Amnesia: How the Brain and Memory Function

Topics: AmnesiaResearch

The purpose of the current experiment was to reveal whether the priming of a stimulus prior to the administration of an implicit memory test would or would not yield faster response times when compared to simple conditions. We originally hypothesized that there would be a significant effect of primed conditions’ response times. The final results collected from the experiment did indeed support this hypothesis as significant results were produced in primed conditions on the implicit memory test.

These findings are further supported by research done by DAN J.

WOLTZ VALERIE J. SHUTE at the University where they too yielded significant distinctions in reaction times when comparing primed versus simple conditions. Using repetition priming, participants’ reaction times when primed with stimulus repetitively, showed significantly faster RT than those in the controlled conditions. (…). Interestingly, another study conducted by Schvaneveldt and Meyer which utilized an implicit memory task known as the Lexical-Decision task, found reaction times seem to be dependent on the order in which the prime as well as the test were administered in (…).

One way these finding can be applied apply is in alcohol abstinence. The method called cognitive-bias modification (CBM) was developed by the University of Amsterdam psychology team. Patients were trained to push alcohol away with a joystick when presented on the screen. They were primed long-term to react to alcohol by turning away. Also, warm ups work in class because you’re activating those pathways before you do the real class work. So, this increases learning. It also shows us that we are influenced by everything we see and hear even those that we do not want to be influenced by.

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Another way priming can be beneficial is in research studying patients with brain damage. Amnesiacs have difficulty remembering everyday facts and events. They perform well on perceptual priming tasks but not on conceptual tests. This shows that amnesia affects explicit memory and priming occurs somewhere else. Scoville performed a bilateral medial-temporal- lobe resection on a young man, Henry Molaison (H.M.).

Seizures originated in the region that includes the amygdala, hippocampal formation, and associated subcortical structures, so Scoville removed them bilaterally. H.M suffered from severe amnesia after the surgery and could not recall anything that happened after his surgery (no explicit memory). Despite this deficit, HM had an above average IQ, he performed well on perceptual tests, and he could still recall events from his childhood. HM’s performance on implicit memory tests was left intact. Priming experiments on patients with brain damage help us understand how they are affected as well as giving insight on how the brain and memories function.

However, there are drawbacks to the current findings referring mainly to sample size. Because of the smaller sample size, the possibility of individual difference such as reading level and comprehension to affect the data are exemplified with only 20 participants. Also, some participants varied greatly in age compared to other participants which has been seen to invalidate data. Researchers have proposed the need for congruence among age of participants in order to yield the most accurate data. The most distinct challenge of the two would definitely be the sample size as research has large amounts of variability, it is best to draw inferences from a larger sample size when possible.

Although studies on the vast aspects of memory have remained prominent among research institutions, research has fallen short on sufficiently replicating data using priming; these findings may seem contradicting when analyzing the current data. Therefore, in this study the most intriguing finding was that priming did in fact increase response times significantly. However, further research using a larger, more broadened demographic of participants of the same age and educational level should be conducted in order to obtain more tangible results.

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Amnesia: How the Brain and Memory Function. (2022, Feb 14). Retrieved from

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