The Rhythm of Memory

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Fifty dollars will not simply purchase an iPod for personalized music. It has the potential to trigger memories, increase the quality of life, and create joy in someone. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. Tel: With a little noise in the system, the wrong item will occasionally be selected for output. This is important as it helps explain the most common type of error, where items near the middle of a list swap places with one another.

Figure 2. Order errors.


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In competitive queuing models items associated with similar states of the timing signal are prone to exchange with one another in errors. Items at the beginning and end of the list have fewer direct competitors and so are less likely to be involved in order errors. Competitive Queueing models provide a great explanation for many properties of verbal short-term memory for example, primacy and recency effects that mean errors more often occur in the middle of a sequence , but previous models could not explain in any detail how the rhythm of the items might affect memory capacity.

Mother Rhythm Earth Memory

Earlier models had recognised the importance of rhythm and offered partial explanations. However, the models only tackled regular rhythms and even so had to be told in advance what the rhythm of the sequence would be. The problem is that when encountering words or sounds in everyday life the rhythm may be irregular and unpredictable. In the new paper we present a new Competitive Queueing model — BUMP — which explains the relationship between rhythm and the capacity of verbal short-term memory.

The BUMP model replaces the timing signal in earlier models with a more detailed mechanism that is sensitive to the timing of the words that we experience. The BUMP mechanism is a hypothetical population of neurons which respond in a rhythmic way to changes in the intensity of speech sounds amplitude modulations — AM. We show how such a population, acting as a timing signal, can be used to encode sequences whose timing is irregular and unpredictable, like that of the speech we encounter in everyday life. It explains, in detail, how the timing of one sequence of words can make it easier or harder to remember compared to another containing the same number of items and lasting the same length of time.

In doing so it predicts an intimate relationship between the mechanisms of rhythm perception and the capacity of verbal short-term memory. For example, a list of nine digits grouped into 3s by a slight pause after every third item e. This is true whether or not we can predict the pattern in advance.

There seems to be something intrinsically easier about remembering sequences broken into evenly spaced groups — even when we cannot anticipate it. In the paper we describe how this could work.

The Rhythm of Memory by Alyson Richman

In the BUMP model, the push comes from the bursts of sound associated with spoken words, and the oscillations are fluctuations in the activity of neurons. This means that they are sensitive to recent changes in the speech rate. If the pulses of intensity come fairly regularly, near to their intrinsic tuning, the oscillators keep time, tracking the pace of the incoming speech over quite a wide range. Figure 3 from the paper. The bottom row of b shows how changes in firing rate firing rate tracks rhythmic pulses in the intensity of speech even when as on the right hand side the speech rate varies.

One problem in dealing with speech in the real world is that timing is irregular and unpredictable. So in the BUMP model, we envisage a whole population of neurons with different sensitivities. Some are sensitive to short changes in the intensity of speech say individual words ; they respond to short pulses of sound. In these neurons, activity oscillates rapidly and the oscillations die away quickly after a burst of sound. Others are sensitive to much more gradual changes say corresponding to a phrase or sentence ; their activity oscillates more slowly and the oscillations die away more gradually after a burst of sound.

Circadian Rhythm Affects Memory

Because the oscillators in the BUMP model have a fairly brief response to each pulse, they tend to track the rhythms of the incoming speech. Oscillators with slightly different intrinsic tunings act together, oscillating in concert in response to the rhythms of speech associated with syllables, words and phrases and sentences. When speech is organised around a strong rhythm the oscillators tend to resonate to it, producing a richer and more coherent response than when the pulses occur more haphazardly.


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