Seeing Memories to Come

In the course of procedures to prepare epilepsy patients for surgery, medical science has for the first time mapped mental time travel, recording the firing of individual cells responsible for recall. The understanding of the responsible biology may eventually lead to help for sufferers of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

In this case epilepsy patients were asked to watch a series of brief video clips. Then:

After briefly distracting the patients, the researchers then asked them to think about the clips for a minute and to report 'what comes to mind.' The patients remembered almost all of the clips. And when they recalled a specific one — say, a clip of Homer Simpson — the same cells that had been active during the Homer clip reignited. In fact, the cells became active a second or two before people were conscious of the memory, which signaled to researchers the memory to come.

The discoveries are being reported today in the journal Science, according to the New York Times.