EEG GAMMA WAVES, FALSE MEMORIES, AND HIGH OCTANE SPECULATION
This fascinating study was spotted by A.S. and passed along, and when you read it, you'll probably want to join me in extending a big thank you for bringing the article to our attention. To reduce it to its most basic formulation, neurophysiologists may have discovered a pattern in the gamma waves of an electroencephalogram that allow them to distinguish true from outright false or other corrupted memories:
There's much to ponder in this article, and though I want to focus on only one particular thing, there are some other statements with potentially huge implications. Consider how this statement seems to imply that words - language - are involved in the formation of false memories:
However, the low temporal resolution and susceptibility to vocalization artifacts inherent in functional neuroimaging methods limit researchers’ ability to understand the neurophysiological basis of self-cued recall of past experiences. Implanted multielectrode recordings, widely used in animal studies, can measure the electrical activity within small brain regions, and thereby characterize how the neural assemblies in those regions react to changes in the animal’s behavioral or cognitive state. In humans, implanted electrodes are largely unaffected by artifacts due to vocalizations and are the only means of obtaining fine spatial and temporal resolution in recordings of electrical activity in deep structures, such as the hippocampus, whose activity is not discernible by means of magnetoencephalogram (MEG) or scalp electroencephalogram (EEG).
In other words, it seems to imply that words could influence the manner in which a memory is recalled, meaning that the memory may not be false, but its recall might. This would seem to have even wider implications for the theory that mind itself, and hence memory, is non-local and not located "inside the skull" so to speak, but "out there", and that the brain is a transducer of that information.
These implications seem to be further buttressed by the following:
Subjects first studied lists of common nouns. Then, after performing a brief distractor task, they attempted to recall the nouns in any order. To assess how brain oscillations differed between successful and unsuccessful memory formation, we compared oscillatory power during presentation of words that were subsequently recalled and words that were not subsequently recalled. To uncover differences in brain oscillations between true and false memories, we compared oscillatory power prior to correct and incorrect recalls. These comparisons were made separately at each of the 3,677 electrodes and for six distinct frequency bands: 2 to 4 Hz (delta), 4 to 8 Hz (theta), 10 to 14 Hz (alpha), 16 to 26 Hz (beta), 28 to 42 Hz (low gamma), and 44 to 100 Hz (high gamma).
But all of that, provocative of all sorts of implications as it is, to my non-scientific hack-from-South-Dakota mind, pale compared to the implications (again, to my non-scientific hack-from-South-Dakota mind) of the following set of statements from the article:
We have shown that increased gamma oscillations immediately preceding a response distinguish true from false memories. Recall of a true memory is preceded by an increase in gamma oscillations in the hippocampus (bilaterally) and in the temporal and prefrontal cortices (primarily in the left hemisphere). The topography of the gamma-power increases predicting true recall matched the topography of the gamma-power increases predicting successful encoding. The similarity of these topographies suggests that neural mechanisms underlying successful encoding of an item into a list context reemerge at retrieval to distinguish items that actually were on the list from those that were not (Daselaar, Fleck, Prince, & Cabeza, 2006; Kahn et al., 2004; Osipova et al., 2006; Polyn, Natu, Cohen, & Norman, 2005; Slotnick & Schacter, 2004). (Boldface emphasis added)
As I read this paragraph, I could not help but think of the work of psychologist Kurt Lewin, The Principles of Topological Psychology, a highly intriguing study of the interaction of the individual, the group, and context in forming patterns of behavior. Indeed, it takes but one word substitution in the above paragraph to make the connection by substituting "topology" for "topography." Granted, the two words are not identical, but they are similar, and the substitution suggests that there is an underlying and specific topology - a necessarily hyper-dimensional mathematical description - a topological pattern underlying specific memories. Again, granted, I'm crawling way off the end of the high octane speculation twig here, but that approach would more or less corroborate the non-local quality of mind with all its specific topological patterns, and the brain, with its specific topography of memory recall. Think for a moment of those "electro-encephalographic dictionaries" that began to be compiled in the 1970s and 1980s, the brainwave patterns of specific words that could be used to decode an individual's internal conversation, or, in conjunction with certain technologies, used to inject a conversation into someone's mind. (For those unfamiliar with this technology, see my book Mircocosm and Medium, available on Lulu.)
So why am I belaboring this point?
Regular readers of my books may recall my fascination with the genius Hungarian electrical engineer Gabriel Kron. Kron wrote some very arcane, highly mathematical treatises on electrical circuits using tensor calculus to do so. The long-and-short of this analysis led him to two very important conclusions. First, every single specific electrical machine was but a specific example of a generalized electrical machine. If one wanted to design a specific electrical machine, one simply had to design a tensor to produce that machine. One could, thus, theoretically, design just about anything electrical using this approach. The method could, in principle, be used to design a refrigerator or a toaster or a large hadron collider. One could also, in principle, design the topology - the "basin of attraction" as topologists call it - for a particular memory. And by extension of that line of reasoning, one could also manipulate, or inject memories, for if mind and memory are non-local, then they may be "attracted" or "transduced" into individuals that may not have actually had them (reincarnation fans, take note). PERHAPS. There are, of course a lot of "ifs" in my speculation.
But in that respect, it's also helpful and illustrative to recall the second conclusion that Kron came to, namely, that all electrical circuits, no matter how complex, or simple - from hadron colliders to toasters - are hyper-dimensional machines because the mathematics to describe them is necessarily hyper-dimensional. Part of the machine, in other words, whether a particle accelerator or your microwave oven, exists in a "space" that is not part of everyday 3D reality. They're connected, so to speak, with something not inside the refrigerator or microwave oven, but "outside" it.
And the brain, if nothing else, is a very complicated bit of bio-electric systems...
See you on the flip side...
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