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Photographic Memories

  1. Apr 5, 2005 #1
    lol I know this sounds weird but I was wondering if anyone knew anything about photographic memories. I mean for example does anyone think that it would be possible, now or in the future, to implant a photographic memory into somebodys brain? I mean, if somebody had a photographic memory, could you take that part of their brain out (When they were dead or something) and transplant it into yours? Do you think if you had like a microchip or something implanted into your brain you could have a photographic memory?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 5, 2005 #2
    Uuh, its called Eidetic memory or photographic memory. It doesn't mean people have photos in their brains. It means they have an extraordinary detailled memory. Whenever there is something special in their brains, I am not sure.

    When I was a child my father always told me he thought I had a photographic memory. I am sure I have lost it now if I ever had it. I read somewhere some children have this ability but lose it when they grow up. I still have a very good memory when it comes to sounds. I can recognise peoples voices very easily. People I do not really know well, of famous people I have no idea of how they look exactly. I also have alot of music memorised. But this is a bit strange. I cannot just recall all the Beethoven sonatas I know, but when I hear them I can anticipate every note, I remember every note just before I hear it. So I cannot really recall it completely, but it is in there. Maybe it works differently and I just reason, based on some music theory in my head, what the next move might be. I should also add that I am a musician.

    There are some people that can memorise insane things, complete books, very large numbers, all kinds of stuff.

    Transfering memories is a totally different thing. I am sure that in theory it is possible to artificially induce a memory in a brain, but this is science fiction. The brain itself can create false memories. Because of the complexity of the brain it would be very hard to 'upload' memories, books, information or ideas. Maybe it will be possible with a chip. But I wonder if the construction of the brain allows something like this. The brain itself is organised in a kind of strange way which is still not understood. Maybe someone who knows something about how the brain works could comment about this in detail.

    But I guess the receiving brain has no idea how to interact with the implanted piece. But mabye in time it will adapt or adjust or learn how to access it. Or maybe it just deletes everyhing and uses it for other things. All this assuming the alien brain part isn't rejected and attacked or shielded. I really have no good idea.


    I kind of misunderstood you when you talked about 'memories' instead of memory. I though you meant the memories, and not the ability itself. But I still covered it.

    The brain isn't designed to interact with a chip. It probably needs to be redesigned to incorporate a silicium chip, whatever the nature of the chip is. Even adding an biological brainlike implant, a neural network like chip or thing will probably not work.
  4. Apr 5, 2005 #3
    It is probably the musician in you; anyway, some older classical music (early Baroque) usually has typical chords that one would expect anyway. That, and you being a musician, are used to playing (and subsequently hearing and getting used to) different chord patterns more than the general populace. Even though I myself have not taken a formal music theory course, it isn't too terribly difficult to recognize chordal progressions.

    I'm more of an auditory learner anyway, so I cannot comment from personal experience the nature of photographic memory.
  5. Apr 6, 2005 #4
    Thats true. Most humans know when a piece of music is properly finished. They do not realise this is because it ended on a strong tonic chord.

    I can still sing along with all that music, but I must consider that my brain might be playing a trick on me. Even more so because music follows an obvious path.
  6. Apr 7, 2005 #5


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    Photographic memory is a fascinating ability. So far I have only known a couple of people, that exhibited this trait.
    One fellow showed this ability on several occasions. While meeting with his classmates for a group study, one person mentioned a particular point a professor had made. This fellow who had photographic memory said "no that's not right. Don't you remember when he said this" and he went on to write down an entire derivation that the professor had written on the blackboard several weeks earlier.

    Another person I knew could easily learn some material if it had to do with recalling information. She could essentially read a book and be able to recall verbal descriptions as well as images, in great detail. However, with age she lost this acute ability.

    With the advancement of genetic study, we may find the DNA sequence, that codes for photographic memory. We can already transfer DNA between species, so the technology will be there, (if we desire to use it), to transfer this trait of photographic memory (as well as other traits) to our offspring. This will probably be the closest we come to implanting photographic memory into someone else.

    Downloading the memory of someone, is an equally fascinating topic. Once we have a clearer understanding of how our brain works (as is being researched in artificial intelligence and neural networks), how information is stored, retrieved and processed; then we may have a chance to download someone's memory (perhaps into a pensieve :biggrin: ).

    Daevren, interfacing the human brain with silicon circuitry is not scifi any longer. We have already implanted circuits on silicon chips that are contiguous to the part of our brain that controls motor function.
    Human thought (firing neurons) can now enable a paralyzed person, to control a robotic arm.
    see ---> http://www.technologyreview.com/articles/05/03/issue/feature_implant.asp?p=0
    Research in this area was not successful overnight. They started with lower primates first. I remember when they aired a program on PBS that showed how a monkey could use its mind to control a robotic arm miles away, via the internet.
    ---> http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/11/001116080512.htm
    So it is certainly not out of the realm of possibility at some point, to interface RAM with our minds. Think how tremendously it could improve its efficiency. But then we would no long be humans but an animal-machine hybrid. Then those with artificial organs may already be considered hybrids. :uhh:
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2005
  7. Apr 7, 2005 #6
    So do you think, then, that you could implant some sort of photographic memory into somebodys mind?
  8. Apr 7, 2005 #7


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    I already answered this one.. No, I have not acquired the skills to do this myself,
    but we (humans) may be able to very soon.. See my original comments below:
  9. Apr 8, 2005 #8
    Well I thought you were saying that we could pass photographic memories onto our kids (Eventually) but my question was, could we have them ourselves? Or could only our kids have them? (eventually)
  10. Apr 8, 2005 #9
    i think a silicon chip that stores memories is a completely different thing than a monkey controlling a robotic arm.

    the latter is much more basic. a human (or monkey) is unable to use its arm because of nerve damage connecting the limb to the brain. i doubt the experiments done allow for patients paralyzed by stroke/brain damage to move their limbs. the motor cortex physically maps your body onto a section of your brain--certain areas of the cortex have neurons fire when you left arm moves, while neurons in other areas of the cortex fire when you move your left leg. so, it seems feasible that you can detect electrical stimulation from the neurons in a certain localized area of the brain, and the chip will interpret this as the user trying to move a certain part of their body. accordingly, the chip interfaces with the robotic arm to move.

    transferring memories is a lot more complex. in fact, there is really no evidence as to where exactly memory is stored in our brain. more likely it is not a single area that controls a single memory, like with the motor cortex, but instead a network of neurons across the brain working together. we are much further away from such a discovery than controlling a robotic arm with our mind... though who's really to say what the future holds in store for us?
  11. Apr 16, 2005 #10


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    We can have a photographic memory, if we recieved this trait from one of our parents. If we do exhibit this genetic trait, we can pass it to our children. Not every child would get it though, just as not every child will inherit the hair color of their parents. They may instead have the hair color of a grandparent.

    I appreciate the complexity you desciibe for the mechanism of memory.
    However the main idea I was making, is that we have the capability today of interfacing electronic circuits with biological tissue. As we improve this technology all kinds of things will be possible. We will be interfacing visual circuits that will out-perform our own eyes, olfactory circuits that will taste and smell chemicals in our surroundings and communicate this information with the proper part of our brain. Already we have cochlear implants that perform the same function as the cilia in our ears to assist hearing impaired people.

    Other materials will be developed that will interface to biological systems even more easily, such as the use of DNA to perform digital logic (the building blocks of microprocessors and digital circuitry)
    ---> http://unisci.com/stories/20021/0315023.htm
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2005
  12. Apr 21, 2005 #11
    Heres a question I'll throw out here. We all know that the brain fires neurons. This information has to be organised and then interpreted. Do we know how the brain organises and interprets info? In the brain there are about 1000 trillion connections. Does the brain interpret "waves" similar to a wireless internet connection, or does it work with a weird numbering system like computers, only more complcated. It would seem to me a chip would need to be programmed to read and interpret those signals.

    Another thing. How much memory would you need to save a 10 second memory? In all of my searching I have not found anywhere what the smallest bit of time the brain processess. Does it process 1000 bits of time per second? Is it more? When you take into account everything the brain felt, saw, tasted, smelled, and heard in each of those bits, You are going to have a lot of memory(on a chip) used up.
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