Author Archives: Michael Poust

Memory is Tricky

Memory is a tricky thing.  A lot of the time it is difficult to be sure if what you are remembering is the memory from the actual event or if it is an altered memory caused by constant redrawing of said memory.  I have had an experience in my life where this was highlighted extremely.  I have a memory of when I was a young kid of laying on my bed reading (I had just had my guard rails removed).  I remember my parents coming in to ask me if I was ready for lunch to which I replied that I was.  I then remember finishing the chapter I was on and heading downstairs to be surprised by my first pet dog!  He was a corgi named Zuke.  I remember my parents telling me that they got him from a shelter and more about his back story.  I then remember running to the basement to grab a blanket for him to make him his own little bed in the living room.  When I turned for the stairs I tripped and toppled all the way down the steps.  I remember nearly missing one of my toy trucks at the bottom of the stairs.  After all was said and done I remember getting up without a scratch and getting a blanket for my new best friend.

Here is the tricky part though, that memory is actually two smashed together.  My parents were recording the surprise of my first pet and I have re-watched the video and I never fell down the stairs (that day).  I had actually went to my room to grab Zuke a blanket and then ended up playing with him in the living room without falling down the stairs at all that day.  The even that I mixed in was another recorded event that my parents have on tape.  This even was my 8th birthday party.  I was super excited to have all my friends over to my house and had ran for the stairs to grab one of my toys to show some of my friends and that is when I had tripped.  I remember correctly now because after watching both videos I can hear my mother yell when I start tumbling down the stairs.

This merging of two memories is a good example of how we can create false positives and have incorrect memories that we could have sworn were real.  Not everyone has the opportunity to correct certain false memories through the usage of video tape.  Even though this is a minor memory to have mixed up I now have it straightened out in my mind through clear video evidence that I merged two memories in my mind.

Severing the Corpus Callosum

A major component in psychology is studying the brain and how it controls human behavior.  The brain being of such interest to psychologists causes issues because it is not easily studied without causing damage.  Some of the key ways in studying the brain and its activity are neuropsychology, EEG, PET, and fMRI.  Even though we have these methods a ton of questions about the brain are still unanswered.  Questions such as, what causes disorders such schizophrenia and epilepsy? A form of treatment to the latter of those two questions has led to some interesting discoveries in how our brain is laid out and what parts of the brain control which functions that we use in daily life.  These discoveries involve a part of the brain known as the corpus callosum, which connects the left to the right hemisphere in our brains and allows our hemispheres to communicate.

A man, Joe, who had severe epileptic seizures caused by overactive communication between the hemispheres of his brain, underwent a surgery to sever the corpus callosum, essentially leaving him with two brains, a left and a right. If you looked at him you wouldn’t be able to tell that his brain hemispheres are not connected unless you asked him to preform a few tasks.  This surgery has cured him of his epilepsy and allowed psychologist, Dr. Michael Gazzaniga, to study Joe’s brain and determine what tasks and activities control resides in which hemispheres of the brain.

Some examples of the experiments preformed on Joe are having him stare at an “X” on a computer screen and flashing a square on the left half of the screen, and a circle on the right.  Since his brain hemispheres are not connected he can easily draw a square with his left hand and a circle with his right hand.  Most of us could try to do the same thing and see that it is nearly impossible to draw a square with our left hand and a circle with our right, and yet Joe does it with incredible ease.  Another experiment preformed involves having Joe stare at an “X” in the middle of the screen and flashing the same picture (an example below) once to the left and once to the right.  When the picture is flashed to the left (being registered by the right hemisphere) Joe recognizes it as a face, and when it is flashed to the right (being registered by the left hemisphere) Joe recognizes it as vegetables.

Example picture used in the study on Joe.

Example picture used in the study on Joe.

All of these experiments preformed on Joe can give Dr. Michael Gazzaniga, as well as other psychologists around the world better insight into what abilities reside within which hemispheres of the brain, and lead to greater understanding of how our brain works as a whole.

A lot more was discussed in the video, and I encourage you to watch the whole thing because it is extremely interesting.  You can find the video here:  Link to Video

Michael Poust