Issuu on Google+

THE SPHINX

7

Science

SphinxOnline Scan the QR to visit Sphinx Science online

Physiological discovery suggests we may have false memories Nancy Powell

How good is your memory? Or should we be asking; how accurate is your memory? When we bring together our recollections, how true are they? What is it that makes us experience false memories? These questions have challenged psychologists for years and for the first time, published this year, physiological measurements have been used to investigate false memories and find a change in the

body that indicates when false memories are occurring in our mind. Memories are fragments that we stitch together on a daily basis and never a whole reproduction. So it comes as no surprise to find that false memories are common and indeed becoming a serious problem in places where accurate recollection is not only essential but in control. Memory can be curved to fit around historical events, psychiatrists for many years, have acknowledged that when it comes to childhood sexual

European Commission fund UOL anti-Dirty Bomb project

University Physicists measure anti-matter David Hillier Physicists at the University of Liverpool have carried out detailed spectroscopic measurements of antimatter. These new findings build on prior research done by the team, previously part of the APLHA collaboration at CERN in Geneva, in which they had managed to routinely trap anti-hydrogen atoms; the antimatter counterpart of hydrogen. These new spectroscopic measurements help to further understanding of the origins of the Universe. Antimatter is the mirror image of normal physical matter, containing the opposite electrical charge to regular particles known to exist in the Universe. Although antimatter is known to exist, the fact that only matter can be seen in the physical world has long perplexed scientists. These latest findings by ALPHA suggest that anti-hydrogen atoms can be studied in detail, and may provide a powerful investigative tool for

abuse, it’s important to be careful not to implant false memories by the use of pictures or cues. When it comes to giving evidence in court as a witness, could ample amounts of false memories convict individuals incorrectly? These implications have been difficult to reliably determine as no evidence has been seen to distinguish between false memories or factually correct memories, however, at the Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and mental health, in Freiburg Germany, a new

physiological test has been reported to identify when false memories occur. Ali Baioui and fellow researchers used their variation on the DeeseRoediger-McDermott (DRM) paradigm, this method creates false memories in a controlled experiment, the standard DRM paradigm works by giving participants a list of 12 associated words to learn for e x a m p l e , b e d , s h e e t , p i l l o w. Immediately the participants are given another list with some of the same words from the first list along as ‘lures’ of new associated words e.g. dream and then asked to recall which words were included in the initial list. Baioui found a high level of recall so participants remembered many of the lures being part of the first list. Modifying the DRM paradigm with visual stimuli instead of words, participants, whilst linked to electrodes measuring their skin conductance, breathing, finger pulse and heart rate, were asked to identify whether or not they had seen any of the illustrations they had viewed previously. This study into memory is the first to use physiological measurements, which were taken as they are all controlled by the autonomic nervous system, meaning they are controlled automatically without our own conscious thought. The researchers predicted that the false recognition of items would be less significant than those encountered before thus associated with decreased skin

conductance and this is exactly what they found. Recall rates were far lower than those seen in the standard DRM studies using word lists. In both groups, participants falsely recognised significantly more related lure items than unrelated ones. There was a significant difference between the groups in the skin conductance. When the experimental group recalled the lures falsely, skin conductance was reduced. True recognition of the studied items caused increased conductance. All other parameters did not change when false recall occurred. Dipl.-Psych. Ali Baioui - 2008: Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg Alumni - 2009: Professor at Bender institute of Neuroimaging

So can these results be applied to say for instance, Law? Well, no. As with all psychological studies, initially the unreal settings in which the results are obtained in laboratory conditions are not representative of physiology and recollection in a natural environment. However the physiological findings from Germany may eventually lead to identifying implicit knowledge in certain practical situations. There is of course, an exciting potential of a possible role in rehabilitating amnesia patients in the future.

How a Dirty Bomb could spread radiation

Dani Telford

the future. Liverpool Group leader, Professor Paul Nolan, said: “Despite the extreme technical difficulties involved we have now shown that it is possible to carry out spectroscopic measurements with neutral antiatoms. ALPHA will continue to improve the achieved precision and help us to find out if the anti-world is hiding any secrets from us.”

The European Commission has funded a £3 million international project, which sees scientists at the University of Liverpool, developing a test for nuclear materials that could prevent the construction of atomic weapons and ‘dirty bombs’. The scheme, which is supported by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the European Atomic Energy Community, will deliver a prototype mobile detection system to reduce the risk of radioactive and nuclear materials, Special Nuclear Material (SNM), being used for terrorism. The work exploits the University’s expertise in the development of particle detectors, both for fundamental science in experiments like the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and in applications in the areas

of homeland security and medical physics. Professor Christos Touramanis from the University’s Department of Physics said: “Current systems to detect SNM have a number of limitations. Materials tend to be smuggled inside commercial containers and special enclosures

inside can minimise the escaping telltale radiation. The system we’re developing will rely heavily on noble gas detection modules supported by robust, lightweight electronics and intelligent analysis algorithms, integrated in portable units that can be used by security personnel at ports of entry.”


THE SPHINX