Encoding memories in the brain


quote from the article:

NUS researchers studied how the frontal lobe represents short-term memory information by measuring the activity of many neurons. Previous results from the researchers had shown that if a distraction was presented during the memory maintenance period, it changed the code used by frontal lobe neurons that encode the memory.

I imagine this to be an information protection mechanism, sort of like in the folowing example: you have a nostalgic song in your head you wish to hear on Youtube, but your neighbour has a party going on, so his radio is playing full force. You switch strategies by no longer playing the song in your head but instead visualising the videoclip, so there is no chance of information interference. If someone thinks/knows I’m wrong about this comparison, I would appreciate your input in this matter.

second quote from article:

This simple finding has broader implications, suggesting that a single neural population may contain multiple independent types of information that do not interfere with each other.

This sounds like old news to me. I mean when for example, I have to shortly remember an item code of wich I have to check the inventory in the computer, I typically do the following:
0900231015 = image of “0900” + drienentwintigtienvijftien (Dutch pronounciation of 231015). In short: information is broken down in image and sound. Again, I may have completely misunderstood.

This does however lead to a very interesting question, that is very much relevant for speed memory events like 100 digits, or 1 deck of cards: how many different non-interfering ways of representing information in the working memory are there and how can we memorisers use these to maximise our speed events performances?

Very interesting thanks. Quote :

… Employing tools derived from machine learning, the researchers showed that stable information can be found within the changing neural population code.

… the NUS team demonstrated that memory information can be read out from a population of neurons that morphs their code after a distractor is presented…


I just got an intuition that feels like somewhat relevant to this post, may be a bit difficult to put in words. Let me try anyway.

For a long time I have been fascinated by world class jugglers. I can juggle a bit myself (5 balls for 10 seconds is the best I ever managed, 3 and 4 balls I can do rather easily). In some circus acts the juggler does many mindblowing feats at the same time, like riding a unicyle and juggling 5 balls, or juggling 9 rings and bouncing a ball on his head: (Anthony Gatto)

In the above video Rudiger Gamm, an amazing mental calculator, does a balancing act (at 19:46) very much like a juggler (balancing a club -looks like bowling pin- on the head is part of the juggling bag of tricks).

The point I’m trying to make is that perhaps world class jugglers have increased there working memory in some useful way. This is just an intuition I have, so forgive me if I’m not making much sense. Any jugglers (or non jugglers) on this forum with more to say about this topic?

You remind me of :

…“a number of mathematicians and scientists have also become obsessed with juggling, including Claude Shannon, the father of information theory, and Richard Ross, who heads up the cephalopods division at the California Academy of Sciences. In the 1980s, a whole passel of mathematicians independently came up with the same method to create and communicate new juggling combinations. It makes sense. Juggling is the stuff of patterns and gravity and precision, good fodder for brains inclined to math and science. But integral to excelling in juggling as well as in science, Savage suggested, is a stick-to-itiveness. An obsessive refusal to stop until you crack that next trick.”

I also remember reading that juggling has been found to help ‘grow’ cognitive abilities… I wonder if there’s any truth to that, but perhaps your intuition is really good!

The juggling (mathematical) combinations are very much about a part of juggling known as side swaps: changing the order of the thrown objects by various ways (like throwing one object high and one low, the low object may overtake the high object in the sequence). To make it even more complex: the word siteswaps is also used as an equivalent of the mathematical notations.

Interesting fact: the juggler from the video (Anthony Gatto, who is widely regarded as the best juggler of all time) doesn’t like side swaps. If I remeber correctly, he was looking down on the so called sport juggling popularised by Jason Garfield and his World Juggling Federation in which sideswaps play a important element in the scoring of performances. I can’t find the article in which this was mentioned. Let me finish with a disclaimer: I might be wrong about this.

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When you arrive at the link, search for “Gatto never took to siteswap”.

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I swear I just speed read (not very well apparently) this article 2 hours ago, as I intuitively connected it with the subject.

I think his beef with the rest of the juggling community was perhaps more about non (circus) performing jugglers putting edited videos of (multiple) tricks they could not repeat more than once if their life depended on it, on the internet. It makes the comparison dishonest; when Anthony, in contrast, did every trick in front of an audiance over and over again without failure.

Thanks for the find.

Glad to be of service.