A new study gives researchers insight into the brain and memory and may aid researchers in treating a variety of disorders.
Nelson Cowan, director of the brain-imaging-center at the University of Missouri, used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to gain a better understanding of abstract working memory.
People use their abstract working memories to assign meaning when trying to recall facts – for example, when someone dials a set of phone numbers, their abstract memory may bring up an image of the person they are calling.
Previous studies identified an area of the brain responsible for holding abstract working memory, although it was assumed by some researchers to hold only visual information.
Cowan found that this same part of the brain can hold auditory information as well. For example, when people hear “Jingle Bells” they relate it to the Christmas season and retain the meaning of the song temporarily.
“This research has given us better understanding of an area of the brain that may be affected in people with various learning disabilities, autism and schizophrenia,” said Cowan.
“For example, recent research has shown that people with schizophrenia simply hold fewer items in their working memories, rather having an inability to disregard unimportant items, as previously thought.
“Thus, discovering more about working memory will enable scientists to better target schizophrenia, among other disorders.”
Cowan’s research will be published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.
Source: University of Missouri