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Law and Memory Conference

Talk Descriptions


APRIL 1, 2011

8:30-8:40      Welcome/Introduction


8:40-8:55      Introduction to the Science of Memory - Anthony Wagner

This talk will provide a brief overview of memory systems, introducing central characteristics of different types of memory. A focus will be on episodic memory (memory for events) and how the episodic memory system differs, both functionally and neurobiologically, from other memory systems. The goal is to ground participants in key facts about memory, setting the stage for the day’s discussions about memory and law.

8:55-9:20      Reconsolidation in Human Memory - Almut Hupbach

When memories are reactivated, they return to a plastic state in which they can be modified.  Subsequently, those memories need to be restabilized (i.e., reconsolidated), as otherwise they may be irreversibly lost.  Reconsolidation effects have been found in a variety of animal protocols, shedding light on the molecular mechanisms and behavioral consequences of the reconsolidation process. Much less is known about reconsolidation in human memory.  In my talk, I will review recent studies on reconsolidation in fear conditioning, procedural, and episodic memory, which all demonstrate that human memories are subject to reactivation-dependent changes.

9:20-9:45      Cognitive Neuroscience of Emotional Memory - Kevin LaBar

Memories for emotional events constitute the core of our autobiographical record. Due to their personal and biological significance, it is likely that special mechanisms have evolved to link emotions to learning and memory functions in the brain. Advances in cognitive neuroscience and brain imaging have permitted an unprecedented opportunity to investigate how complex psychological processes interact in the healthy human brain. This lecture will summarize our current understanding of how dimensions of emotional experience modify memory formation and retrieval at the neural systems level. Emotional arousal engages the amygdala, a limbic region in the medial temporal lobe, that has widespread connections to cortical structures, including those implicated in memory processes. Brain imaging evidence links amygdala-hippocampal interactions with arousal-mediated memory benefits and the subjective sense of recollection. Studies of autobiographical memory and memory for complex real-world events illustrate how this core emotional memory circuit interfaces with brain areas supporting sensorimotor imagery and social cognition. When emotional arousal is dampened, additional prefrontal-dependent mechanisms contribute to memory formation for valenced information. Thus, multiple routes of neural processing ensure that varieties of emotional episodes are preferentially retained in long-term memory.

9:45-10:10      Creating Lasting Memories – James McGaugh

The presentation will summarize evidence that emotional arousal influences on memory involve release of stress hormones and subsequent noradrenergic activation of the amygdala.  Such activation influences memory processing in neural systems that process memories, including the hippocampus. The highly superior autobiographical human memory will be discussed in the context of these findings.

10:10-10:40    Panel I Discussion and Q & A, Moderated by Anthony Wagner

10:40-10:50    Break


10:50-11:15    The P300-based Complex Trial Protocol (CTP) in Detection of Concealed Memory - Peter Rosenfeld

This talk will discuss the origin of P300-based concealed information detectors, the vulnerability of the original “3-Stimulus Protocol” to countermeasures, and the development and theoretical justification of the CTP as a countermeasure-resistant procedure. It will then focus on some applications of the CTP in forensic and anti-terror situations in lab analogs.

11:15-11:40    Detecting Individual Memories Through the Neural Decoding of Memory States and Past Experience – Jesse Rissman

This talk will describe a series of fMRI studies aimed at assessing whether it is possible to document the presence or absence of an individual memory trace in a person’s brain based on the underlying fMRI activity pattern. Our findings demonstrate that while we can decode participants’ subjective recognition experiences with remarkably accuracy, we are unable to reliably uncover the veridical mnemonic record when it differs from subjective reports.

11:40-12:05    Detecting Implicit Memories: When Can Behavior And Brain Activity Disclose The Past Without Intention Or Awareness? – Joel Voss

Our remarkable abilities to willfully conjure learned knowledge and to mentally “relive” past experiences both foster the impression that memory can be controlled and, when it is summoned, occurs with conscious awareness. However, the residue of experience can also bubble up in other ways, and I will discuss research showing that memory can change our behavior without our intention to remember, and that this can occur without our awareness. Consideration of the brain processing supporting these unintentional/unconscious expressions of memory shows how they differ from intentional/conscious memory, and helps identify circumstances likely to promote unintentional/unconscious memory.

12:05-12:30    Constitutional and Legal Constraints on Memory Retrieval – Nita Farahany

As the science of memory detection advances, new issues concerning cognitive liberties arise. While the science of memory detection is nascent, legal applications are already being developed and discussed that may strain existing constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure or the right against self-incrimination. This talk will explore some of the constitutional and legal constraints on memory detection and retrieval.

12:30-1:00     Panel II Discussion and Q & A, Moderated by Brian Wandell

1:00-2:00     Lunch (On Your Own)


2:00-2:25      The Legal and Ethical Implications of Memory Dampening - Adam Kolber

Neuroscientists have made significant advances in identifying drugs to dampen the emotional intensity of traumatic memories. Such drugs hold promise for victims of terrorism, military conflict, assault, car accidents, and natural disasters who might otherwise suffer for many years from intense, painful memories. I argue that memory-dampening technologies may eventually require thoughtful regulation but that broad-brushed restrictions are unjustified: We have a deeply personal interest in controlling our own minds that entitles us to a certain “freedom of memory.”

2:25-2:50      What’s the Matter with Memory? - Elizabeth Loftus

Memory plays a central role in many legal cases.  Wrongful convictions are caused by faulty memory.   Some criminal convictions are caused by “failure of memory.” For at least a century, scientists have demonstrated the tricks memory can play.  More recently, they have shown that people can be led to develop entire memories for events that never happened. People can be led to falsely believe that they have had familiar experiences, but also rather bizarre or implausible ones. They can be led to believe that they did things that would have been impossible (e.g., shaking hands with Bugs Bunny during a trip to Disneyland). They can be led to falsely believe that they had experiences that would have been rather traumatic had they actually happened.  False memories, like true ones, also have consequences for people, affecting later thoughts, intentions, and behaviors.  If false memories can be so readily planted in the mind, what does it say about the nature of memory?   And if we can manipulate memory, is it ever ethical to deliberately do so?

2:50-3:15      Misunderstandings of Memory as Cause for Malpractice Claims - Bill Solmer

This talk focuses on the unscientific approaches to memory that were previously adopted by therapy professionals and used in therapy with confused patients. The results were an epidemic of preposterous claims of abuse brought against innocent people. This epidemic ended when the memory scientists stepped forward both in research and in testimony to dispel the non-scientific views of memory. This talk will review how the science of memory has made its way into the courtroom in civil cases; specifically how some courts have used the concept of repressed memories to expand statutes of limitations and how others have found that dealing with alleged repressed memories can give rise to malpractice claims.

3:15-3:40      Brain Activity and False Memories: Insights from Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation Studies – Felipe Fregni

This talk will focus on the role of non-invasive brain stimulation to modulate cortical excitability and its effects on cognitive performance including false memories. I will discuss the paradoxical behavioral effects of increasing and decreasing cortical excitability in cortical areas with noninvasive brain stimulation.

3:40-4:00      Break

3:50-4:15 Legal and Ethical Issues of Memory Manipulation Other Than Dampening – Hank Greely

The legal system may well be interested in manipulations of memory in addition to its dampening.  This talk with discuss about the possible legal and ethical issues that might be raised by workable methods of memory enhancement, both prospective and retrospective, as well as feasible ways to change memories. It will particularly explore issues of consent, especially where the consent may not be remembered.  It will end by speculating about issues around possible broad memory erasures.

4:15-4:45      Panel III Discussion and Q & A, Moderated by Mark Kelman


4:45-5:00      Summing Up:  Memory Going Forward, Hank Greely

5:00-5:45      Reception (wine and cheese)