"Memory Hackers" on PBS Nova- Seemed like Junk Science to me

Anybody else watch this?

I normally watch NOVA and am always amazed and stupefied. But this episode seemed like a butt-load of junk science.

First: The kid at the beginning of the show. He can regurgitate “trivia”, World Series crap that anyone can read on the internet. Big deal. Lots of people can do that. Ask him what his mom was wearing on June 3rd, 1997. No matter what he says, how the hell can you verify it? Its not like cameras were following this kid since birth. I’m not convinced of his “super memory”. I’m sure they put him through a bunch of tests, but they didn’t air enough to convince me.

Second: The mice with lasers shooting into their heads. Oh, come on! How the hell could they possibly target the specific (tiny) areas that they were shooting for? They didn’t convince me they weren’t stimulating so much of the brain as to generate false results that confirmed the scientists assumptions. I wasn’t buying it.

Third: That fucking terrible “false memory” study. That came off as a complete load of shit. That one gal they showed seemed completely neurotic to start with. No doubt you could convince her of whatever false memories you wanted. 70 percent? Really? I’ll bet it would have been about 10 percent if some old dude that looked like Bernie Sanders had done the test. That’s all I’m sayin’. I bet about half the sample size could be disqualified right off the bat. Damn, my knuckles hurt!

Not the best NOVA I’ve seen. Damn, I’m bored. Why did I bother with this?

I didn’t see the special in question but false memories of a sort are a real thing. For example, a University did a study where they contacted people the day after September 11th and asked them to describe their day, they asked again multiple times years later (2 years later, five years later, ten years later). By ten years later their recollection of the day was completely different but they were just as convinced of its accuracy to the point where they disbelieved their own descriptions from the day after.

It wasn’t … presented well.

The HSAM kid is the real thing. They actually do in depth stuff over quite some time to verify. The trivia stuff was just for the camera. Shame that that got on at all, let alone highlighted. If you watched closely note the scene where the researcher is flipping thru notes on previous interviews with the kids and mentioning how he remember the details of those meetings. Stuff like that. It’s not a trick. It’s real but very rare.

The laser to the mouse brain was poorly explained.

The false memory thing was virtually just a watered down demo of what can be accomplished. There was a great study where they were able to implant memories in the volunteers of meeting certain cartoon characters at Disneyland. Despite the characters being WB toons rather than Disney ones! Even after having that pointed out to them, they still insisted the memories are real.

The one that got me was the fear of spiders/Propranolol one. Propranolol doesn’t erase memories. It detaches emotions from memories. Which is why it works on phobias. You can still remember previous encounters with spiders, you just don’t emotionally react like you did before.

It’s not an issue of junk science so much as a completely clueless producer who didn’t understand the material at hand and made the program he/she wanted to make and not the one based on the real underlying Science.

It is very hard for TV people to understand small subtleties that make a huge difference in the Science. So bad Science reports are the rule.

Good analysis, ftg.

Unfortunately, the folks at Slashdot took the show at face value and did a blurb on the “erasing memories” part. It’s being picked up all over the place and will now enter the public consciousness like the map of the tongue.

Oh! Is the map of the tongue thing discredited now? I remember that from the 70s, and thought it made sense. I definitely “feel” certain kinds of flavors at different places on my tongue. Is it possible there’s some validity to the concept, if not as strictly defined and mapped as we were taught so long ago?

(It ain’t the learnin’ that wears a man down so, it’s th’ unlearnin’)

You probably feel flavors on different parts of your tongue because you were trained to by the tongue map. I don’t remember how the map was laid out, and all flavors feel like they’re in the same place to me.