Science Gallery unveils Memory Lab


DO YOU forget names seconds after an introduction? If so, then come along to the Science Gallery where you can participate in experiments in an exhibition called Memory Lab.

It isn’t a test and it won’t measure your brain power, but they are real experiments that will be used in formal scientific research, according to Dr Joanne Feeney of Trinity College Dublin’s Institute of Neuroscience.

The Memory Lab is the latest in a series of laboratory events to be held at the Science Gallery at Trinity College. They all offer the opportunity for visitors to become part of the show. It has a formal launch tonight and opens to the public tomorrow.

There are eight experiments, five of them run on computers and looking a bit like very simple brain-training exercises. One task called “Do you know who I am?” measures your ability to attach a name to a face, something this reporter fails at miserably.

Another, “Slow Memory”, uses a simple number game to test working memory. It starts out easy but gets complicated very quickly. Other tasks such as “Total Recall”, “Two Second Memory” and “Head Like a Sieve” all test different forms of memory skills which we use every day.

“The idea is two-pronged, to have members of the public come in and learn about memory and how research works,” Dr Feeney says, “and from our point of view it will generate a big data set.”

There are also special events including tips on how to make yourself memorable and experiments that show, conclusively, that goldfish have good short-term working memory skills.

The idea was developed jointly by the Science Gallery and the institute’s Prof Shane O’Mara who curated the exhibition. He hopes that up to 2,000 people will complete all the experiments, something that would deliver an “unprecedented” level of data. “We will be doing something very unique.”

People can take part in as many of the experiments as they like, or none at all, but data will only be collected after people provide their written consent.

Dr Feeney also stresses that there are no scores and no measures of success or failure associated with performance, even if you do have a head like a sieve.

“None of the tests are clinically diagnostic. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything if you are not good at the tasks,” she says reassuringly.

Memory Lab opens tomorrow and continues until Monday April 4th.

See the Gallery’s website at