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Memory • Posted: Nov 24, 2007 14:27:01Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

Today I know something. Tomorrow I may not. The impermanence of memory is undeniable. And yet, without memory much of what we understand to be ourselves and what it is to be human would not exist.

Models of how memory works are not complete. Holographic is one. Light, normally a crisscrossing jumble of waves, can be made coherent or ordered like soldiers on parade if propagated in a crystal, i.e. a laser. Two coherent light sources shining on an object will create an interference pattern not unlike the dissonance created by playing two notes close together on a piano, say F and F#.

If that interference pattern is recorded on photographic film, the resultant transparent image can be used as a filter in front of normal light to reveal the original object in seeming 3D, a hologram.

But the really interesting thing is that if that hologram is shattered into pieces, each separate piece will still serve to reveal the entire original object. It is that phenomenon that has been used to imagine a model for how memory works because memories do not seem to reside at any one point locally in the brain. The same memory can be triggered by stimulation from several different points.

Evidence may or may not indicate a dispersed record in the brain, but it does indicate the same memory can have multiple associations, which is certainly born out by experience.

Recent discoveries also indicate that cells of the brain are not permanent throughout life as once thought. Evidence now suggests new cells form in the fluid of the ventricles and migrate outward through the cortex over time, eventually to die and be replaced again. That would imply memories also are not permanent, but are continually being reshaped as new cells take over the management of record and associations.

Experience concurs because when we return to something strongly held in memory, an old photograph perhaps, it is never exactly the same. Inevitably we've distorted or wiped some of the undeniable details, like scale or juxtaposition, blemishes or color.

How fond we are of some memories. And yet the basis for those memories may never have existed just as we remember.

Friday, August 17th, 2007