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-   -   How far are we from downloading memories (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=793131)

Nansbread1 05-15-2016 09:43 AM

How far are we from downloading memories
 
Either from the brain or the retina or any other part. Either from dead people or live. I presume we have not even taken the smallest step in that direction and that no one is actually directly researching this activity.

Me_Billy 05-15-2016 10:15 AM

Seems to me human memories are made up of chemicals / brain wiring. Not something which could be "downloaded" as it is not electrical. That is not electrical unless "thought about" perhaps?

Note there are "hardwired" computer memories called "masked ROMs". The memory is "physically" etched into each bit of memory during manufacturing. And to extract the memory from that (if not doing so electrically) would pretty much destroy the device. You would need to slice it into very thin slices and then examine it under a microscope.

Or another analogy... The very first computers had their programming done via the arrangement of the wiring. You would need to trace all those wires and make a diagram to extract the programming.

Here is a bit on brain memory...
https://www.quora.com/How-are-memori...he-human-brain

https://www.quora.com/What-chemical-...e-our-memories

http://www.iflscience.com/brain/watc...-been-recorded

TriPolar 05-15-2016 10:25 AM

I'm sure you mean some kind of direct transfer of info to and from the brain without conscious effort, and I'd say we are a long way away now. But on the road to that goal we'll go through some intermediate steps that will simplify the process we use now of recording information manually. While we have no idea how to extract existing sensory data in the brain we may be closer to feeding that information to the brain just past our sensory organs, and perhaps recording info at that point also.

engineer_comp_geek 05-15-2016 10:36 AM

The current state of our knowledge is that we don't have a freaking clue how memories are stored. Until we get that part solved, figuring out how to (hopefully non-intrusively) store them isn't going to happen.

We have some vague notions of how the actual storage mechanism works, but the brain doesn't store memories like a computer does. The brain breaks things down and somehow stores the little pieces. One of the reasons Kim Peek had such amazing savant abilities was because this mechanism for breaking things down didn't work properly in his brain. Instead, his brain stored things literally, and he was often unable to understand certain things as a result. For example, he couldn't reason his way through math problems and he could not understand metaphors as he took everything literally. Kim's brain was in some ways a lot more like how a computer stores information.

We are just barely figuring out how the actual chemical and physical processes store the memories. We're not even close to understanding how the brain breaks things apart and processes them and later reconstructs them into memories.

The brain is so different from a computer that simply downloading a brain into any kind of digital storage will never be possible. Some day we might be able to store a "brain" into a digitally emulated brain-ish device, but we only have vague notions of how this might work.

We've got a long way to go.

albino_manatee 05-15-2016 11:55 AM

http://news.mit.edu/2012/conjuring-m...ificially-0322

Chronos 05-15-2016 12:54 PM

We already do. The parts that we use to capture memories are called "paper", "cameras", "tape recorders", and so on.

FluffyBob 05-15-2016 02:40 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Chronos (Post 19332425)
We already do. The parts that we use to capture memories are called "paper", "cameras", "tape recorders", and so on.

Absolutely, and I have trouble seeing how any future method of recording human memory could be significantly different. Paper is already superior in some ways to human memory as the act of reading paper does not alter or re-record the memory. Correct me if I am wrong, but last I heard research suggested that the very act of recalling a memory can alter it.

The sci-fi concept of being able to directly record human experience/memory to some sort of machine is unlikely to be realized in such a simple form. If one wanted accuracy it would make more sense to record video, audio and other sensory input directly rather than through the veil of human experience. Human memory, although an amazing thing is not accurate in the way a camera is.

Voyager 05-15-2016 04:56 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Me_Billy (Post 19332158)
Seems to me human memories are made up of chemicals / brain wiring. Not something which could be "downloaded" as it is not electrical. That is not electrical unless "thought about" perhaps?

Unless you are being picky, data on a CD-ROM is not electrical either, until it is read by laser and converted to electrical signals. Ditto for my first logic lab project, an acoustic delay line memory. So any scanning technique for our memories would convert them into electrical values for processing.

But since we don't know even how they are stored, or their coding, the answer to the OP is "don't hold your breath."

Senegoid 05-15-2016 05:04 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by albino_manatee (Post 19332330)

Interesting -- that article on artificially manipulating memories was written by one Cathryn Delude.

Bryan Ekers 05-15-2016 05:17 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Chronos (Post 19332425)
We already do. The parts that we use to capture memories are called "paper", "cameras", "tape recorders", and so on.

If I may add to this, equipping every person with a portable camera and microphone to record all of their personal experiences would be more accurate and technically far more feasible than trying to copy or record their personal memories. At the very least, the devices would act like impartial witnesses to the events.

Richard Pearse 05-15-2016 08:05 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Chronos (Post 19332425)
We already do. The parts that we use to capture memories are called "paper", "cameras", "tape recorders", and so on.

"Either from the brain or retina or any other part." Yes we have our memories in the form you mention but that is not what is being asked and you know it.

Voyager 05-15-2016 11:45 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Bryan Ekers (Post 19332852)
If I may add to this, equipping every person with a portable camera and microphone to record all of their personal experiences would be more accurate and technically far more feasible than trying to copy or record their personal memories. At the very least, the devices would act like impartial witnesses to the events.

For the first half of our life, we'll all be Gordon Bell. For the second half of our lives, we'll watch what we did the first half.

Me_Billy 05-16-2016 10:19 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Voyager (Post 19332811)
Unless you are being picky, data on a CD-ROM is not electrical either, until it is read by laser and converted to electrical signals. Ditto for my first logic lab project, an acoustic delay line memory. So any scanning technique for our memories would convert them into electrical values for processing.

But since we don't know even how they are stored, or their coding, the answer to the OP is "don't hold your breath."

Now that I think of it, perhaps mother nature has designed our memories so they are ENCRYPTED!

So what is needed for this project is a code breaker.:D

Voyager 05-16-2016 11:53 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Me_Billy (Post 19334263)
Now that I think of it, perhaps mother nature has designed our memories so they are ENCRYPTED!

So what is needed for this project is a code breaker.:D

Even worse, each of us has our own key.

Mangetout 05-16-2016 12:13 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Richard Pearse (Post 19333112)
"Either from the brain or retina or any other part." Yes we have our memories in the form you mention but that is not what is being asked and you know it.

Any other part, like the hand.

Richard Pearse 05-16-2016 06:06 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mangetout (Post 19334534)
Any other part, like the hand.

Hey man, you never know!

thelurkinghorror 05-16-2016 06:59 PM

Optography can preserve the last image presented on the retina. It was used as a forensic method in the belief that it could preserve the last thing a murder victim saw but that usage was 100% BS. The retina does not preserve a store of images.

Isilder 05-16-2016 10:05 PM

IMO, Optography was the activity of retrieving the last images an eye saw because eye's owner died.
(or the eye was removed or something similar.)

Of course we can now say the chemistry of the eye doesn't allow such, eg of course death is really the brain stopping, which is far more fragile than the other body parts (most body parts can be viable, as healthy and working, eg when deciding whether to amputate, re-attach or transplant ... for hours without oxygen...)




So the optography thing is totally debunked.

However one step of the OP's topic , reading information from the brains neurons , has just been achieved... helium microscopes... electron microscopes cause a current flow which damage the electricals of the neuron... it would necessarily interfere with the information, so the electron microscope can only show atomic level structure but not the position of electrons to suitable accuracy. The helium microscope is detecting the electricals but not changing them. These might mean that the neuron isn't even killed, the helium microscope does no harm.

Mangetout 05-17-2016 01:39 AM

I believe there have been some rather striking results from experiments attempting to measure what a subject is actively thinking about - even to the point of being able to reconstruct a vague, blobby computer-generated image of a scene the subject is thinking about 'in their mind's eye' as it were.

But that's nowhere near the same as being able to download stored memories that aren't consciously being recalled.

thelurkinghorror 05-17-2016 01:50 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Isilder (Post 19335880)
So the optography thing is totally debunked.

Which is pretty much what I said. In forensics, the only way the image of a dead person's killer could be preserved using this technique is if the killer intentionally attempted to preserve it by immediately chemically fixing the image. But as a thing that you can do, it exists in a laboratory setting.
Quote:

Originally Posted by Mangetout (Post 19336119)
I believe there have been some rather striking results from experiments attempting to measure what a subject is actively thinking about - even to the point of being able to reconstruct a vague, blobby computer-generated image of a scene the subject is thinking about 'in their mind's eye' as it were.

But that's nowhere near the same as being able to download stored memories that aren't consciously being recalled.

Covered in one of the few House episodes I've seen with very poor science where distorted "video" images are shown in real time.

For simple stimuli, there are retinotopic maps. Although the research I expect you're referring you doesn't interpret completely novel stimuli. It's more like the show you lots of objects, find out what neural patterns arise from each stimulus, and then when a random stimulus is shown, they can guess the appearance based upon which pre-known stimulus most closely correlates in neural activity.

Mangetout 05-17-2016 02:56 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by thelurkinghorror (Post 19336131)
Covered in one of the few House episodes I've seen with very poor science where distorted "video" images are shown in real time.

For simple stimuli, there are retinotopic maps. Although the research I expect you're referring you doesn't interpret completely novel stimuli. It's more like the show you lots of objects, find out what neural patterns arise from each stimulus, and then when a random stimulus is shown, they can guess the appearance based upon which pre-known stimulus most closely correlates in neural activity.

No, I'm talking about actually reconstructing pictures of what a person is 'seeing' in their head. The House episode took a few liberties, but actually, the reality of the technology is not all that different - take a look at the video embedded on this page:
http://news.berkeley.edu/2011/09/22/brain-movies/

ETA: OK, I think it was actually reproducing something they were seeing, rather than just thinking about.

thelurkinghorror 05-17-2016 05:17 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mangetout (Post 19337839)
No, I'm talking about actually reconstructing pictures of what a person is 'seeing' in their head. The House episode took a few liberties, but actually, the reality of the technology is not all that different - take a look at the video embedded on this page:
http://news.berkeley.edu/2011/09/22/brain-movies/

ETA: OK, I think it was actually reproducing something they were seeing, rather than just thinking about.

Yeah it's the same thing, they just go more in depth than I did. Note lines like:
"As yet, the technology can only reconstruct movie clips people have already viewed."

or

"Finally, the 100 clips that the computer program decided were most similar to the clip that the subject had probably seen were merged to produce a blurry yet continuous reconstruction of the original movie."

I remember House showing it much higher resolution but with reduced color variations.

Mangetout 05-18-2016 02:20 AM

Actually, it's a bit weird - I think there must be some essential detail missing from the write-up, because it sounds like they:

Built and trained a system for correlating brain scan data to specific movie clips from a small library, allowing them to:
Determine which clip is being watched, and having done so:
Construct a shitty interpolated computer rendering of the known clip.

Unless I'm missing something, the visually striking output from step 3 is not actually a rendering of anything inside the head, just a re-rendering of a known piece of footage. It can't be that lame can it?

thelurkinghorror 05-18-2016 03:14 AM

No, it's pretty cool. They can predict your perception based upon brain activity. They cannot read your mind. But many hours were spent measuring brain activity with fMRI ($500-$1000 per hour).

MacLir 05-18-2016 09:05 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mangetout (Post 19336119)
I believe there have been some rather striking results from experiments attempting to measure what a subject is actively thinking about - even to the point of being able to reconstruct a vague, blobby computer-generated image of a scene the subject is thinking about 'in their mind's eye' as it were.

But that's nowhere near the same as being able to download stored memories that aren't consciously being recalled.

Spider Robinson wrote a book based on this idea, and the "My life flashed before my eyes" meme.

Distant future descendants had perfected this technology, and time travel, and were trying to save/recover their ancestors. When it appeared you were about to die, the system scanned you into memory. if you survived, your memories of the process were the "white light" and "life recap" of the near-death experience.

MacLir 05-18-2016 09:23 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Bryan Ekers (Post 19332852)
If I may add to this, equipping every person with a portable camera and microphone to record all of their personal experiences would be more accurate and technically far more feasible than trying to copy or record their personal memories. At the very least, the devices would act like impartial witnesses to the events.

Robert Sawyer wrote a trilogy around a parallel Earth where Neandertals became the successful hominid. They had a form of this technology where an implanted unit recorded a low-res scan of your life, with data dumps to a secure repository (and other functions - think of a modern smartphone, plus). You could access your record at will - "Where did I leave my coat?" - or the police could access it either with your explicit permission - "Who assaulted me?" - or by court order - "Where were you on the night of ...". These last two had a beneficial effect on the crime rate. :dubious:

JR Brown 05-18-2016 04:31 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mangetout (Post 19339172)
Actually, it's a bit weird - I think there must be some essential detail missing from the write-up, because it sounds like they:

Built and trained a system for correlating brain scan data to specific movie clips from a small library, allowing them to:
Determine which clip is being watched, and having done so:
Construct a shitty interpolated computer rendering of the known clip.

Unless I'm missing something, the visually striking output from step 3 is not actually a rendering of anything inside the head, just a re-rendering of a known piece of footage. It can't be that lame can it?

Close but not quite.
1. They recorded from the brains of volunteers while they each watched thousands of short video clips
2. Then for a given person they selected the brain activity pattern corresponding to a tiny segment of a selected clip, and found the 100 clip-segments that induced the most similar brain activity pattern in that person
3. Then they averaged those 100 "most similar" clip-segments corresponding to each segment of the original clip and strung them together to make the "video reconstruction" for the starting clip

In other words, they are finding videos that induce a similar response in a specific individual, and then trying to pick out what visual features the similarities correspond to by blurring those videos together.

From comparing the reconstructions to the originals, you can see that certain things can be picked out pretty reliably one you know an individual's activity patterns. In particular, the responses to images of people are reliably similar to that for other images of people in similar poses, and text brings up other text in similar positions (people and text are probably the two most readily identifiable things, since there are specific brain regions largely dedicated to face recognition, and text activates language areas, so once you know the individual person's activity map those signals are fairly distinctive).

Beyond that, simple patterns with strong contrast (the horizontal lines and central blobs) bring up other similar patterns, etc. So if we could record from someone without the giant machine, we could probably tell if they are looking at a person, or at text, or something with a strong horizontal/vertical/diagonal/center-surround structure, etc., but so far we are nowhere near being able to tell exactly what the person is looking at, and of course the algorithm needs to be trained on a large amount of data where the activity is matched to known visual input.

bowlweevils 05-27-2016 06:47 AM

Chemical = Electrical
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Me_Billy (Post 19332158)
Seems to me human memories are made up of chemicals / brain wiring. Not something which could be "downloaded" as it is not electrical. That is not electrical unless "thought about" perhaps?

Chemical reactions are electrical reactions. Well, electromagnetic reactions, since you can't have one without the other (electricity and magnetism).

As the name suggests, the electron is the basic unit of electricity. Chemical reactions involve the transfer of electrons in various ways to alter the relative locations of molecules.

For example, the system that makes cells function runs on transfers of electrons via adenosine tryphosphate. Gatorade and your gardening adviser aren't lying about the importance of potassium for healthy growth and maintenance of your body and plants.

In the psychological world, researchers analyze the time course of changes in the electrical status of various parts of the brain to link them to the responses to stimuli (called "event-related potentials" or "ERPs"). These are generally referred to with a polarity and a time, so the P300 ERP is a positive electrical spike that occurs about 300ms after the exposure to a stimulus that was unexpected for the context.

Yes, fMRI voxels are better, but ERPs are so much cheaper. And a bit more ecologically valid.

OK, fine, nuclear reactions are chemical reactions that are not primarily electromagnetic in nature. However, nuclear reactions induce powerful electromagnetic activity in chemicals. This is because they involve smashing bits of matter together in a way that causes a whole bunch of electrons to go crazy, regardless of whether that smashing results in fission or fusion.

But the point remains: human neurons, like all things composed of matter that undergo changes, do so using electrons as the foundational mechanism. No voltage change, no chemical reaction.


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