Why can a vivid memory feel so real?


THAT’S THE WHY:HAVE YOU ever had a memory so vivid that it feels like you are back in the real moment?

Researchers in Canada and the US took a brain imaging approach to try to find out why that can happen.

The study, which appears online this month in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, asked 20 adults to watch repeats of short video clips that included a variety of content, such as music, faces, human emotion, animals and outdoor scenery.

As the participants paid attention to the clips, the researchers took images of the brain activity using functional MRI.

Some of the volunteers then went on further in the study and were again scanned as they replayed clips mentally and reported how well they felt they had remembered them.

The upshot was that researchers saw similarities between patterns of distributed brain activation during vivid memory and the patterns they had seen during the actual sensory perception of the videos.

“When we mentally replay an episode we’ve experienced, it can feel like we are transported back in time and re-living that moment again,” said researcher Dr Brad Buchsbaum from Baycrest Hospital’s Rotman Research Institute in Toronto in a release.

“Our study has confirmed that complex, multi-featured memory involves a partial reinstatement of the whole pattern of brain activity that is evoked during initial perception of the experience.

“This helps to explain why vivid memory can feel so real.”

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