there a “unit” of memory? Some scientists now think so.
Using a method that allowed them to make brain measurements down to the
millisecond levels, researchers at the Norwegian University of Science
and Technology discovered that there's a discrete “quantum”
You’re rudely awakened by the phone. Your room is pitch black.
It’s unsettling, because you’re a little uncertain about where you are
— and then you remember. You’re in a hotel room.
Sound like a familiar experience? Or maybe you’ve felt a similar
kind of disorientation when you walk out of an elevator onto the wrong
floor? But what actually happens inside your head when you experience
moments like these?
[A new study] describes exactly how the brain reacts in situations
like these, during the transition between one memory and the next. […]
Their findings show that memory is divided into discrete individual
packets, analogous to the way that light is divvied up into individual
bits called quanta. Each memory is just 125 milliseconds long — which
means the brain can swap between different memories as often as eight
times in one second.
“The brain won't let itself get confused,” says Professor
May-Britt Moser. “It never mixes different places and memories
together, even though you might perceive it that way. This is because
the processes taking place inside your head when your brain is looking
for a map of where you are take place so fast that you don't notice
that you are actually switching between different maps. When you feel
a little confused, it is because there is a competition in your brain
between two memories. Or maybe more than two.”
Memory “Quantum” Lasts 125 Milliseconds