Movie deals with tricking nature of two basic corner stones of our mind: memory and imagination. Invented past as anchor for future. But lately research shows that the same brain structures are responsible for memories and imagination. And that believing can be seeing – Context Dictates What We Believe We See. Pretty visionary movie though.
“You might look at it as mental time travel–the ability to take thoughts about ourselves and project them either into the past or into the future,” says Kathleen McDermott, Ph.D. and Washington University psychology professor. The team used “functional magnetic resonance imaging” — or fMRI — to “see” brain activity. They asked college students to recall past events and then envision themselves experiencing such an event in their future. The results? Similar areas of the brain “lit up” in both scenarios.
Researchers say besides furthering their understanding of the brain — the findings may help research into amnesia, a curious psychiatric phenomenon. In addition to not being able to remember the past, most people who suffer from amnesia cannot envision or visualize what they’ll be doing in the future — even the next day.”
Another good article, posted in Scientific American Mind, uses Memento to explain the nature of memory.
The Matrix in Your Head
The discovery of place-tracking neurons called grid cells, our experts say, “changes everything”
By James J. Knierim
In the 2001 suspense thriller Memento, the lead character, Lenny, suffers a brain injury that makes him unable to remember events for longer than a minute or so. This type of amnesia, known as anterograde amnesia, is well known to neurologists and neuropsychologists. Like Lenny, sufferers remember events from their life histories that occurred before their injuries, but they cannot form lasting memories of anything that occurs afterward. As far as they recall, their personal histories ended shortly before the onset of their disorders.
The cause of Lenny’s problem was probably damage to his hippocampus, a pair of small, deep-brain structures crucial to memory—and also important to some of today’s most exciting and consequential neuroscience research. Decades of research have made clear that the hippocampus and surrounding cortex do more than just place our life events in time. The hippocampus, along with a newly discovered set of cells known as grid cells in the nearby cortex, traces our movement through space as well. And by doing so, it supplies a rich array of information that provides a context in which to place our life’s events. The picture that is emerging is of historic importance and more than a little beauty.
Exactly how does the brain create and store autobiographical memories? Although that question has fascinated scientists, philosophers and writers for centuries, it was only 50 years ago that scientists identified a brain area clearly necessary for this task—the hippocampus. The structure’s role was made clear in 1953, when William Scoville, a Hartford, Conn., surgeon seeking to relieve the epileptic seizures that were threatening to kill a patient known as H.M., removed most of H.M.’s hippocampus and discovered he had rendered him unable to form new, conscious memories. Since then, the case of H.M., along with extensive animal research, has firmly established that the hippocampus acts as a kind of encoding mechanism for memory, recording the timeline of our lives.
In the 1970s another discovery inspired the theory that the hippocampus also encodes our movement through space. In 1971 John O’Keefe and Jonathan Dostrovsky, both then at University College London, found that neurons in the hippocampus displayed place-specific firing. That is, given “place cells,” as O’Keefe dubbed these hippocampal neurons, would briskly fire action potentials (the electrical impulses neurons use to communicate) whenever a rat occupied a specific location but would remain silent when the rat was elsewhere. Thus, each place cell fired for only one location, much as would a burglar alarm tied to a tile in a hallway. Similar findings have been reported subsequently in other species, including humans.
These remarkable findings led O’Keefe and Lynn Nadel, now at the University of Arizona, to propose that the hippocampus was the neural locus of a “cognitive map” of the environment. They argued that hippocampal place cells organize the various aspects of experience within the framework of the locations and contexts in which events occur and that this contextual framework encodes relations among an event’s different aspects in a way that allows later retrieval from memory. Yet a consensus is emerging that the hippocampus does somehow provide a spatial context that is vital to episodic memory. When you remember a past event, you remember not only the people, objects and other discrete components of the event but also the spatiotemporal context in which the event occurred, allowing you to distinguish this event from similar episodes with similar components. But How?
Despite intensive study, however, the precise mechanisms by which the hippocampus creates this contextual representation of memory have eluded scientists. A primary impediment was that we knew little about the brain areas that feed the hippocampus its information. Early work suggested that the entorhinal cortex, an area of cortex next to and just in front of the hippocampus, might encode spatial information in a manner similar to that of the hippocampus, though with less precision.
This view has now been turned upside down with the amazing discovery of a system of grid cells in the medial entorhinal cortex, described in a series of recent papers by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s Edvard Moser and May-Britt Moser and their colleagues. Unlike a place cell, which typically fires when a rat occupies a single, particular location, each grid cell will fire when the rat is in any one of many locations that are arranged in a stunningly uniform hexagonal grid—as if the cell were linked to a number of alarm tiles spaced at specific, regular distances. The locations that activate a given grid cell are arranged in a precise, repeating grid pattern composed of equilateral triangles that tessellate the floor of the environment.
Imagine arranging dozens of round dinner plates to cover a floor in their optimal packing density, such that every plate is surrounded by other, equidistant plates; this arrangement mimics the triggering pattern tied to any given grid cell. As the rat moves around the floor, a grid cell in its brain fires each time the rat steps near the center of a plate. Other grid cells, meanwhile, are associated with their own hexagonal gridworks, which overlap each other. Grids of neighboring cells are of similar dimensions but are slightlyoffset from one another.
These grid cells, conclude the Mosers and their co-workers, are likely to be key components of a brain mechanism that constantly updates the rat’s sense of its location, even in the absence of external sensory input. And they almost certainly constitute the basic spatial input that the hippocampus uses to create the highly specific, context-dependent spatial fi ring of its place cells.
This discovery is one of the most remarkable findings in the history of single-unit recordings of brain activity.
JAMES J. KNIERIM is associate professor of neurobiology and anatomy at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston, where he studies the role of the hippocampus and related brain structures in spatial learning
DAVID BOWIE (end music from the movie)
FINAL SCENES OF THE MOVIE
Psychologists have found that thought patterns used to recall the past and imagine the future are strikingly similar.
“Using functional magnetic resonance imaging to show the brain at work, they have observed the same regions activated in a similar pattern whenever a person remembers an event from the past or imagines himself in a future situation. This challenges long-standing beliefs that thoughts about the future develop exclusively in the frontal lobe.”
Watched this week The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, directed by Julian Schnabel. About J.D. Bauby’s life. About memories and imagination. As Jean-Dominique Bauby says in movie … “Other than my eye, two things aren’t paralyzed, my imagination and my memory.”
Watched before both his other movies Basquiat (Jean-Michel Basquiat is “discovered” by Andy Warhol’s art world and becomes a star) and Before Night Falls (life of Cuban poet and novelist, Reinaldo Arenas (1943-1990), but for me The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is definitely his best. Makes you think after the movie and some scenes come as flash back after you. From the beginning the movie pulls you into main actor’s head and it doesn’t let you go till the end. Schnabel as neo-expressionist” artist/painter brings into his movie excellent visual aesthetic dimension which is missed in many modern movies. Poetical and inspirational. Sensitive photography of deep inner space. Art in motion pictures. Art of flow of words. Must see art.
The story of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: “Elle France editor Jean-Dominique Bauby, who, in 1995 at the age of 43, suffered a stroke that paralyzed his entire body, except his left eye. Using that eye to blink out his memoir, Bauby eloquently described the aspects of his interior world, from the psychological torment of being trapped inside his body to his imagined stories from lands he’d only visited in his mind.”
From www.Salon.com: “The quietly stunning film of Jean-Dominique Bauby’s phenomenal memoir, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” was nominated for four Oscars this year. They include directing by Julian Schnabel— an honor he won for the film at the Cannes Film Festival and Golden Globes — and best adapted screenplay by Ronald Harwood, who won an Oscar in 2002 for his adaptation “The Pianist.” “
There is every reason for the film’s success. It recounts the remarkable life of Bauby, the debonair editor of French Elle magazine who in 1995 suffered a massive stroke. He slipped into a coma that lasted 20 days and awoke to find himself paralyzed from head to toe. He was diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder called locked-in syndrome.
A prisoner inside his useless body, Bauby, 43, could think and reason, smell and hear (though not well). With the only part of his body that he could move — his left eye — he could see and later learn to express himself. His speech therapist and later his friends would read him an alphabet, and Bauby would blink at the letter he wanted. He formed words, phrases and sentences, and ultimately, over the course of two months, working with ghostwriter Claude Mendibil, who took down word for word what he said, he completed his memoir.
The evocative title comes from Bauby’s notion that while his body was submerged and weighted down — impossible to move — his imagination and memory were still free and as light as a butterfly’s wings: “My cocoon becomes less oppressive, and my mind takes flight like a butterfly. There is so much to do. You can wander off in space or in time, set out for Tierra del Fuego or for King Midas’s court.”A few days after the book was published to rave reviews in March 1997, Bauby died of an infection.
Released last spring, the film is a visual knockout. Schnabel draws on Bauby’s fantasies to blast moviegoers with a kaleidoscope of dreamy images — some subtle, some banging loud — and an array of captivating music and sounds. The wonderful script takes the point of view of Bauby himself. The fourth wall between the audience and film has fallen away and the audience experiences the world through his eyes.”
Beautiful music from the movie: La Mer. Charles Trénet
If memories and imagination use the same brain structures, for me as a “sea” person this music and pictures and memories and imagination related to could immediately overheat them 🙂
“I think it is all a matter of love: the more you love a memory, the stronger and stranger it is.”(Rotarian)
All have come back to memories this week. My movies’ week, my week, my life. Erased memories, lost memories, precious memories. Memories as function of past and memories as function of future. In linear time or in cyclic time?
Watched movies and thought about, I’ve got myself finally trapped into. Came out of the blue, the song it is hidden in my mind but posses so waste place. It appeared again. Last night. After such a long time. “Porque te vas”. They’ve taught me while i studied psychology that the memories function as a map of the city…when u remember tower of church, or some similar important anchor, the whole city will unfold to you…
This music is an early anchor of my love toward movies… Cría cuervos (Feeding the Ravens) -1976 of Carlos Saura was one of my earliest…but remember just this one (except of some SFi :-). I was as about her age (Ana) at the time when i first watched it (cos movies came a bit late in CE Europe upon Communist regime. and Spain has just got rid of Franco regime). I have special affinity to Spanish movies from than time on.
“Ana is a nine-year-old girl who believes she has the power of life and death over those near to her. Her dead mother (Geraldine Chaplin) reappears as a ghost and talks to the young girl, who remains stubbornly mute. Like most of Saura’s films made under the fascist regime of Francisco Franco, this fascinating, ambiguously haunting tale camouflages controversial political themes behind a veil of hints, symbols, and parables. “
Loved this movie so much, loved that music so much with my kid’s mind. Watched it again during university …and today. I don’t know why it took me so long. I loved it on a same way as today. Strange. The same feelings, the same beauty, the same adoration. As the years haven’t passed by. When i listen this music, it opens so huge landscape within me. Like its part of me from ever. Seems i very much indetified with her. Looked petty much the same as a kid. Can feel myself the same as that time and the same as today… As I’ve never grown up. As i am the same all the time. Glimpse of Infinity?
What are memories, what is personality consists of, what is grown up process if feelings stay the same. Where is the time in this perspective?
There is another aspect of QM that Everett’s formulation makes too obvious to avoid – there is no one reality. Every quantum world differs from every other. Existence is relative. How can this be? Is our universe not consistent?
Again, a human analogy is useful. When you go to a party, you usually meet people you’ve never met before, whose worlds you have never known. Some of those worlds can be quite something, too! In physics language, there is little correlation between your states. By the end of the evening (interaction), you have some shared party experiences – your states are more correlated than they were before. If you never meet again, the shared memories fade, and your worlds slowly return to almost their previous separateness (they decorrelate). You’ll never be the same again, but you’re still the same you.
That’s what happens in the quantum world too. However, QM takes the concept to its limit – every quantum world seems correlated with every other world precisely to the degree necessary to keep the universe consistent, and no more. QM is not the uncertainty principle, it is built upon Planck’s constant. The many worlds of QM are very precise entities in their own way – the most precise of any physical theory we know.
Another aspect of the universe that Everett’s formulation can help to understand is time direction. Time has two distinct attributes. Cyclic time is like a pendulum. It’s reversible, related to Planck’s constant, and is obvious from Schrödinger’s equations. But, time also has a direction to it, and that’s not obvious from Schrödinger or Heisenberg at all. In fact, many physicists whose student days predate Everett still consider the arrow of time to be a flaw of our understanding. It is, however, self-evident in the Everett formulation – quantum worlds abruptly appear, then gradually fade from existence, a clearly time direction dependent phenomenon analogous to the appearance and spread of ripples on a pond after a point disturbance. Things do happen to individual quanta in QM.