Photographic memory

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  • #1
decibel
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what exactly is a photographic memory and is it possible for someone to devolp it??
 

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  • #2
Monique
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A photographic memory would be for instance looking at 10 items without making an effort recognizing the items and remembering them.

When asked, a detailed description can be given as to what those 10 items were, simply by bringing back the initial image and analyzing it AFTER it was seen.
 
  • #3
Photographic memories are not nearly as powerful as most people think and hollywood portrays them. I know a few kids with photographic memories - they really don't have a huge advantage over other kids with just good memories. Photographic memories, as the name implies, deals with the ability to recall visual experiences. Some people I know claim to be able to read small sections of books again right after they close them.
 
  • #4
dduardo
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hmm.. now where did i put that camera?
 
  • #5
Mattius_
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I think this ability holds its own in some aspects of life. I play chess at my school, and the person whom gives me the greatest competition has a photographic memory. He can recall past instances in which the game was in a similar situation. He can remember if that situation was good or not and subsequently make the right move.

I, on the other hand, can remember very little if anything from past chess games.
 
  • #6
Zantra
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Studies done on people with extraordinary memory capabilities showed that they frequently use pneumonic devices for remembering large amounts of information. One description was a hallway this person created in his mind, and he would just imagine himself walking down that hall, and see items associated with things he'd memorized, and thus have complete recall.

where's biology forums- I know she'd have some input on this.
 
  • #7
zoobyshoe
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Oliver Sacks frequently references a book called The Mind Of A Mnemonist by Russian Neurologist A.R. Luria. I haven't read it but it is apparently the case study of a man with a phenominal memory.

As Zantra points out this is accomplished by his associative abilities: he remembered things by association with a mental image of a structure with halls and rooms. My recollection is that, finding his memory had a natural tendency to operate this way, he deliberately worked on developing it further.

Sacks says this book has been translated into English, but they didn't have it at the library when I checked so I suppose it is rare.

I have heard that anyone can improve their memory by using this associative technique, but it takes alot of work.
 
  • #8
Zantra
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improve yes. Improve to THAT degree, doubtful. Granted neuroscience is still in a budding stage, But we are talking about the limits of gentics here. It's been shown through studies that people of genius generally are genetically predisposed. That's to say that thier synapses generally fire at a faster rate and are closer together, or arranged differently than the average persons. Of course don't ask me for a link, but I know I've heard that fairly recently.
 
  • #9
Monique
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Originally posted by Zantra
improve yes. Improve to THAT degree, doubtful. Granted neuroscience is still in a budding stage, But we are talking about the limits of gentics here. It's been shown through studies that people of genius generally are genetically predisposed. That's to say that thier synapses generally fire at a faster rate and are closer together, or arranged differently than the average persons. Of course don't ask me for a link, but I know I've heard that fairly recently.
I am not sure about that it is genetically determined.. mainly developmental. The trick is to stimulate your brain a lot, there is a saying: neurons that fire together wire together. At one point we use only part of our brain, it would be good to know how to increase communication between different parts of the brain.. I think practice will facilitate that.
 
  • #10
Artman
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I have seen an example of the book type of photographic memory.

A 10 year old child I know went to a church camp and returned having learned several Bible verses. A dozen different verses. He beat out high school kids in memorizing them.

His mother wanted him to tell us some of the verses so she could write them down including where they occur in the Bible. He said he didn't have to memorize that part, but he would tell her anyway. I asked him how he could do that and he said, "It was written on the page so he could 'see' it now."

I, being somewhat sceptical, looked the verses up as he told us the chapter and verse and followed along as he "read" them from his memory. He did not miss one word. The amazing thing is, if he couldn't pronounce the word he could still spell it!

I like to say that I have a photographic memory, but forgot to take the lens cover off.

Actually, I have photographic memory of images such as people and places that I have seen. It allows me to reposition them to be able to paint fantastic or surreal images in my artwork (not every artist can do that).
 
  • #11
Njorl
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Originally posted by Zantra
Studies done on people with extraordinary memory capabilities showed that they frequently use pneumonic devices for remembering large amounts of information. One description was a hallway this person created in his mind, and he would just imagine himself walking down that hall, and see items associated with things he'd memorized, and thus have complete recall.

where's biology forums- I know she'd have some input on this.

This is a very old technique. Merchants were not particularly educated long ago. They often could not read or write. They used to create memory houses for themselves. They would make rooms for various customers and furnish those rooms with various things to remind them of debts and deals etc. There is some evidence that human memory is much more powerful than we realize, but it has atrophied like an unused muscle in most people.

BTW - Mnemonic deals with memory, pneumonic deals with lungs.

Njorl
 
  • #12
Mr. Robin Parsons
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Originally posted by Monique
I am not sure about that it is genetically determined.. mainly developmental. The trick is to stimulate your brain a lot, there is a saying: neurons that fire together wire together. At one point we use only part of our brain, it would be good to know how to increase communication between different parts of the brain.. I think practice will facilitate that.
I'd agree with this......
 
  • #13
zoobyshoe
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Originally posted by Monique
I am not sure about that it is genetically determined.. mainly developmental.
The astonishing memories of some autistic people, and people with Asperger's syndrome might be used to argue that when memory is TOO good, it's a sign of underlying pathology.
The trick is to stimulate your brain a lot, there is a saying: neurons that fire together wire together.
Neurons are actually supposed to fire in a give-and-take way. When they fire together the result is a seizure.
At one point we use only part of our brain, it would be good to know how to increase communication between different parts of the brain.. I think practice will facilitate that.
There is alot of evidence pointing to the fact that the more of our brain we are using at once, the more likely it is to burn out and crash. They've done P.E.T. scans on people in manic states and found their brains were using up sugar like crazy (pun intended). This kind of "overdrive" can only go on so long and the person will crash into a depression.

Excercizing one little brain function at a time, improving that one, turns out to be the best way to go. Pianists, for example, do excercises to improve the independence of the fingers, one finger at a time. The connections between different parts of the brain are already all pretty good. The trouble arises because you have alot of poorly trained parts, well connected to alot of other poorly trained parts. The situation is really the opposite of the common misconception about not using as much of our brains as we should.
When it comes to the brain, quality is better than quantity.
 
  • #14
Zantra
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Autism and Aspergers patients. I've read several studies on them. The current prevelant theory is that they are born with damaged parts of the brain, and so to compensate, the parts that do function correctly, do so on a much higher level. It's like your accute sense of hearing when you are blind. The other senses compensate. Same principle. Now if we could just figure out how to utilize that to artificially increase intelligence...
 
  • #15
Monique
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The subgroup of autistic patients with an extreme mental capability are savants. I wouldn't say that a very good memory is a sign of underlying pathology, not at all.

Neurons are actually supposed to fire in a give-and-take way. When they fire together the result is a seizure.
You misunderstand. It is about creating memory, how does that work? By creating routes for electrical signalling. How are those routes created? By connecting neurons. Our brain has an excess of neurons. The way connections are made is by wiring the neurons that fire together and eliminating the neurons that do not fire together. Maybe my example only goes for the development of vision? Since that is where I read the statement.

I am not saying to radically use all of the brain at the same time all the time. Rather about utilizing different parts of the brain on intent. Maybe my wording wasn't so good, I meant practicing different tasks and being able to call upon them when needed 'communication between different part of the brain'.
 
  • #16
Monique
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Let me just explain the 'fire together wire together' concept a little further, I don't mean to confuse people.

Where I got the concept is in the development of vision. At the back of the eye are receptors which pick up a signal, a photon, all these receptors activate neurons. The neurons bundle together and go through the blind spot to the brain. In the brain they reorganize themselves on an area of the brain which will translate the signal to an image in the mind. But how do the bundled neurons reorganize themselves in the brain to make sense??

Here is where the fire together wire together concept comes in.

Experiments have been done in infants, where a single eye was covered with a cloth in the first few years of life. The neurons in the brain for this eye will die! The neurons in the other eye, receiving visual input will actually develop normally.

If two neurons don't fire together, it means the are not next to each other in the eye, the connection is lost. If two neurons DO fire together, it is very likely that they are located in the same proximity on the eye, a connection is reinforced.

I hope that explains.
 
  • #17
zoobyshoe
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Originally posted by Monique
The subgroup of autistic patients with an extreme mental capability are savants. I wouldn't say that a very good memory is a sign of underlying pathology, not at all.
Ah, yes, but I didn't say "a very good memory". I said when a memory is TOO good. In my high school there was a guy who remembered what every sign said at every intersection he had ever stopped at while riding in a car.
He spent his spare time sketching these intersections out, with all the signs in their proper relative locations to each other.
His memory wasn't limited to this: he could remember anything you told him to remember. He got A's in any class that fundamentally depended on memorization, and was miserable at everything else. He was very strange looking, stuttered terribly, and once in a while threw a major temper-tantrum which usually involved hurling a chair across the room. People spoke about vague brain damage. Later I realized he was a high functioning autistic savant.

Asperger's people aren't nearly so easy to spot. It takes a fair amount of interaction with them to start realizing how "off" they are socially, because alot of them are very good at mimicing social behaviours without knowing why other people are doing what they do. Asperger's people also have really excellent memories, and frequently do well in academics. I tend to agree with Zantra in supposing that, to the exent something isn't working in their brain, it frees up attention to be put into memorization.
You misunderstand. It is about creating memory, how does that work? By creating routes for electrical signalling. How are those routes created? By connecting neurons. Our brain has an excess of neurons. The way connections are made is by wiring the neurons that fire together and eliminating the neurons that do not fire together.
Yes, I am trying to prod you into clarifying your terminlogy. "Routes" aren't created by neurons firing "together", but rather by neurons firing in series.
Maybe my example only goes for the development of vision? Since that is where I read the statement.
As far as I know, what you're talking about happens with all brain functions. My point is that neurons firing in series, one fires, which triggers the next one to fire, can amount to a line of communication betwee one part of the brain and another. When they fire "together", at the same time, you get a seizure.
Rather about utilizing different parts of the brain on intent. Maybe my wording wasn't so good...
It isn't just you, or your wording. Everyone repeats that saying about how we only use 20% of our brainpower, and the implication is that most people are lazy. Brainpower actually result from using less of your brain, but more effectively.
 
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  • #18
decibel
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now that makes me wonder what we could do if we could use 100% of our brain.....telekenisis comes to mind lol?
 
  • #19
Monique
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I guess we would be in a frantic state of disfunction, unable to make any decisions

And Zooby, I also knew a person who was just literally a walking encyclopedia, literally!! As a child (6 yrs old?) he was bored at school and just read the encyclopedia in the library, and actually remembered it!
 
  • #20
Monique
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Originally posted by zoobyshoe
Yes, I am trying to prod you into clarifying your terminlogy. "Routes" aren't created by neurons firing "together", but rather by neurons firing in series.
You are right, generally the firing together would be serial, but in the eye example it is definately analogous! If that can be expressed in such a way..
 
  • #21
Mr. Robin Parsons
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Cheese, and here I was sitting thinking that the "Fire to Wire" thing was the "one little thing at a time" that Zoobyshoe talked about, what a yutz i am!
 
  • #22
zoobyshoe
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Originally posted by decibel
now that makes me wonder what we could do if we could use 100% of our brain.....telekenisis comes to mind lol?
No. Somehow you have missed the point of what I'm saying about brainpower being a matter of quality and not quantity. Using 100% of your brain, all at the same time, would be a tonic-clonic seizure.
 
  • #23
decibel
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yeah true but i mean like imagin if we could actually use it without any side effects....or seizures lol
 
  • #24
zoobyshoe
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Originally posted by Monique
You are right, generally the firing together would be serial..."
If I am right, then firing together would not be serial, but synchronous.

Firing together = firing at the same time.

Firing one after another = serial
but in the eye example it {what?}is definately analogous!{to what?} If that can be expressed in such a way..
 
  • #25
zoobyshoe
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Originally posted by decibel
yeah true but i mean like imagin if we could actually use it without any side effects....or seizures lol
If you could get rid of the bad effects, then you would live in something like a manic state where you would be super-intelligent, efficient, brimming with energy, no need for sleep.

Sometimes people in these states hallucinate superpowers, like telekinesis, but since we are stipulating there are no bad side effects, then there would be no hallucinations. You could, however, sit and read physics material, understand, and retain it, at an incredibly high speed.
 
  • #26
Monique
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but in the eye example it {what?}is definately analogous!{to what?} If that can be expressed in such a way..
You read my eye story?

Let me just explain the 'fire together wire together' concept a little further, I don't mean to confuse people.

Where I got the concept is in the development of vision. At the back of the eye are receptors which pick up a signal, a photon, all these receptors activate neurons. The neurons bundle together and go through the blind spot to the brain. In the brain they reorganize themselves on an area of the brain which will translate the signal to an image in the mind. But how do the bundled neurons reorganize themselves in the brain to make sense??

Here is where the fire together wire together concept comes in.

Experiments have been done in infants, where a single eye was covered with a cloth in the first few years of life. The neurons in the brain for this eye will die! The neurons in the other eye, receiving visual input will actually develop normally.

If two neurons don't fire together, it means the are not next to each other in the eye, the connection is lost. If two neurons DO fire together, it is very likely that they are located in the same proximity on the eye, a connection is reinforced.

I hope that explains.
Here the fire together actually means neurons in the same proximity (at the same time), where the layout of neurons in the eye needs to be replicated to the layout of the same neurons in the visualization part of the brain.

So you are saying the firing together is not at the same time, it is not serial, but is synchronous??
 
  • #27
zoobyshoe
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I have, at this point, absolutely no idea what you are trying to say.

Let's try this: explain to me what you think a seizure is?
 
  • #28
Monique
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you were commenting on the fire together wire together concept, that the wiring only happens when neurons fire in a give and take way.

What I pointed out is that there is also communication between neurons not firing in a give-take way, where neurons which fire NEXT to each other at the SAME TIME will wire more strongly to the part of the brain which perceives vision, rather than two neurons next to eachother than don't fire at the exact same point in time.

I am not sure if this is a special vision-development mechanism or actually occurs generally with neurons. I believe this is a general occurance, since neurons develop together in bundles right? They are not independent.

A seizure is the uncontrolled firing of the neurons, overactivity, which in turn overactivates other neurons it shouldn't (maybe leaking effect?) thus creating a run-away effect. I am not an neurobiologist, I just recently read a book chapter about developmental biology :P
 
  • #29
Monique
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also the catch phrase probably applies to the situation where one neuron is connected to two other neurons. The one neuron can relay its signal to either both or only one.

This is what it says along side the figure in my book:

Synapse modification and its dependence on electrical activity.
Experiments in several systems indicate that synapses are strengthened or weakened by electrical activity according to the rule shown in the diagram. The underlying principle appears to be that each excitation of a target cell tends to weaken any synapse where the presynaptic axon terminal has just been quiet but to strengthen any synapse where the presynaptic axon terminal has just been active. As a result, "neurons that fire together, wire together." A synapse that is repeatedly weakened and rarely strenghened is eventually eliminated altogether.
Any catch phrase should not be taken too literally, but in my opinion it describes the situation pretty well..
 
  • #30
zoobyshoe
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Originally posted by Monique
you were commenting on the fire together wire together concept, that the wiring only happens when neurons fire in a give and take way.
OK. Here is one place you misunderstood me. I did not say wiring only happens in a give and take way. I said wiring happens when firing happens in series. A signal gets from one place in the cortex to another neuron by neuron. Neuron #1 fires. It gives off neuro transmitters that stimulate neuron #2 to fire. No.2 fires. It gives off neuro transmitters that stimulate neuron #3 to fire. On so on, untill the signal gets to some other part of the brain that can use it as information. This is what I mean when I say they fire in series. One fires after another. The give and take is a different thing that I will explain.
What I pointed out is that there is also communication between neurons not firing in a give-take way, where neurons which fire NEXT to each other at the SAME TIME will wire more strongly to the part of the brain which perceives vision, rather than two neurons next to eachother than don't fire at the exact same point in time.
So are you talking about neurons that are simply in close physical proximity without being at all connected?
I am not sure if this is a special vision-development mechanism or actually occurs generally with neurons. I believe this is a general occurance, since neurons develop together in bundles right? They are not independent.
I don't know how neurons develop. I just know about how they communicate with each other once they are developed.
A seizure is the uncontrolled firing of the neurons, overactivity, which in turn overactivates other neurons it shouldn't (maybe leaking effect?) thus creating a run-away effect.
This is where the give and take plays a part. Any given neuron is connected to several others. When neuron A fires it could cause any one of the several it connects to to fire. It makes a choice. It sends neuro transmitters to all of them. Most of these neuro transmitters carry the message "Don't Fire!" Only one carries the message to "Fire and pass it on!" In this way the signal finds a path from among billions of billions of choices. At any given time there are billions and billions of signals going all over the place in the brain. It requently happens that two or more signals want to use part of the same path at the same time. They don't. They are courteous. One goes, then the other goes. Give and take. (Maybe not the most accurate term but lets use it for now to distinguish from "in series"). Damaged neurons screw up the signals they recieve and screw up the signals they send out. This results in them telling all the neurons down the line to let the signals through all together, at the same time. They do. These signals tell more neurons to fire at the same time. They do. The number of neurons all firing at the same time increases exponentially. The goal of the original signal is completely derailed and all kinds of neurons are firing, all at the same time, completely without purpose. This hypersynchronous firing can stay limited to one ciruit, or it can spread to others. In the worst case scenario it spreads throughout the whole brain. (This is, in fact, the only known instance of a person using 100% of their brain - it's not pretty). The frequency at which all the neurons are firing can actually be picked up with electrodes in many cases (if the activity gets close enough to the surface). The amplitude of seizure activity is many times the amplitude of normal brain waves.

Sorry this is so long.
 
  • #31
zoobyshoe
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Just read what you were posting while I was writing:

"The underlying principle seems to be that each exitation of a target cell tends to weaken any synapses where the presynaptic axon terminal has just been quiet but to strengthen any synapse where the presynaptic axon terminal has just been active. As a result "neurons that fire together, wire together"

I agree with everything here except boiling it down to the inaccurate "catch phrase".

The catch phrase should be: neurons that fire in series tend to create enduring circuits. It doesn't rhyme but if rhyming causes you to distort the facts, dont rhyme.
 
  • #32
Monique
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Originally posted by zoobyshoe
OK. Here is one place you misunderstood me. I did not say wiring only happens in a give and take way. I said wiring happens when firing happens in series. A signal gets from one place in the cortex to another neuron by neuron. Neuron #1 fires. It gives off neuro transmitters that stimulate neuron #2 to fire. No.2 fires. It gives off neuro transmitters that stimulate neuron #3 to fire. On so on, untill the signal gets to some other part of the brain that can use it as information. This is what I mean when I say they fire in series. One fires after another. The give and take is a different thing that I will explain.
Give and take/ serial, different words, same concept. Wiring happens when a signal is transferred from one neuron to the other, one will give the other take = serial, right?

So are you talking about neurons that are simply in close physical proximity without being at all connected?
Yes, you must be aware that neurons in the brain are not distributed randomly and that they actually follow paths together?

I don't know how neurons develop. I just know about how they communicate with each other once they are developed.
Well, the brain remodels throughout life right? We don't gain new neurons, but new connections can still be made.

It frequently happens that two or more signals want to use part of the same path at the same time. They don't. They are courteous. One goes, then the other goes. Give and take. (Maybe not the most accurate term but lets use it for now to distinguish from "in series"). Damaged neurons screw up the signals they recieve and screw up the signals they send out.
This really doesn't work for me. Neurons being courteous? Yes, because they need to depolarize before they can relay another signal. Seizures are caused by neurons which don't reset themselves right? I can definitely understand where you are coming from and I think we are on the same wavelength, but the way you distinguish between serial and give/take is really a fine line..
 
  • #33
zoobyshoe
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I can definitely understand where you are coming from and I think we are on the same wavelength..."
As far as I can tell we seem to understand the neurons to be working in the same way.

The confusion is about language. If you don't use words as precisely as you possibly can when it comes to something as complex as what happens in the brain, you can end up being incomprehensble.

The primary distinction I have been trying to make is between "firing together" and "firing in series".

I see, now, why this inaccurate "neurons that fire together, wire together" seems acceptable to you: it was presented in your text book.
 
  • #34
Monique
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OK: in your wordings: neurons that fire in a give and take way won't result in a tighter wiring and neurons that fire in series WILL result in a tighter wiring? ((that is the issue))

I'm really sorry, but first I can't make the distinction firing together one after another and firing in series, it means the exact same thing to me, I don't quite understand the point of the seizure example, it is just an example of uncontrolled relaying of the signal.

Maybe you are thinking macro and me micro.. you are thinking about a string of signals that goes from A to 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 to B. I am just thinking about a single synaptic junction.
 
  • #35
zoobyshoe
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Originally posted by Monique
OK: in your wordings: neurons that fire in a give and take way won't result in a tighter wiring and neurons that fire in series WILL result in a tighter wiring? ((that is the issue))
No, this is not my wording.
I'm really sorry, but first I can't make the distinction firing together one after another and firing in series, it means the exact same thing to me, I don't quite understand the point of the seizure example, it is just an example of uncontrolled relaying of the signal.
That's OK then. Don't strain yourself.
 

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