort to promote interchange across the frontiers of imagination, in this Opinion Article we put forward the idea that all aspects of imagination emerge from semantic memory with increasingly higher-order levels of imaginative information processing emanating from and interacting with existing systems, eventually expanding beyond these to form new systems (Figure (Figure1).1). We compare the associated neurocognitive findings and assumptions in terms of their fit with current knowledge in other fields of imagination and discuss their implications for reformulating hypotheses regarding imagination as a whole.

Continue Reading: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4371585/

Title: Abraham, Anna, and Andreja Bubic. “Semantic Memory as the Root of Imagination.” Frontiers in Psychology 6 (2015): 325. PMC. Web. 29 May 2017.

Rhythm of Breathing Affects Memory and Fear

Breathing is not just for oxygen; it’s now linked to brain function and behavior.

Northwestern Medicine scientists have discovered for the first time that the rhythm of breathing creates electrical activity in the human brain that enhances emotional judgments and memory recall.

These effects on behavior depend critically on whether you inhale or exhale and whether you breathe through the nose or mouth.

In the study, individuals were able to identify a fearful face more quickly if they encountered the face when breathing in compared to breathing out. Individuals also were more likely to remember an object if they encountered it on the inhaled breath than the exhaled one. The effect disappeared if breathing was through the mouth.

“One of the major findings in this study is that there is a dramatic difference in brain activity in the amygdala and hippocampus during inhalation compared with exhalation,” said lead author Christina Zelano, assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “When you breathe in, we discovered you are stimulating neurons in the olfactory cortex, amygdala and hippocampus, all across the limbic system.”

Read more: Northwestern University. (2016, December 6). Rhythm of Breathing Affects Memory and Fear. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved December 6, 2016 from http://neurosciencenews.com/memory-fear-breathing-5699/

Research Article:  “Nasal Respiration Entrains Human Limbic Oscillations and Modulates Cognitive Function” by Christina Zelano, Heidi Jiang, Guangyu Zhou, Nikita Arora, Stephan Schuele, Joshua Rosenow and Jay A. Gottfried in Journal of Neuroscience. Published online December 7 2016 doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2586-16.2016

Effects of preferred relaxing music after acute stress exposure: A randomized controlled trial

In daily contexts, coping with stressful events involves a great level of personal resources to recover baseline conditions efficiently, a process called stress recovery. The aim of this study was to assess the effects of an intervention based on preferred relaxing music on the recovery after stress exposure. We also analyzed the effect of gender on stress recovery. Fifty-eight undergraduates underwent a paradigm of laboratory-based stress induction and were randomly assigned to either the control or the experimental group. The recovery period included either silent resting (control group) or listening to their preferred music to become relaxed (experimental group) for 15 minutes. Cardiovascular measures and self-reported emotional states were monitored across the stress induction and recovery stages. Participants in the experimental group exhibited higher levels of heart-derived high frequency power, and greater sample entropy in the recovery period. They also showed lower levels of self-reported states of anxiety, depression, and negative affect, as well as greater levels of positive affect. Gender-related differences were also found during recovery for both cardiovascular and selfreported measures. To conclude, interventions based on preferred relaxing music allow promotion of a healthier recovery and improve affective state after acute stress exposure considering differential outcomes according to gender.

Full Article (PDF)  http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0305735617689953#.WPFLMXYX9yE.wordpress

Attachment Representations and Brain Asymmetry during the Processing of Autobiographical Emotional Memories in Late Adolescence

Late night reading on Emotional Memories! – here’s the overview if anyone is interested:

Frontal and parietal asymmetries have repeatedly been shown to be related to specific functional mechanisms involved in emotion regulation. From a developmental perspective, attachment representations based on experiences with the caregiver are theorized to serve regulatory functions and influence how individuals deal with emotionally challenging situations throughout the life span. This study aimed to investigate neural substrates of emotion regulation by assessing state- and trait dependent EEG asymmetries in secure, insecure-dismissing and insecure-preoccupied subjects. The sample consisted of 40 adolescents. The Adult Attachment Interview was administered and they were asked to report upon personally highly salient emotional memories related to anger, happiness and sadness. EEG was recorded at rest and during the retrieval of each of these emotional memories, and frontal and parietal hemispheric asymmetry were analyzed. We found attachment representations to differentially affect both the frontal and parietal organization of hemispheric asymmetry at rest and (for parietal region only) during the retrieval of emotional memories. During rest, insecure-dismissing subjects showed an elevated right-frontal brain activity and a reduced right-parietal brain activity. We interpret this finding in light of a disposition to use withdrawal strategies and low trait arousal in insecure-dismissing subjects. Emotional memory retrieval did not affect frontal asymmetry. However, both i…

Source: Attachment Representations and Brain Asymmetry during the Processing of Autobiographical Emotional Memories in Late Adolescence

The Phenomenon behind Muscle Memory

Nocturne No. 2 in E-flat Major, Op. 9, No. 2 – Chopin

7 years ago, I had to cultivate the habit of practicing this complex piece (back when I was studying music). My instructor emphasized the importance of tempo, emotional performance & motion technique. Now as I listen to this masterpiece, I am able to play a few bars on the piano without having to remember where my fingers are placed or which notes come after the one I previously played. It is embedded in my memory.

In muscle memory, you repetitively practice a movement; changing the way your brain reacts to these movements resulting in quicker, repeated motions.

One study examines the mirror mechanisms in groups with different levels of acquired motor skills & to see whether action observation is in tuned with their own motor repertoire. So individuals who are skilled in a certain action will have a stronger activation in the premotor & parietal cortex when viewing an action they have learned to perform versus those who have never learned.

Calvo-Merino’s article (2004) begins to discuss the underlying process of observation in action performance specifying the brain mechanism behind it. A previous study using non-human animals have found within premotor & parietal cortices there are “mirror” neurons. A mirror neuron “mirrors” the behavior of the other as though the observer were itself acting. Similar to humans, fMRI reveals that human actions observation includes the premotor cortex, parietal areas, & the superior temporal sulcus (STS). Other previous studies have suggested that action observation can influence the final stage of motor control in the motor cortex. Another study also suggest that our mirror system has a specific cue to when it is activated in such that actions from biological hand would be more likely to activate then an artificial hand.

To test the hypothesis in this study they used a factorial fMRI design & recruited expert ballet & capoeira dancers (10 ballet dancers from the Royal Ballet, 9 capoeira dancers, & 10 non expert individuals as a control group). For the task they were all asked to watch both ballet & capoeira movements. The video clips were randomized & the dancers faces were blurred to ensure that they focused on the movements instead of the emotional facial features. The dancers watching the video where they were asked to indicate how “tiring” each movement was. Results show that there was significant activation in premotor cortex, parietal areas, & the superior temporal sulcus when observing movements that were in their motor repertoire. Expert ballet dancers showed greater activation when watching ballet moves then capoeira moves while it was the opposite for capoeira dancers.  The results suggest that when observing action the mirrors areas in the brain respond to stimuli based on the subjects’ motor repertoire. If the subject have the acquire skill to perform the action then there is greater activation. Those with no motor experience in either ballet or capoeira no differences were detected – this would suggest that when an individual observes motor simulation it involves an internal simulation of the movement being observed.

Intention is one of the major components we see in motor simulation. The intention & execution of motor movement have certain networks for Intention that corresponds with motor neurons.

Reference

B. Calvo-Merino1 (2004) Action Observation and Acquired Motor. Skills: An fMRI Study with Expert Dancers.  

The Neuroscience Behind Visual Experiences & Memory Retrieval

A question regarding memory is whether brain activation in several regions identifies the memory processes of declarative memory regarding to both encoding of memory & retrieval. The use of functional neuroimaging plays an important role in measuring activation in different stages of memory (the process of encoding the current experience into becoming a memory & the storage of memory) to the individual’s experience. Encoded memory that had been processed successfully will be later remembered versus memory that had not been processed successfully (easily forgotten).

Brewer, Zhao, Desmond, & Gary H (1998) article discusses how a specific visual experience is remembered based on neural activity. The introduction to this study briefly discusses a specific region in the brain that is associated with declarative (also known as explicit) memory called the Medial temporal lobe. Declarative memory refers to memories that can be consciously retrieved such as facts. Another region contributing to the memory system is the parahippocampal cortex as well as the right frontal cortex.

For this study 6 participants viewed colored images with indoor & outdoor scenery judging whether the picture was either indoor or outdoor. 30 minutes after they were done they were given an unexpected memory test of the pictures they previously viewed. The memory test consisted of 96 images including additional new images & the participants had to tell whether they have seen the picture or not. 3 different outcomes of memory were reported where the individual have a). Seen the picture (being well remembered) b). The image looked familiar (not well remembered) or c). Pictures weren’t recalled (forgotten).

The results for this study reported that there was a greater activation in the parahippocampal region (associated with long term memory) for remembered pictures then those pictures that were familiar. Activation in the right frontal region proposes memory processes associated with the visuospatial matter of the scenic image so the interaction between those two regions format a long term memory & predicts whether memory will be remembered or forgotten.

Lateralization of brain functioning plays an important role in terms of mental processes that are specialized in memory – we see a significant role in the left laterized region of the brain for both retrieval & working memory. An important note to keep in mind is that the left hemisphere is dominant in language for processing auditory & comprehension of language. Memory involves the temporary storage and manipulation of information & a major component for the manipulation of information is language.

Reference:

James B. Brewer,* Zuo Zhao, John E. Desmond, Gary H (1998). Making Memories: Brain Activity that Predicts How Well Visual Experience Will Be Remembered

Can you describe a color?

“What does color blue look like?”

This wonderful clip reminded me of the philosophical argument of Mary’s Room.

Mary is a neuroscientist who has dedicated her life in learning about the perception of color and the mechanisms behind light emission.

Here’s the catch: She has never directly experienced color before. Her room is vacant of color.

After she leaves the room with the knowledge she has obtained, she see’s the color red for the very first time thus learning something new: What red looks like.

Was it possible for Mary to have described the color before observing it for the first time?