The Making of Memories

Thursday, March 27, 2006
Common Hour
The Making of Memories
Weiss Center, Rubendall Recital Hall, 12:00 p.m.

Issue in Context
Memory is an essential quality of being human. Our individual and collective sense of identity depends on the workings of memory. Until recently, memory was studied largely as an aspect of philosophy. Modern technological advances make it possible for neurologists to examine memory’s biological operations, including long-term potentiation, (LTP). LTP occurs when one nerve cell stimulated by another, remembers the stimulation, and forms a cellular bond. This transformation of the nerve cell is essential to the storage of memory. The brain contains over 100 billion nerve cells, each with thousands of synapses. Whenever a memory is formed, some of these synapses change. As they are continually stimulated their surfaces are permanently altered forming connection points with other nerve cells. These contact points are the foundation for the contact and chemical alterations in the nerve cells that serve as memory units.

Cultural memory is a facet of every society. It is passed down collectively through generations, preserved in forms such as theatre, arts, literature, music and ritual. As an illustration of cultural memory, this event presents music and text from a Holocaust memorial, “A Survivor from Warsaw .” An exiled German-Jew recalls resistance to the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto. A site specific installation of the work of an Afro-Cuban artist will demonstrate the construction of a cultural and diasporic memory. Also, the issue of memory’s powerful influence on the first half-second of perceptual processing will be addressed. Additional focus will be on autobiographical memories, emotional memories, the accuracy of some of these constructs, and ways in which we often produce and cling to ‘false’ memories.

About the Speakers
Dr. Teresa Barber (moderator) is a member of the Psychology Department. She received her doctorate from the University of California , Berkeley . Barber is a biological psychologist and her teaching focuses on how the nervous system relates to behavior. Her research centers on the mechanisms and processes dealing with the storage of information in the brain, particularly how pathological states of memory storage relate to how the brain stores memory.

Dr. Richard Abrams is also a member of the Psychology Department. He received his doctorate from the University of Washington . Abrams is a cognitive psychologist whose teaching and research interests include the history of psychology, unconscious cognition, as well as sleep and dreams.

Jerry Philogene is a member of the American Studies Department. She is currently working on her doctoral dissertation at New York University . Her research focuses on how class, gender, ethnicity, and race intersect in visual and popular culture. Her teaching centers on black cultural and identity politics as well as interdisciplinary American cultural history.

Dr. Kim Rogers is a member of the History Department. She received her master’s degree in 1976 and her doctorate in 1982 from the University of Minnesota . Her teaching centers on gender and family history, U.S. History, and urban America . Her research interests include oral history, life-course analysis, and biography and autobiography.

Dr. Amy Wlodarski is a member of the Music Department. She serves as the conductor of the College Choir. She earned her doctorate in musicology for the Eastman School of Music. Her research focuses on how musical reception and composition is influenced by memory, particularly in political works and musical memorials.

Related Links
• Photos and Information about the Creation of Memory
• MIT News Office-Memory Formation Mechanism
• Cultural Memory
• False Memory Creation