This is not to trivialize the study conducted recently by American and Israeli scientists, but mystics, psychics, new-thought enthusiasts and mind/body researchers have long contended that what we think – especially our memories and our tendencies to dwell on some of them – can have profound effects on our emotions, our physical health and our perceptions of the world.
The scientific community had long theorized about some of these conclusions, but until now only had indirect evidence. I suspect we’ll be hearing much more about this study in the months to come. It was published today in the journal Science and reported on page one of the New York Times.
Identifying the Storage . . .
The study’s major finding is that when an event happens to us, we store the memory of that event in specific neurons. Then, when we recall the event as stored in our memory, the same neurons are activated. In other words, at the most basic physical level, we re-live the experience.
“It’s a really central piece of the memory puzzle and an important step in helping us fill in the detail of what exactly is happening when the brain performs this mental time travel,” said Michael Kahana, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.
. . . And Then the Replay
Thirteen study participants were shown 10-second clips of television shows, animals, and popular landmarks. Researchers tracked what cells the film clips activated. Afterward the researchers distracted the participants for a while and then asked them to recall the fact that they had been shown the clips.
Based on which of the millions of cells then became active, researchers were able to not only see a repeat of the original viewing experience, but also were able to know which of the clips the person was remembering a second or two even before the person knew.
If you’re at all interested in the study, I recommend the New York Times article.