Memory and the Brain
The 'Brain and Mind' series of interdisciplinary workshops look at brain-related issues from the point of view of neuroscience, psychology, clinical medicine and philosophy. They cover topics as diverse as schizophrenia, music, and bilingualism. The workshops are aimed at a broad audience, including fellow academics, students and the general public.
This topic of this workshop was 'Memory and the Brain.'
Speakers included: Professor David Bannerman (University of Oxford); Dr John Towse (University of Lancaster); and Dr Christoph Hoerl (University of Warwick).
Abstract of Professor David Bannerman's talk:
'The way in which we learn and remember is central to our very existence. It shapes our thoughts and emotions, and learning and memory dysfunction lies at the heart of various neuropsychiatric disorders including anxiety, depression and schizophrenia. Studies in rodents have allowed us to understand a lot more about the mechanisms ("the nuts and bolts") of learning and memory. In particular, studies using genetically modified mice have identified the contributions that different neurotransmitters and their receptors make to these processes. In turn, this has then helped us understand why changes in a particular gene and its protein product might lead to illnesses like schizophrenia.'
Abstract of Dr John Towse's talk:
'Working memory is regarded by many psychologists as a central construct in cognition, supporting and shaping thoughts and decisions. In this presentation, I will explain why it has attracted such interest. Using research data I will also discuss some of the problems that arise from the way psychologists typically measure this system, and hint at some possible solutions.'
Abstract of Professor Christoph Hoerl's talk:
'Memory has a special relation to time, sometimes expressed in terms of the claim that we can remember the past but not the future. Philosophers also call this the 'knowledge asymmetry' or 'epistemic asymmetry' of time. As obvious as this asymmetry may seem to be, though, it actually turns out quite hard to make more precise what exactly it consists in. In this talk, I will relate this issue to the idea of a distinction between two different kinds of memory sometimes referred to as semantic memory and episodic memory, respectively. My proposal will be that episodic memory and semantic memory exemplify the epistemic asymmetry in two different ways, and for somewhat different reasons. More specifically, it is only when episodically recollecting an event that the epistemic asymmetry is manifest to the rememberer herself. The reasons for this, I suggest, have to do with the specific kind of knowledge that is retained in episodic memory - the knowledge as to what it was like to experience the event in question - and the fact that the only means of acquiring this knowledge is through having the relevant experience itself.'