Human Memory and Its Secrets

Science is yet to make breakthroughs in the study of the human “software”

Human Memory and Its Secrets

Снимка: Pixabay

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Автор: Tatyana Yavasheva

Scientists continue to study the human brain. What is so special about this organ in our body? How is memory managed and how does it function? Science is looking for answers to these questions and is slowly starting to uncover this mystery. Some scientists even believe that in its attempt to unravel the secrecy, humanity may enter a dangerous civilization phase if it goes into areas related to the finest settings and functions of memory, thought and consciousness.

Who Has the Control

Every person has memory and it is organized in a different way than the one of computers. On a computer, files are located in a certain place, while the biological memory is organized on the principle of neural networks and “search” is done mainly by images. There are a number of cases in which people lose their memory and their identity changes beyond recognition after an accident. Human memory stores multidimensional information about facts and events, but also about emotions, sensations, smell, taste, colour… It is a mystery how if parts of the brain are destroyed, their functions can be taken up by the preserved ones. There is a good example of that in the history of surgery. In 1960s, a man had an accident as a result of which part of his brain was crushed. The man underwent a surgery and was saved, but the doctors warned his relatives that he would hardly be able to see, speak or think clearly. But soon after, the patient recovered completely and started working at the same speed as before the accident. One explanation could be that memory is holographic in nature and one small part of it contains the whole thing. Another phenomenon is that the brain makes decisions before the person can actually realize it, and acts as a professional fraudster that has the control.

The Unsolved Puzzle

The brain knows what we have to be, but we know very little about it. It manages us. And if one day chips are made and inserted into people’s brains in order to improve memory or the speed and quality of brain processes, man and computer will merge into one another. And we will not be able to realize where the person ends and where the machine starts. This would be a huge test for humanity. What will happen with the soul? It is related to feelings, sensations, excitements, and emotions. It turns out that man is the greatest mystery of humankind. And the mystery of mysteries in this unsolved puzzle is the brain, memory, consciousness, and memories. Who and how is managing and controlling them? Is there a way for the human memory to be transferred from one person to another, can it be stored when the person will no longer be alive, what happens with memories after death, is there a way for people to exchange thoughts, memories and past experiences, just as files are transferred from computer to computer?

The Mystery Called a Coma

In April 2010, a young Croatian girl woke up from a short coma and to everyone’s surprise started communicating only in German. It was strange how the girl had completely forgotten her native Croatian. Her neurologist tried to explain it with the fact that she had studied German in high school. This case is shrouded in mystery and remains unexplained by science. But this is not the only case. In 1960s, in Bulgaria, there was a similar case with a man who was also in a coma. He started speaking in Old French without being able to say a world in his native language. In 2014, a 22-year-old Australian also woke up from a coma and the only language he could speak was Mandarin. He had to study English all over again. After a while, he started hosting a program in Chinese in which he presented the Australian culture.

Our Digital Version

Digitalization conquers more and more territories. Is it possible to one day wake up as a digitalized version of ourselves? The founders of Nectome – an organization created for conducting researches – believe that this is possible and are working to make it a reality. But for the people who decide to undergo such an experiment, the outcome will be 100% fatal. The idea sounds like a scientific fiction: Nectome wants to preserve the volunteers’ brains, and at some point in the future, to transfer the information. With a specially designed chemical solution, brain can be stored well enough, so that the memories remain intact for a long period of time. The enthusiasts from Nectome believe that within this century, a method will be discovered through which people’s memory will be digitalized; it will be possible for it to be transferred, thus allowing consciousness to recover.

The Experiment Continues

Nectome is a company created by graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which is working on ambition researches related to the development of memory science. They design and conduct experiments in order to discover how the brain creates memories physically. And they also look for ways that allow for the information in memory to be retrieved. They develop techniques for biological storage in order to better preserve physical memory traces. But regardless of how revolutionary their scientific goals are, killing people for the sake of experimenting is not allowed. That is why the company is working with lawyers with expertise for the application of an act in California that offers an option to put an end to one’s life (End of Life Option Act). Incurable patients may choose medically assisted death, which is now the only way Nectome can try to preserve their memory. All of this may seem terrifying, but the company already has a waiting list. It is too early to say whether Nectome’s efforts will be successful, because they are hoping to find a way to digitalize consciousness in the future. Volunteers hope to someday “wake up” in their digital version...

In Israel, scientists are working hard to improve the 3D printing of organs, including the human brain. However, science is yet to make breakthroughs in the study of human “software”. As it seems, the brain, human memory and consciousness will continue to be subject of special interest by scientists and researchers.