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INFLUENCES ON THE BRAIN MEMORY MECHANISM

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See links to attentionemotions and emotional state, sleep, and physical changes.

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See links to organisation and processing of material, and language.

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See supplementary material:

attentional states and cognitive function

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act of shifting, selecting and engagement

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characteristics of attended information

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divided attention theories

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See supplementary material:

effect of emotions and emotional state on brain memory

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psychologist views on emotions

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diagram of dopamine based brain system

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diagram of noradrenaline based brain system

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See supplementary material:

difference between informational memories and emotional tags

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prefrontal cortex ´sliding switch`

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reasons for an accepted magic answer

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See supplementary material:

sources of possible errors in option strategies

self-interest needs

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non-active methods

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possible options for tea or coffee choice

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sleep effects on brain memory mechanism

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importance of language

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skills required for language

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language roles in PISCO

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OVERVIEW OF CONTENTS

Attention

Including:

attentional states and input

attentional states and storage

attentional states and recall 

Emotions and emotional state

Including:

emotional state mechanisms

emotional tag formation

emotions and recall 

Sleep

sleep-wake cycle

5HT role

role of sleep in memory storage

 

Physical changes

damage

mental health disorders

substances

Organisation and processing 

personal influences

technical influences

 

Language

input mechanism

storage mechanism

language and recall 

 

INTRODUCTION

Influences on the brain memory mechanism advocated here can be described as either influences on the physical process itself or influences on the processing and organisation of the material. The former group consists of certain ´big guns, for example, 

  • attentional system functioning 

  • emotional system functioning 

plus other influences such as sleep, physical changes through illness and injury and drug administration.

Whereas the latter group consists of, amongst other things:

  • organisation and processing of material 

  •  language. 

ATTENTION

OWL and attentional states

Self-examination shows that cognitive processes demonstrate varying levels of efficiency. As far as brain memory is concerned we are aware from an early age that if we need to learn something we have to study it acutely, concentrate on it, repeat it and so on, but most of our day is spent in a more relaxed state. In this state, we experience our external environment, we think, we plan and we can relate what we have done or seen without performing this more formal learning procedure. Under these ´relaxed` normal conditions, sensory information about our external environment is inputted and our attention is widespread, ´flitting` from one thing to another. Often our attention picks out one thing – a bird, the sound of aeroplanes or the smell of smoke – and suddenly our attention is ´held` on this object. It can stay there or begin ´flitting` again. This wandering of attention can be pleasant and harmless as in the case just described or our lack or ´wandering` of attention can be a hindrance as in the case of trying to learn a list of the kings and queens of England when an important football match is being played in the background. In these circumstances, we may have to strive to maintain concentration and attention, with our determination at completing our task being overshadowed by the temptation to ´half-listen in` or affected by our level of tiredness for example. Focused attention on a task aside the formal learning situation is not uncommon in our daily lives, for example cooking, driving, even watching TV all require attention and focus to some degree. Most of the time this normal focused condition is relaxed, but sometimes the situation becomes more extreme and fear and panic sets in.

The above examples of conditions where brain memory is formed or involved demonstrate a link between attention and ´emotional state`, where emotional state reflects the overall working level (OWL) of the brain largely brought about by the interplay of two neurotransmitter brain systems - dopamine for ´pleasure/happy` state and noradrenaline for ´fear/panic`. Although it appears that attentional state and emotional state are closely related to one another in this matter, they are however separate systems which are interrelated, since for example a specific emotional state can instigate an attentional state and vice versa and individuals can learn to alter either emotional state or attentional state resulting with effects on cognitive processes. For example, by learning to keep calm in the face of danger, the attentional state is adapted from one of fear to normal focused and cognitive and memory changes will ensue.

The changes in the memory process exhibited under the different conditions has prompted, by ´outside the box` thinking, a definition of three attentional states involved in the brain memory process:

1)      normal - for those relaxed conditions when learning is not required and attention ´flits` around the external environment (domination of the dopamine-based brain system and the basal ganglia inhibits thalamic activity).

2)      normal focused - when focus lies on a deliberate object or location and learning may take place (again the dopamine-based system dominates and the basal ganglia inhibits thalamic activity).

3)      fear – when focus is on a specific event perceived to be ´dangerous` (the dominating emotional system is the noradrenaline-based one and the resulting emotion experienced is fear).

These three attentional states are linked to changes in the brain memory process and other cognitive functions, for example decision-making and monitoring.

Normal attentional state and input

In the normal attentional state, visual sensory input occurs by firing the appropriate pathways. This means that shape, colour, movement, size and location are all detected for any objects placed in the visual field, particularly in the fovea and as a result temporary sensory stores representing the unique firing patterns are created. However, constant head, neck and body movements (the sensation of ´flitting`) fail to keep the object in the same place in the visual field and so activation of the fired pathways is not sustained. Therefore, the conditions required for the formation of the short-term memory stores recording the event  are not met and the temporary sensory stores decay. The net effect in brain memory terms is that the event has never occurred.  

The extent to which sensory input forms temporary sensory stores in the normal attentional state conforms to the psychologists` theories of Treisman (1964) and Deutsch and Deutsch (1963) in that all presented sensory information is processed partially or fully depending on the perceptual load capacity (Lavie, 1995). This means that all visual information placed in the fovea and peripheral areas of the visual field area is inputted according to the number and type of sensory organ cells present at the retinal level.  In the normal attentional state, visual processing takes place to the furthest points of the described pathways, i.e. the ´end-of-road` cortical cells. If conditions are appropriate then ´fleeting` conscious and subconscious recognition could take place. This explains why in Von Wright, Anderson and Stenman`s study (1975), one third of subjects could hear their own name even when focusing on something else and why we know every item of a visual event even if later we cannot remember it. It is likely that perceptual load capacity in the normal attentional state is working at full capacity, although cognitive performance is at a minimum. 

The normal attentional state, although cognitively relatively unproductive, elicits a pleasurable/´happy` emotional experience: one that is often searched for as demonstrated by our need for peace and relaxation. Physiologically, under these conditions the OWL reflects the domination of the dopamine-based brain system. Therefore, the thalamic activity is inhibited by the action of the basal ganglia. The ´sliding switch` mechanism of the prefrontal cortex reflects the ´pleasure` value of the event and inhibits the action of the amygdala. However, neither sensory information nor the emotional state are recorded in brain memory storage, since the conditions for the formation of the iNCA are not met. 

Normal focused attentional state and input

The idyllic normal attentional state with sensory ´flitting` is often taken over by a focusing of attention on a particular sensory experience within the sensory field. This focusing action can be deliberate as a result of a number of reasons, such as personal interest or forced by the command of an outsider and results in positive changes in cognitive function. Psychologists define focusing as presenting people with two stimuli or more at one time and instructing them to respond to only one and essentially the same definition can be applied biochemically. Although more than ´one` object is presented in the visual field for example, only ´one` will be selected and initiates an activation of the cognitive systems to the point of response. As far as brain memory is concerned a shift from normal to normal focused attentional state is accompanied by the possibility of learning being able to take place. The act of focusing attention means biochemically that in the case of the visual system, the object or location of choice remains in the visual field and particularly in the foveal area.  The stimulus causes appropriate cells to fire, which activate the relevant pathways from the sensory organ to the brain and temporary sensory stores are formed in the cortical layers representing the incoming information. ´Holding` the stimulus in this position may require movement of the head or eyes for example, and this results in sustained activation of those fired cells and a shift from the brain memory temporary sensory stores to the short-term memory stores, the iNCA, occurs.

The act of focusing requires moving attention from one object to another, i.e. one event is selected over others. Allport (1993) and Posner and Petersen (1990) determined with regards to the visual sensory system that this shift of attention required three separate processes: a disengagement of attention, i.e. focus or foveal point from a given visual stimulus; a shift of focus to the intended location; and a re-engagement of attention on the new visual stimulus. Posner and Peterson (1990) proposed that the control of these three separate abilities were all functions of the posterior attention system, resembling the stimulus-driven system of Corbetta and Shulman (2002). They suggested a hierarchy of attentional systems where the anterior system based in the frontal lobes can pass control to the posterior system when it is not occupied with processing other material. The posterior system controls lower-level aspects of attention such as the disengagement stage.

The first stage of the act of attention, the disengagement of attention from a stimulus was shown by Posner and Petersen (1990) to evoke much activity in the parietal area. This act of disengagement is attributed to a posterior control system, which can be influenced by the higher level anterior control system. Biochemically, and with regards to the visual system, reasons for disengagement are either as a result of visual pathway stimulating preferences (such as moving objects being more stimulating than still, bright colours more than dark), or as a result of instruction coming from the higher levels of the brain (such as seen in the decision-making process in the need to complete object recognition and in forming memories of complete events). Although natural shifting within the visual system in the absence of higher level control occurs as a result of visual pathway stimulating preferences, conscious shifting shows no boundaries. The selected stimulus can be location-based (as in the zoom-lens model of Erikson, 1990), object-based or both and visual search studies show that features and background can play a role in the search for particular objects within the visual field.

The act of shifting and selecting and engagement of the new stimulus may require movement of the head or eyes so that it is located in the fovea in the visual field. Physiologically, these processes have been attributed to the actions of several brain areas such as the WHAT and WHERE visual pathways, lateral intraparietal neurons and pulvinar nucleus of thalamus. The result of the selection and holding of the event in focus is that the sensory stores formed initially by the appropriately fired cells and pathways are converted into the temporary short-term memory stores, the iNCA, which represent the unique firing event. The features of the event are subject to firing restriction typical for sustained activation.

Special features of the biochemical mechanism that have been related in psychological research to attention such as inhibition of return and priority to the unattended are important to the brain memory processes. ´Outside the box` thinking attributes inhibition of return to the detection of movement. If we imagine a selected object in the fovea this point would show the highest level of activation. Any movement of it would instigate responses in order to keep it in the foveal point, but for a short period of time the object would be stimulating other areas close to the original. Therefore, these cells would then appear to have higher priority. This also fits in with the finding that the response enhanced by attention drawn to one location, enhances response to other stimuli near to that location, i.e. priority to the unattended.

Thus, the unique firing event creates the iNCA, whose content depends on the level of processing that occurs on the incoming information. As Treisman (1964) and Deutsch and Deutsch (1963) showed, all incoming information is either partially or fully processed according to perceptual load capacity (Lavie, 1995). In biochemical terms, the information entering through the foveal point is likely to be fully processed and will cause ultimately the response, whether it is an action or brain memory formation. Other information from the peripheral areas of the visual field can also be processed to the point of recognition (full processing), which means that their pathways are also fired to their end-point in the cortex, or they can be partially processed, if perceptual capacity is restricted. In the case of brain memory, the higher the level of cortex stimulated, the greater the complexity of the input. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests the possibility of a link between the psychologists` concept of perceptual load capacity to the activation levels of the pathways being stimulated at the time. Stimuli located in the fovea, because of the greater concentration of retinal cells in this area, promote higher levels of activation than those areas in the periphery.  Hence, this area is dominant and possibly because of this dominance, results ultimately in the response. In terms of perceptual load then the stimulus in the fovea requires higher capacity than those stimuli in the periphery, which can utilise the remaining capacity.

The suggestion that level of activation plays a role in attentional selection is supported by studies by Treisman (1964) and Wolfe (1998) on features. Treisman`s feature integration theory (1964) described a process where incoming information about visual features are processed rapidly in parallel without attention, then combined (a process requiring the parietal cortex, an area known to be linked to the WHAT and WHERE pathways) and allocated location to form the object. Information in the iNCA formed may be supplemented by information already stored. If this hypothesis is correct, the level of activation of such a combined NCA will be greater, hence processing is more likely to be on this selected stimulus than a lower acting one. On a basic level it does seem plausible. Wolfe (1998) in his guided search theory also linked selection with activation. He suggested that the initial visual processes are efficient and initial processing of basic features produces an activation map with every item in the visual display having its own level of activation, the iNCA equivalent. Attention is directed towards items on the basis of their level of activation starting with those most activated, thus agreeing with this ´outside the box` version of the attentional selection mechanism, where the highest level of activation dominates processing and response. 

Until now I have only discussed the effect of selection on the visual sensory system, but everyone knows that the focus of attention can stretch across all sensory systems simultaneously (crossmodal attention) and the iNCA contains information from all types of sensory input. For example, in the case of the lion running towards an individual then the individual would not just see it, but hear it and smell it, too. As far as the memory process goes then the more different the stimuli, the better the performance (Allport, Antonis and Reynolds, 1972) and therefore, co-ordination of incoming information from more than one sensory system is preferred. Driver and Spence (1998) showed that visual, auditory and tactile sensory systems cooperate with each other and more specifically stimulation in one sense at a given location serves to direct attention in another sensory system to that location – a process similar to the cellular priority to nearby stimuli described above. They suggested that the crossmodal attentional effects were probably dependant at least in part on the presence of multimodal cells, which are responsive to more than one modality. These cells show strong responses to multimodal stimulation at a given location, but show reduced response when multimodal stimulation is in different locations. Driver and Spence also found just bimodal cells and trimodal (vision, audition and touch) ones. Neurophysiological evidence showed that not all cells were equally responsive with weaker crossmodal links in endogenous spatial attention between auditory and touch than auditory and vision or between vision and touch (Lloyd et al. 2003).

´Outside the box` thinking on multimodal cells is that their detection is probably a reflection of the sensitivity of experimental techniques to divide or image cells. The various brain areas are often responsible for more than one function, often interconnecting. Separation of cells peculiar to only one function or separation of only one type of cell is difficult to achieve experimentally. Therefore, Driver and Spence`s studies may have been carried out on groups of cells each individually responding to only one modality, so that the clump of cells appears to be multimodal. The idea that cells act in groups according to each special sensitivity is more appealing especially in the light of the iNCA concept. The unique firing pattern for each event presumes ´multimodal` stimulation and therefore, a group of cells in close proximity activated by one event and representing the activation of several sensory systems would provide a good solution to the problem of scattered brain area activation. It is likely that multimodal functioning of single cells probably reflects similar secondary effects of the particular sensory systems and this in one way restricts the variability of the firing.

The end-effect of perceptual load capacity and processing limitation is that the content of the sensory stores and iNCA probably do not reflect the total event existing in the external environment and this is clear from self-experience – one can only see or hear so much. Foveal and peripheral selection results in the situation that some objects can promote responses, and other objects partially or fully processed, do not. The psychologists defined this division as attended information and unattended. Often this is linked to task relevant information and task irrelevant and at first glance they appear to be the same. However a subtle difference exists – not all attended information needs to be task relevant and vice versa.  Characteristics of attended information are for example, it is fully processed according to psychologist theory and is associated with enhancement of neural response strength. According to the psychologists Treismann (1964) and Deutsch and Deutsch (1963), unattended information also may be fully or partially processed according to perceptual load capacity. Biochemically, this means that firing of appropriate cells at the sensory organ level will result in activation of the pathways until either object recognition is possible, or lower cortical levels are reached. Neurophysiological studies such as fMRI and ERP studies have shown evidence of this with reduced processing of unattended visual stimuli. They have even shown that there is a masked delay with unattended information of 50msec, equivalent to the individual not being able to see the object in question, but knowing it is there. The location of unattended information is unlikely to be the fovea, which correlates to biochemical studies of the visual processing system. ´Outside the box` thinking on attended and unattended information relating to brain memory formation is that the amount of sensory input processed is dependent on the individual perceptual load capacity. This explains the limitation on the temporary sensory and iNCA store size. Whether this material is attended or unattended depends on the location within the sensory fields (focus taking priority over peripherally-placed material) and the complexity of the material (certain characteristics take priority over others, e.g. shape, size, colour over pattern.

The limit of material and the priority of certain characteristics over others lead to the conclusion that focus and attention can be controlled. Corbetta and Shulman (2002) described two systems that control the selection of what is ´held` in the focal point and hence, results in a response of some kind. The act is a deliberate one as shown by the increased speed at which attention/focus can be shifted to another object (50msec) compared to the natural movement of the visual field in saccades (200msec). Corbetta and Shulman`s two systems are: 

  • one goal-directed, top-down system involving selection of sensory information and responses: influenced by expectation, knowledge, and current goals; involved in participant given a cue predicting location, motion, or other characteristics of a forth-coming visual stimulus; a dorsal fronto-parietal network.
  • one stimulus-driven, bottom-up system involved in the detection of salient or conspicuous unattended visual stimuli: used when unexpected and potentially important stimulus is presented; has a ´circuit-breaking` function meaning that visual attention is redirected from its current focus; a right hemisphere ventral fronto-parietal network.

 Posner (1980) also defined two systems equivalent to Corbetta and Shulman`s, but he defined them as an endogenous system controlled by the participants intentions and involved when central cues are presented (like Corbetta and Shulman`s goal-directed system) and an exogenous system, which automatically shifts attention and is involved when un-informative peripheral cues are presented (Corbetta and Shulman`s stimulus driven system). Therefore, system 1 is controlled from within, and 2 is inspired from outside. ´Outside the box` thinking on the control of selected material is in agreement with the theories of Corbetta and Shulman and Posner. System 1 will be discussed in more detail in the sections on brain memory recall, but reflects the use of previously formed memories to interpret and dictate sensory selection. System 2 could explain the priority of certain characteristics over others, e.g. moving objects over still, bright colours over dark, loud noises over quiet.

 In some circumstances, the selection of objects based on these characteristics can lead to distraction from the focus and is not dependent on task relevancy. This often means that a shift occurs from attended information to previously unattended information. Fischer et al. 2006 stated that it is automatic that the eyes seek out things it actually is not seeking for, but focusing reduces this and distractions can be ignored. The psychologist`s classic experiment on change blindness, where the man in the ape costumes participates in a group experiment unobserved by subjects who were so engrossed in their given task, is a good example (Simons and Chabris 1999). Remingtion, Johnston and Yantis (1992) also reaffirmed ideas that rapidly changing visual stimuli (especially those having abrupt onsets) attract attention as do stimuli whose properties are very different from all other nearby stimuli. He showed that task performance worsened in the presence of abrupt onset distracters indicating that they had captured attention and a shift had occurred from task relevant information to task irrelevant as the focus of attention. This process was found by Stoets and Snyder (2006) to be strongly impaired by ketamine, a NMDA antagonist, suggesting that glutamate receptors play a role. Unattended information of this type, which interrupted goal-directed attention was found by Corbetta and Shulman (2002) to be detected by interactions through the tempero-parietal junction and the intraparietal sulcus, the latter involved in assessing the value of the distracting stimulus. In the case of where conflict is caused by such a shift, then activation of the ACC and the resulting activation of the prefrontal cortex to increase the level of task-relevant information, results.

Distraction may not mean that the original stimulus is replaced by another. It is possible to focus attention on more than one area in what is termed as divided attention.  In this case no conflict would be registered unlike in the case of distracting elements. Most of the work on divided attention has been carried out by psychologists using multitasking type experiments. As expected from self-observation, ability to multitask and hence have attention on two or more focal points is influenced by many physiological factors including anxiety (Weltman, Smith and Egstrom, 1971), the state of the tasks themselves (similarity of the tasks and the degree of difficulty – Wickens, 1984) and performance can even be improved by learning (work by Green and Bavelier discussed by Phillips, 2007). Various models have been suggested for divided attention such as Central capacity interference theory (Norman and Bobrow, 1975) and the theory of specific mechanisms (Allport, 1989). The biochemical mechanism for divided attention relies on the ability of the sensory organs and pathways to operate together simultaneously. Incoming sensory information of all senses is processed at the same time according to perceptual load theory (Norman`s central capacity theory) and selection. This means that more than incoming input at the foveal point can be fully processed. All this other information is therefore, available to initiate a response if required to do so (divided attention). However, because foveal information produces higher levels of activation, it has priority over peripheral information (Allport`s theory of specific mechanisms). Since all modalities and muscular systems have their own ´focus` and ´peripheral` systems, then it is possible that more than one stimulus can be dealt with at any one time. Even if they compete, other mechanisms such as automatic processing can come into play and this will be discussed later in the sections on brain memory recall.

The end-effect of the normal focused attentional state is that iNCA are formed appropriate to the ´real-time` sensory input and content is restricted by perceptual load theory. The emotional state linked with such conditions remains ´pleasure/happy` reflecting an OWL dominated by the dopamine-based brain system. Prefrontal cortex activation corresponds to the varying ´sliding switch` level for pleasure and this leads to the storage of the emotional tag, reflecting the ´real-time` OWL, in conjunction with any sensory information.  

Fear attentional state and input 

The third attentional state proposed here is the ´fear` state, which promotes cognitive function changes, as well as the instigation of physiological ´fight or flight` type responses.   Certain features of the ´fear` attentional system remain unchanged compared to the normal systems and these are:

1)      Control is still through two systems (Corbetta and Shulman 2002, Posner 1980) – one top-down and the other bottom-up. This still occurs with the incoming stimuli promoting the bottom-up and the prefrontal cortex activation due to previous encounters dictating the top-down control.

2)      All stimuli in the visual field and other sensory fields are processed fully or partially according to perceptual load theory (Lavie, 1995)

3)      Selection of stimuli can still be location-based, object-based or both. (Search capability appears quicker, but this may be an illusion since finer details are lost or the individual is less distracted by them.)

4)      Visual processes and other sensory systems remain structurally the same. Biochemical firing mechanisms and pathways remain essentially the same with a few notable exceptions. Susskind et al. (2008) proposed that facial expressions of fear were linked to larger visual fields and faster eye movements.

5)      Divided attention and crossmodal attention considerations remain unchanged.

However, the fear attentional state appears to induce two changes in the mechanism for brain memory input. These are that perceptual load capacity appears to be increased and that the normal biochemical ´holding` of object within the sensory field required for iNCA formation appears not to be met by the sensory systems themselves.

The first difference, the increase in perceptual load capacity, was found to be attributed to the activity of certain brain areas involved in attentional and emotional states – the anterior cingulated cortex (ACC), the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala. It was observed by a rise in level of attended information compared to unattended. Memories formed under ´fear` conditions appear to be all encompassing, which implies that details that are under normal circumstances not remembered form in this case part of the memory of the event. Therefore, there appears to be a shift from being unattended information under normal conditions to attended in ´fear` conditions or from task irrelevant to task relevant. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that the process for this change involves the activation of the ACC as part of the hippocampal loop and activation of the prefrontal cortex, which then removes its inhibition from the amygdala, known to have an important role in the ´fear` emotional state. 

The result of this prefrontal cortex activation was shown to be the amplification of task relevant information rather than inhibition of task irrelevant (Nieuwenhuis and Yeung, 2005 and Egner and Hirsch, 2005). Stoets and Snyder`s work (2006) implies that there is a rise in both, since there was a subsequent decrease in ignoring unwanted stimulus associated with amygdala activity. This effect was also supported by Quirk and Vidal-Gonzalez (2006), who said that the amygdala is responsible for filtering out unthreatening stimulus, otherwise people would respond to all sorts of inappropriate cues. ´Outside the box` thinking has to re-define this statement in accordance with the hypothesis put forward here, since under normal conditions the amygdala activity is held in check by the prefrontal cortex and hippocampal loop. Under stress conditions, the amygdala activity increases and changes in perceptual load capacity occur. Another observation by Adolphs, Tranel and Buchanan (2005) showed that under these circumstances the quality of the information stored was decreased: an increase in gist memory and a decrease in detailed memory were seen.

´Outside the box` thinking leads to two interpretations of these findings: either the actual perceptual load capacity is increased in the ´fear` situation (according to Niewenhuis and Yeung, 2005), or the perceptual load remains the same and the quality of the incoming information changes to the more superficial (or what could be termed task-irrelevant). ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that both hypotheses are correct. The actual perceptual load capacity increases through amygdala action on the thalamus. This effect increases sensory input, perhaps brought about by a change in number or type of thalamic cells stimulated or through action on the pulvinar nuclei.  Normally, the pulvinar nuclei of the thalamus prevent attention being focused on unwanted stimuli, but in this case when the inhibiting effect is removed, more input from the stimuli occurs by increasing the functioning of the lateral geniculate nuclei (LGN), MGN and other sensory equivalents. This also provides a link between the attentional system and the emotional system. Accompanying the increase in capacity, which means that more items are inputted fully (satisfies Stoet and Snyder, 2006 and Quirk and Vidal-Gonzalez, 2006 hypotheses) is a reduction in the level of detail of each item (satisfies Adolphs, Tranel and Buchanan, 2005). For example, maybe less reference points are inputted, or shape takes priority over contrast details, so that an object may have shape and colour, but pattern details are missing. This could be at the processing, i.e. cortical level or at the level of the sensory organ. This hypothesis supports the nature of the circumstances instigating this change, e.g. ´fight or flight` tactics in fear circumstances probably appoint more importance on shape and movement of objects in the external environment than on pattern. As far as brain memory is concerned, the level of input reflects the level of memory of the event. Detail may be conscious or subconscious dependent on perceptual load capacity, if at all remembered. However more research is required to demonstrate whether this is indeed the case and so for the time being, we must assume that in the ´fear` attentional state, there is increased perceptual load capacity with increased levels of task relevant material perhaps with loss of detail, and increased levels of what can seem like task-irrelevant.

The second difference in brain memory input between conditions in normal attentional state and the ´fear` attentional state is that it appears that the normal biochemical conditions attributed to iNCA formation seem not to be met. Sustained activation through ´holding` the stimulus in the foveal point appears not to be applicable in the ´fear` circumstance, since the external environment is often rapidly changing and repetition or ´holding` even through individual movement cannot occur. Even so, memories of fear events are often far more encompassing than normal and therefore, it must be concluded that the sustained activation of the neuronal cell pathways to consolidate the temporary sensory stores into the more longer-term short term memory stores must occur, but not in the same way as in normal attentional circumstances. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests on the evidence that certain brain areas, e.g. amygdala, prefrontal cortex and thalamus can be fired without external stimulus, and that a change in timing of firing through the internal synchronicity mechanisms might be the answer. Changing the timing of firing, i.e. ´holding the firing` of the cells where the external stimulus no longer exists, as in the case of the rapidly changing ´fear` external environment, may mean that sustained activation can be maintained internally for those cells and other cells will be responding to the ´real-time` external stimulus. Therefore, the internally ´held` cells and their subsequent pathways will be ´detached` from the ´real-time` events and the representation at the higher cortical levels will be of an event that no longer exists. A change in synchronicity between the two types of ´stimulus` must therefore exist. Support for such a theory comes from the perception that time appears slower in ´fear` situations. An explanation for this may be that the detached cells ´hold` an image that no longer in ´real-time` exists and a change to the next image is forced when sustained activation of the cells is brought to a close by the refractory period of the cell. The control of such synchronicity is likely to be through the hippocampus, which has previously been described as a relay station. Firing can be sustained with LTP through glutamate AMPA receptor activation (Nicoll and Schmitz, 2005). Hence, timing becomes detached from real-time events.

 Just like with the normal attentional states, the ´fear` attentional state is linked with the emotional system. In this case, however, the noradrenaline-based brain system appears to dominate and the state brings about the physiological and cognitive effects required for the situation. Important ´players` in the emotional system, e.g. the amygdala, cingulated cortex and prefrontal cortex mirror the important ´players` creating the ´fear` attentional state. However, the prefrontal cortex ´sliding switch` mechanism suggested for the recording of the emotional tag indicates the activated noradrenaline system and under such conditions the emotional tag stored with any incoming sensory information will reflect the heightened physiological state.

Implications of attentional system role in input

Two important influences capable of external manipulation play deciding roles in the brain memory mechanism itself and these are the attentional and emotional systems. The interrelationship between these systems and the nervous system means that manipulation of both can cause significant changes in choice, quality and quantity of information inputted into the brain memory mechanism in ´real-time` and its subsequent processing, storage and recall. In the input stage, it is obviously necessary to maximise quality and quantity of information taken in. Therefore, the attentional state applicable for the circumstance of deliberate learning is the normal, focused one with focusing either subconscious (e.g. LIP action), or conscious (e.g. guided by speech). Focusing allows selection of the event with the implication that if this occurs then the conditions of sustained activation is achieved and storage or recall stages will result. A shift to the fear attentional state means a change in quantity (increased) and quality of information (less detail, more gist with proposed lower level cortical activation in preference to higher levels representing for example, shape but not pattern) according to the ´outside the box` mechanism advocated here – a situation not ideal for ´school-type` learning for example. 

Therefore, this implies that by manipulating the attentional state from one where normally the fear attentional state would be in operation to the normal, focused one then an improvement in conscious learning performance of the brain memory mechanism will result. This can be brought about by, for example, relaxation exercises (such as deep breathing) or positive speech (inner or from others). These methods are also beneficial in bringing about focus, not only physically selecting the event in question, but also reducing distraction and divided attention, both factors that can cause decreased memory input efficiency. Therefore, the state of the attentional system and its manipulation are important implications of the brain memory version advocated here.

Attentional state and ´as is` storage

Since focus and attention was found to affect the formation of the iNCA in input, then the question whether or not it affects sNCA formation as well must also be asked. Attentional state influences perceptual load capacity and the level of detail in the content of the iNCA in the input stage and by sustaining cellular activation via internal means in the case of fear memories. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests therefore, that attentional state can affect long-term storage by the same methods – perceptual load capacity and detail would affect the quality and quantity of the content and sustained activation would lead to the conversion of the iNCA to the sNCA. The same constraints apply as for iNCA and this is made apparent when one considers the recent explosion of the so-called ´memory improving devices` on the consumer market. These are prime examples of influencing short-term memory and not long-term and involve sharpening input and short-term memory processes, without providing the conditions for the shift to permanency. For example, consider the situation where ´improved memory` consists of looking at a screen, memorising characters within a five second period, removing the stimulus and then saying what has been omitted or changed when the original stimulus is re-introduced. The data has not been manipulated and is an example of straightforward recall based on short-term memory as the stimulus is re-introduced fairly quickly after learning, and often the individual is subjected to many of these within a short period of time. Hence, no long-term memory of the stimulus occurs since there is no extended period of activation, although perhaps memory of actually doing the exercise does (episodic memory).

Attentional state via the activity of the prefrontal cortex cannot be said to control or monitor the formation of the ´as is` memories. ´Outside the box` thinking leads to the conclusion that in this case, it is likely that as long as the physical conditions required for sustained activation exist, then storage proceeds as described with or without conscious leadership and monitoring. The quality of the memories stored may be variable, but the actual storage mechanism does not change providing the physical conditions for it exist: what is experienced and inputted through the sensory pathways is what is stored, almost like an ´automated/mechanical/conveyor belt` type process. This is why ´as is` type memories are the backbone of all other brain memory types. From this type of storage, the complete representation of the event in the external environment experienced by the individual is stored as far as perceptual load capacity restraints allow from these types of memory, a knowledge-base, personality and individuality are eventually built.

Attentional state and variable storage

If brain memories are being recorded ´as is` then the next stage from input would be the formation of the sNCA and the accompanying cellular changes such as gene modulation would occur. However, in variable memory, the involvement of previously stored information in the storage mechanism of some input forces the insertion of another stage in the memory process. This stage requires the working memory state, which is achieved by the two contesting forces - the firing of ´end-of-the road` cells of the relevant sensory pathways responding to the external stimuli in ´real-time` and firing of cells representing previously stored memory groupings (the sNCA) initially incited by the former. Two scenarios can then occur, depending on the strength of one or the other participant.

The first possible scenario is that the new incoming information complements the existing information contained within the sNCA and therefore, the tNCA formed at this time consists of the two types of firing cells: strengthened firing and connections between shared known features and less strong groupings representing the new information. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that some form of processing can then take place, e.g. generic version formation, categorisation or emotional tag changes, which shifts the permanent memories formed from a copy of the external event to something that is variable, dependent on external and internally sourced information.

The common factor in the processing stages is that a change in ´awareness` (or ´consciousness`) is initiated from one of automatic processing/low awareness to one where conscious processing has to take place. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that this is the result of the two contesting activated cell forces (the iNCA and the sNCA) present in the tNCA. A shift in attention to normal focused or even fear results and this involves, the action of the prefrontal cortex, cingulated cortex and possibly amygdala areas.  This view is supported by research evidence that has shown that both the frontal lobes and the prefrontal cortex are linked to working memory function (Vijayraghavan et al. 2007). In this context, the prefrontal cortex influences the attentional state (and possibly emotional state), which fits in with its role in Corbetta and Shulman`s top-down system (2002), Posner and Peterson`s three attentional systems (1990) and Baddeley`s central executive (1986). The limited capacity shown to occur in working memory is therefore explained by this prefrontal cortex involvement and perceptual load capacity restrictions dictated by the attentional system. The role of the frontal lobes in working memory may demonstrate the importance of language in cognition in these circumstances. Experience shows that inner and oral speech can help processing.

In the alternative scenario, some of the new incoming information conflicts with that from the previous experiences. In this case, the iNCA is formed representing the external event as normal. Some features will be shared with those stored in the sNCA so that the tNCA results from the culmination of commonly fired cells. However, activation of the cells within the sNCA may stimulate cells that ´conflict` with the firing ´real-time` neurones representing the event in the external environment. This conflict will occur at the highest level of storage cells and the resulting tNCA will activate the prefrontal cortex, cingulated cortex and amygdala areas leading to a heightened attentional and awareness state, that of fear. Changes in perceptual load capacity and content associated with such a condition then result and also, language and speech centres may be activated to help. The iNCA formed from the altered conditions will be dealt with as described and hence, new or different information will be presented in the tNCA with consequences on the firing sNCA. ´Outside the box` thinking then suggests that three scenarios may result from the conflict: the incoming information is ignored; the incoming information is given priority over the stored; or the differences between new and stored are deemed as acceptable, forming ´wobble` in the representation. 

In the case of the incoming information being ignored, then the old sNCA version is kept and the current input eventually dies out, since sensory focus is no longer on that particular feature of the stimulus, and therefore conditions for the formation of the iNCA are not met. The decision to ignore incoming information is probably the result of frontal lobe activation and an easing of attentional state will result.

In the case where the ´real-time` input takes priority over the stored information, the tNCA formed between the input and the appropriately fired sNCA cells represents the current event more than the past stored one. In this case, the tNCA consists of ´real-time` ´end-of-the-road` firing, which is stronger or more prevalent than the connections between the relevant fired sNCA cells. Repetition or ´holding` of the firing of these incoming signals eventually leads to the replacement of the stored information in those cases so that the resulting sNCA can consist of both new and old information. The conflict situation between the two contesting sets of cells leads to the activation of the prefrontal cortex, cingulated cortex and amygdala, which will attempt to resolve the situation by changing the attentional state so that for example perceptual load capacity is increased in order that more information is obtained. However, the shift from details to gist may not be advantageous for working memory as Gazzaley et al. (2005) showed. They found that a decrease in task irrelevant suppression with increasing age led to a defect in working memory. The resulting tNCA by sustained activation then proceeds to the next stage of the storage mechanism that of the cellular changes necessary to convert the temporary tNCA to the permanent sNCA.

The third scenario in this ´outside the box` version of variable memory formation is that the conflicting iNCA and sNCA firing cells are deemed by the process as acceptable differences between the ´real-time` and recorded event. These features are unlikely to be core features instead lesser details that are not essential for recognition or other defining uses on recall in the future. They represent what is termed the ´wobble`. In single events, the wobble could be features such as colour or absolute size for example. In moving or sequential events it could represent the positioning of the legs for example in running. This scenario is important because it is the essential mechanism with which generic versions are created and in this case, although attentional state is heightened at the beginning due to the ´conflict` signal, the search for matching or complementary features leads to a relaxation once the differences are regarded as acceptable. The signal for this probably comes top-down and hence is under the control of the prefrontal cortex, just like in the other scenarios. Once accepted, then the resulting tNCA has to meet the sustained activation conditions required to turn into the permanent memory stores. 

Therefore, it can be summarised that in this ´outside the box` version of brain memory formation, the attentional state is important in not only monitoring the conflict of the two contesting firing groups (the iNCA and sNCa) in the working memory state it is also important or providing the solutions to it, too.

Implications of attentional state in storage

The attentional system has been assigned in this ´outside the box` version of the brain memory mechanism two functions in the storage stage. The first function is the same as for input and that is the maintenance of focus on selected material so that the biochemical conditions of storage are met, i.e. sustained activation of participating cells through rehearsal or ´holding`. As this implies, this function can be externally manipulated just like in the input stage by for example, seeking out the selected target. The second function is initially incapable of external intervention and that is the registration of conflict between the input and material already stored relating to the common core features of both. Conflict is dealt with subconsciously by giving priority to the features with the strongest activation, but it can also be consciously coped with by selecting alternative input through changing the focus, giving priority to previously stored material (i.e. the input is ignored and focus is changed) or by accepting that there are inconsistencies (for example, colour differences). As stated above, the aim of the attentional system is to remain in a normal and focused state, and therefore, attempts to eliminate conflict as soon as possible are made.

Attentional state and recall without processing

The attentional and emotional systems appear to play roles in the brain memory input and storage stages by, for example affecting the quality and quantity of information, creating the ´real-time` emotional state and emotional tag, and maintaining conditions for the sustained activation of relevant cells. The recall stage also appears to be affected by attentional state and from self-experience, one knows that efficiency of recall is dependent on a number of factors, e.g. the type of task influences the level of attention with shoelace tying requiring less attention than algebraic problem solving. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that the attentional system in brain memory recall without processing is in the normal focused state and has at least three roles: it is involved in monitoring the stimulus information (whether from internal or external sources) against stored information from the sNCA for conflict (i.e. the level of expectation); it keeps the focus on relevant information; and thirdly, it enforces a time constraint on the ´start-end` recall process.

The first role of the attentional system is the subconscious matching of incoming information (including emotional state) to stored information and emotional tag in the sNCA or between fired cells of the relevant sNCAs. This process has already been described in ´as is` and ´variable` memory storage mechanisms where new incoming information is either added to,  or conflicts with, information already stored. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that in the case of recall, the same information matching process occurs with the same attentional mechanism monitoring it. For example, consider the case of object recognition. Successful recognition ensures that the attentional and emotional systems remain ´relaxed`, but failure to recognise (i.e. the level of expectation or prediction is not achieved) initiates a shift to the fear mechanism. Activation of the amygdala and appropriate emotional and attentional changes to the informational input may then lead to recognition. However, in recall without processing, ´outside the box` thinking suggests that the information of the two sources match or are complementary and hence, no conflict is registered. Therefore, both attentional and emotional systems remain relaxed, albeit in the case of the former, focused.

The second role of the attentional system is keeping the focus on relevant information for the recall task and away from irrelevant information.  This can be done for example by fixing the sensory fields on the desired stimulus. Research on the visual system has shown that this will heighten sensitivity to objects adjacent to the centre (inhibition of return and priority to the unattended), thus helping in the assessment of object segregation and movement. The lateral intraparietal cortex (LIP), pulvinar nucleus of thalamus, prefrontal cortex and other WHAT/WHERE visual pathway areas play a role in the guidance of the fovea and focus and hence, are said to be involved in attention and in the success of the recall process. Attention slips away to other objects when the ´familiar tracks` have been trodden and recall has occurred. This ability to focus is variable with for example, tiredness leading to impairment and there are even age-related differences. Therefore, in the case of recall without processing, maintenance of the sensory focus on relevant information will aid recall, since pathways and sNCAs will be fired corresponding to the task in hand and without conflict.

The third role for the attentional system in recall is more ´esoteric` in that ´outside the box` thinking suggests that it imposes a subconscious time constraint on the recall task. The time constraint begins with the instigation of the task (in this case tNCA and sNCA firing) and ends when the appropriate ´electrical image` occurs. If we consider the recall process in the case of unknown object recognition, the process begins with the incoming sensory information and the systems are relaxed until the point when we consider that recognition is not possible, then fear/panic sets in. This indicates that there is a subconscious time constraint on the process. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that the time constraint could be the dying of the sNCA activation through unprolonged firing, although this is probably not feasible since impairment of recognition is likely to keep the object in the sensory focus, hence sustaining activation. Another suggestion is that there is an internal mental clock and the attentional system monitors the functioning of this clock. Personal perception of time can be brought about by external means, e.g. clocks and watches, the seasons, working and eating habits as well as physiological internal means such as the circadian rhythms of sleep and oestrogen production. However, in brain memory the emphasis on time and timing is related to the topic of synchronicity of information and this reflects more an ´order-type` of timing than absolute values. The internal mental clock in this case is suggested as being an ´egg-timer-like` mechanism and two systems match the criteria for this type of clock: the coincidence-detection model and ECTO-NOX. Although this is only a hypothesis, what is certain is that the attentional system and activities of the prefrontal cortex, cingulated cortex and amygdala are the key to the initiation of panic signals if action does not occur within a certain time period. Ultimately, it prevents the brain using cellular resources for an activity unlikely to be successfully completed and promotes instead a change in cognitive tactics.

Attentional state and recall with processing

Recall with processing begins in the same manner as for recall without with either sensory pathways being stimulated by external or internal events. In the case of incoming sensory information, sensory stores and then iNCA are formed corresponding to the external event and the activated cells may be part of a sNCA formed from a previous encounter. These cells exhibit firing characteristics consistent with long-term memory storage, i.e. higher firing strength through LTP and greater connectivity and synchronicity. Unlike recall without processing, where the recall stage proceeds until an ´electrical image` is formed (i.e. recognition and action), in recall with processing conflict is at this stage registered since the level of expectation required for continuance is not reached. This can occur because either the incoming iNCA cells instigate one form of action and the fired sNCA cells instigate another (low similarity between iNCA or sNCA), or the incoming information fires only a very small number of cells participating in the one sNCA so that there is a big difference between the firing strengths of the sNCA cells and the other fired cells from the ´real-time` event. Therefore, there is some similarity between incoming information and stored information, but not enough to give a definitive answer. The ´conflict` signal initiates appropriate changes in the attentional and emotional systems so that the situation is addressed and a remedy found. The attentional system, which acts as monitor not only of intake, but also of time, shifts to the normal focused or if necessary the ´fear` state and instigates physiological and sensory system changes, e.g. sensory focus is changed or held and volume of information increases (prefrontal cortical action increasing perceptual load capacity). Changes to the emotional system follow suit. The result is that an extra ´stage or two` of information processing must be undertaken before the coveted ´electrical image` is eventually achieved. This represents the ´question` stage of the process.

´Outside the box` thinking suggests that the tNCA content can be manipulated in one of two ways in order to achieve the required ´electrical image`, both requiring attentional system involvement. They are: widening the scope of the the tNCA and/or changing the viewpoint of the sensory input. The scope of the current electrical information in the tNCA is widened by for example, filling in or by using the generic version. In this case, ´filling in` requires the attentional system to act to increase the information volume, but this occurs at the cost of detail. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that in this case, processing is brought down from the higher cortical areas responsible for the more complicated aspects of the ´image` such as pattern to the more basic core features such as shape, colour and movement. The consideration of the core features in preference to others in the recall process reduces the complexity of the possible representation, but increases the chance of recall, since basic core features are shared by more objects and events. ´Filling in` of information can also result in the use of the generic version.

Changing the viewpoint can also bring about the required ´electrical image`. This can be brought about by changing the sensory input (i.e. accidental frame change occurs, where ´frame` represents the ´real-time` view), e.g. by changing the field of focus, chunking smaller or different information parts together or using categories. The spontaneous change in viewpoint is brought about by the upgrading of the attentional system initiated by the ´conflict` signal caused by the contesting information in the tNCA. The attentional system reacts by causing changes in information quantity (perceptual load capacity increases) and viewpoint (i.e. sensory focus alterations such as the LIP effect) for example as well as any other physiological effects. This results in a change in neuronal firing and presentation of core features (i.e. different reference points) available for comparison to the activated sNCA information. The changes in viewpoint may range from major (completely new view, e.g. by moving head around) to minor (focus on what was considered before as in inconsequential corner or pattern), but both can have major effects on recall success.

A time constraint is placed on both options by the attentional system, just like in recall without processing so that the brain activity does not become ´fixed` and continues searching until an acceptable solution is found.

Attentional state and recall with further processing

The attentional plays important roles in recall with further processing just like in the other recall situations and the effects of changes in the states on cognitive function are well known. In this particular circumstance, a heightened attentional state (either normal focused or fear) exists because of the awareness of non-resemblance, i.e. conflict, between the contesting firing groups representing the input and purpose. This heightened state allows the attentional system to steer appropriate systems to fulfil the demands for information change. Therefore, in recall with further processing, just like in other recall circumstances, the attentional state is important for monitoring conflict within the tNCA, maintaining focus and changing viewpoint, and eliciting a time constraint on the entire process.

The first task of the attentional system, the monitoring of conflict within the task working memory is not a new mechanism, since it has already been described for the case of variable storage and other recall processes. The conflict of information between the real-time stimulus, the sNCA and the purpose tNCA grouping all in the working memory state determines the next step of the process. In recall with further processing, in the early questions and option constructions stages, the heightened attentional state resulting from the conflict signal leads to a change in cue or point of access. ´Outside the box` thinking assigns the task to the attentional system`s prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulated cortex and amygdala brain areas.

The second task of the attentional system in the questions and option construction stages of recall with further processing concerns the informational input. The volume of information obtained from the input is governed by perceptual load theory, and the amount of processing carried out is dependent on whether the information is task relevant or irrelevant and its position in focus for example. The control of attention on the task relevant information with less emphasis on task-irrelevant involves the top-down control systems, e.g. guidance of sensory organs by LIP. This supports the view here that reframing is deliberate and conscious and that the more information is available for comparison, then the higher the chance of finding a satisfactory ´magic answer`.

The other role of the attentional system in the early recall with further processing stages is the subconscious ´timing` function that enforces a processing constraint on the individual. The attentional system acts like a ´egg-timer` shifting the systems to search for alternatives if the required ´electrical image` (´magic answer`) is not formed within a certain defined time limit. ´Conflict` is registered via the activation of the prefrontal cortex and cingulated cortex areas leading to subsequent changes in focal point and informational volume. This function protects the individual from wasting valuable processing power and effort on ´paths` unlikely to bring about successful conclusion to the task.

In the end-stage of the recall with further processing mechanism, the attentional system has the role of monitoring the formation of the ´electrical image`. Magic answers require the attentional system to monitor for conflict, whereas in situations where decision-making is required it plays a more complicated role, e.g. in decision-making using methods based on facts and logic (the ´outside the box` methods based on the ´head`), the roles played are:

Stage 1 incoming sensory stimulus, acknowledgement of problem, formation of goal – attention is paid to the stimulus.

Stage 2 options construction – attention on incoming information or reframing requiring attention is paid to changing points of access. The attentional system is elicited through prefrontal cortex activation and the state is normal focused or fear.

Stage 3 acknowledgment of option results - attention is paid to running through each option and the sNCA. This can be separate to external incoming stimuli so rules for divided attention apply such as perceptual load capacity.

Stage 4 assessment of activation/similarity/emotional response matching to purpose NCA - normal focused attention/fear attention states exist as the assessment is carried out for risk/utility/frequency. The attention is probably centred on the internal task and little on external stimuli with automatic processing playing a role if necessary. The prefrontal cortex monitors the situation.

Stage 5 decision stage with respect to strength, characteristics and emotional value – attentional state is still normal focused if possible, but if not then a shift to fear occurs and a change in point of access and there is amygdala and cingulated cortex activation.

Stage 6 action – this stage leads to shift downwards of the attentional system. Attention can shift again to the external event if it is not taken up with the monitoring task.

Stage 7 – acknowledgement of the outcome relative to expected – attention is paid to the outcome whether subconscious or conscious. If the result is expected then the attentional system relaxes, but if not and conflict is registered then the attentional system shifts to the fear state in order to answer the question why.

Implications of attentional state on recall

The attentional system influences the recall stage of the proposed ´outside the box` brain memory mechanism because it is part of the mechanism itself. Three roles for the ´real-time` attentional state have been identified in this version in recall and processing stages and these are maintaining focus, measurement of conflict between input and stored information during the whole recall stage independent of level of processing and conforming a time constraint on the operation. The same three as described for the storage mechanism.

Maintaining focus on the relevant information is necessary for the sustained activation of those cells, firing of matching stored cells and the formation of tNCA in the working memory state. The second and third roles can be assumed to have levels set by the individual at which point conflict or timing is not acceptable and a shift to a heightened status occurs leading to a change in tactic or selection of an option. The ´outside the box` mechanism described here leads to the suggestion that the mechanism can be manipulated by increasing the level of stored knowledge (quality and quantity) so that conflict is reduced between incoming and previously acquired information because of better matching opportunities. The presence of more ´core` features and less ´variable` ones give better specificity of the NCA and therefore, recall will occur more efficiently. Just like in the input and storage stages, the optimal attentional state is that of normal, focused with of course, conflict leading to the heightened fear status and the change of tactics and memory usage. In recall with further processing, the level of conflict is actually part of the mechanism itself, e.g. decision-making and choice of options are assessed according to the level of conflict they induce, therefore, it should be regarded as a component of the brain memory system, just like neuronal firing. Therefore, the attentional system affects how content is recalled and processed through its three functions. The implications of such usage are that by maintaining the system in its most optimal state, the normal focused, then the mechanism can proceed based on ideal memory content (fear attentional state brings about a change in quality and quantity of informational input and hence, NCA recall) to its logical conclusion (´strongest activation wins`). Therefore, just like in the input and storage stages, individual control of attentional state through breathing exercises or inner speech can optimise recall and further processing of the brain memory content.

 

EMOTIONS AND EMOTIONAL STATE

 

The emotional system affects the brain memory mechanism is one of two ways: through ´real-time` emotional state or through the emotional tag. 

Real-time emotional state mechanisms 

As expected a large amount of research and conjecture about emotions and its effects comes from psychology and other related fields. The upshot of these views is that emotions happen; they affect behaviour (not always predictably) and emotional state should be considered a variable in experiments. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that emotions and emotional state actually have a greater importance than that because they provide one of the answers to the individuality of the brain and its workings. If human memory followed exactly the input process described here, then we would have an efficient, predictable and repeatable process giving the same results for every individual. However, everyone knows that this is not the case. Even exactly the same information extracted from the external environment at the same time leads to different processing and memories between individuals. Biologically, the individuality can come from the varying levels of functioning of the physiological components involved and the level of previously stored memories, but another factor is the emotional state, and this is often underestimated in research. 

Biologically, emotions and emotional states rely on the actions and interrelated actions of many systems, including hormones. For example, in the ´fight or flight` fear response, hormones elicit wide-ranging effects involving such physiological systems as blood circulation, digestive system as well as skeletal and muscle requirements. However, this book is concerned with brain memory and its biochemical mechanism and for this purpose this book follows the views of other authors and describes the effects on cognitive processes of emotions and emotional state in terms of the actions in the brain of two physiological systems based on two neurotransmitters – dopamine and noradrenaline. Both dopamine and noradrenaline are found in abundance in certain areas in the brain (Batchelard 1974) and evidence from other sources has indeed linked dopamine with the emotional response, pleasure and noradrenaline with fear.  In terms of cognition and particularly brain memory, this means that if firing of certain brain areas promotes the release and subsequent action of dopamine, then the emotion probably experienced at that time will be dominated by pleasure (or an equivalent) and if noradrenaline is released, then fear (or its equivalent) will be felt.

Dopamine has been linked to the action of many brain areas and using this evidence and that of actual physical connectivity between specific areas (Gray, 1985) ´outside the box` thinking has led to the construction of a dopamine-based pathway of activity, which could bring about the relevant emotional state (i.e. pleasure or a related ´happiness`-type feeling) and the cognitive effects appropriate to it. The system is based on the actions of the thalamus, the prefrontal cortex, the basal ganglia and a group of areas I have termed the ´hippocampal loop`- the hippocampus, cingulated cortex and fornix. The complete system is described as follows:

Start - Sensory information enters through sensory organs and follows the relevant paths until the thalamus.

Stage 1 - Signal sent from the thalamus to the prefrontal cortex. This stage is probably more of interest to the noradrenaline pathway and used in the case of an immediate warning system. The signal is also sent from the thalamus to the cortex, which then sends the signal to the prefrontal cortex. Therefore sensory information is sent to the appropriate cortical areas and iNCA are formed. The signal is also sent from the thalamus to the fornix, then onto the hippocampus,  then cingulum (ACC) (´happy/pleasure signal`), finally to the prefrontal cortex. This is part of the proposed ´hippocampal loop.

Stage 2 – The signal is sent back from the prefrontal cortex to the hippocampus and cingulum (or ACC) in what could be termed the return signal of the proposed ´hippocampal loop`. A signal is also sent from the prefrontal cortex to the globus pallidus of the basal ganglia, which activates the basal ganglia thus having an inhibitory effect on the thalamus. The inhibitory effect of the basal ganglia on the thalamus means that the full extent of thalamus capability is not used in times of pleasure/relaxation. The inhibitory effect of the prefrontal cortex on the amygdala may be hyperpolarisation and is probably due to the action of the ´happy` hippocampal loop. This means that the amygdala in times of pleasure/relaxation is ´switched off`.

Opposing the action of the dopamine-based system is the action of a system based on another neurotransmitter, noradrenaline. Like the dopamine system, the noradrenaline-based system is a standardised pathway, which includes many of the areas described for the dopamine-based one. The difference lies in the action of the prefrontal cortex, which in this case acts on the amygdala, resulting eventually in the lifting of the thalamic inhibition. The emotion attributed to this physiological state and changes associated with dominance of the noradrenaline-based system, is that of fear. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests however, that it is unlikely it began this way. Humans do not automatically fear something, but instead fear grows from a previous painful experience with all or only some similar features. This implies previous encounter and brain memory. Therefore, the noradrenaline ´fear` system can be regarded as an extension of the pain system, because psychologically, to fear something one must be afraid that it will cause the individual harm, i.e. in its ultimate form, pain.

The hypothesised pathway for the noradrenaline-based system also requires the actions of the prefrontal cortex, thalamus, hippocampal loop, basal ganglia and amygdala and is follows:

Start - The sensory information enters through sensory organs and follows the relevant paths until the thalamus.

Stage 1 and 2 - Stages 1 and 2 are followed as described for the dopamine pathway. The sensory information is then sent to appropriate cortical areas where iNCA are formed and any fear memories are activated. The default emotional state occurs via the activated hippocampal loop.

Stage 3 - The signal from cortical fear memories is sent from the cortex to the prefrontal cortex. Reactivation of memories of past painful events initiates a ´warning` signal. The prefrontal cortex then sends an  ´emergency signal` to the cingulum, which sends it to hippocampus, then to the fornix, which stimulates the olfactory bulb and pineal gland (may be change in signal – resulting in a change of incoming information from the olfactory tract, optic tract, possibly through LTP of the hippocampus by AMPA receptors) as in the pain mechanism. The prefrontal cortex also sends an emergency signal to the putamen and caudate nucleus, which stops the action of the globus pallidus. The prefrontal cortex also removes its inhibitory effect on the amygdala, which acts on the caudate affecting the globus pallidus so that the resultant action is the removal of the inhibitory effect of the basal ganglia on the thalamus seen under normal conditions. The thalamus responds by changing the conditions by which sensory information is inputted and also initiates effects on the pineal gland and hypothalamus causing the ´fight or flight` response and/or other appropriate survival-type action.

Consequences of this system is that the body responds to ´projected` pain by removing itself from the danger or reassessing the danger with cognitive processes and brain memory altered appropriately. The physiological changes required for such a system can be brought about by a number of areas ´hijacking` the overall system. For example, direct action on the amygdala from the olfactory bulb and hippocampal action on the hypothalamus due to the HPA axis. The overall effect is that the individual responds with the physiological actions necessary to protect itself from harm, real or not, and it leads to the expression of the emotions, ´fear` or ´panic`. Just like in the case of pain, the cognitive processes are affected and brain memories of the event are formed.

Therefore, the physiological functioning of a group of brain areas can have an effect on cognitive processes, including brain memory. In the case of domination of the dopamine-based system then the basal ganglia inhibits the thalamus, resulting not only in physiological changes, but the emotional expression of  ´pleasure/happiness`. In the case of noradrenaline system domination then physiological changes occur which elicit the ´fight or flight` response and the emotional expression of fear or extreme cases, pain result. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that functioning of one or other of the neurotransmitter systems occurs at all times and this status influences what is termed here, the overall working level of the brain (OWL). This is the natural level at which the brain works as a whole and is the result of a culmination of several factors – the emotional systems as dominated by either the dopamine-based and noradrenaline-based systems described above and by a much lower extent and with lesser priority in the case of brain memory, the circadian rhythms such as the sleep/wake cycle and the female oestrous cycle. The idea of an overall functioning level reflecting physiological status of certain brain areas and demonstrated by emotional state may be similar to that described by the Piaget ´equilibration` concept (1970). Piaget proposed that in a changing environment that the individual needs a stable internal environment (in this case, the OWL) and will use brain memory and processing capability to restore equilibrium if disrupted.

In humans, the dopamine-based system appears to be the preferential system since the cognition processes, including brain memory, and other physiological processes are optimised when OWL is dominated this way. Evidence for this is mainly psychological in that humans strive to maintain ´happiness` and any dysfunction in the dopamine system itself instigates a feeling of dissatisfaction that must be remedied (Piaget´s equilibration). Also, it is said that ´happy` people perform better and live longer and Freud`s theory of the Id, Ego and super-Ego may substantiate this claim, with the basal ganglia functioning as the Id and the super-Ego the cortical supervision. Other evidence is that humans have developed the dopamine-based system to create a ´reward` system.  This ensures that animals do things they should do in order to survive, e.g. eat and mate. Reward and pleasure also play a role in cognitive processes, including brain memory. For example, the ´pleasure` at seeing a loved ones face, or the joy and relief experienced at succeeding in tying shoelaces or counting sequentially to a 100. Other evidence for the dominance of the dopamine ´pleasure` system comes from brain development. Physiological dominance of the system begins at the foetal stage where one of the important regions of the basal ganglia system, the corpus striatum, develops as early as 9 weeks. This suggests that this area is vital to mental functioning and any areas grown after this date have to work with the corpus striatum and basal ganglia.

Discrepancies between something eliciting pleasure in one person but not another is brought about not by differing systems, but by differences in the actual functioning status of the components of the system. For example, changes in dopamine receptor density in the nucleus accumbens can change the overall functioning of the area resulting in depression (Singer, 2003). This is just one example of how the hypothesised system can be manipulated and of course these changes subtly influence the OWL, and hence cognitive processes and emotions experienced. Manipulation of the OWL is relatively simple since any system dependent on the action of neurotransmitters and cellular firing can be manipulated by altering any of those factors involved, e.g. receptor density, released neurotransmitter concentration or the number of dendrites. Manipulation can also be psychologically- and hence emotionally-based as in the case of ´priming`, which is where the physiological changes are brought about before the presentation of the stimulus either to detrimental or advantageous effect on the result. For example, consider the expression, ´expect the worst; get the worst`. Anybody fearing the outcome of something is likely to perform badly or create a negative situation where only one course of action is possible. Emotional ´priming` may actually explain some experimental results where for examples subjects are already primed through fear of the experimental test or confidence at success before the test takes place. It may also explain the Cannon-Bard theory of emotions that intensity of emotional response is not linked to physiological arousal. Priming may be due to changes in the cognitive processes (including brain memory) so arousal on emotional intensity appears less than expected theoretically (Reisenzein, 1983). Another form of short-term emotional priming is the effect of language. Inner speech or oral communication motivating or creating terror can all ´prime` the overall working level before sensory system is inputted, so that the cognitive processes and memory work differently.

The normal OWL can be changed more drastically by the action of the opposing system based on noradrenaline. This heightened state causes physiological changes required for short-term ´fight or flight` type responses necessary to help the individual ´survive`. Cognitive processes including brain memory change accordingly and the situation remains until the ´danger` is past. This effect on the OWL is in most individuals only temporary, but in some the noradrenaline-based system dominates.

 

Emotional tag formation

The fact that humans have emotions in ´real-time` is accepted by everyone and no one doubts that recall of stored sensory information can evoke feelings and emotions not compatible with the current external and internal environment. This implies that a record of emotional state must in some way be an integral part of the stored informational memory. The sensory pathways activated by the external event lead to the formation of temporary sensory stores and then short-term memory stores. Each aspect of the sensory event ends as part of a neuronal cell assembly. `Outside the box´ thinking suggests a mechanism by which the accompanying emotional experience can also be inputted, so that it too is part of the unique iNCA representing the external event. This emotional record has been termed the ´emotional tag`. The word ´tag` is used in preference to iNCA since the emotional record cannot stand alone, always being part of the sensory experience.

Activation of the emotional tag leads to recall of the emotional state, itself ´information`, recreating the physiological conditions associated with the sensory information. In effect, the emotional tag formed in the past tells the individual how to ´deal with` the information that is being recalled in the present (or ´real-time`). Therefore, the ´informational content` of the emotional tag is the emotional state recorded at the same time as the incoming sensory information. Emotional state dictates the overall working level (OWL) of the brain and hence, the emotional tag formed is a record of the OWL at that time attributed to the relevant stored information. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that although the OWL is also dependent on certain physiological circadian rhythms such as the sleep/wake cycle and oestrous cycle in women, the emotional tag only relates to the status of its two neurotransmitter-based emotional systems described above.

If we accept the idea that emotional information is stored alongside sensory information, it is then necessary to suggest a biochemical mechanism. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that the possible location for the emotional tag storage is the prefrontal cortex and that the mechanism involved is based on a cellular ´sliding switch`. The reason for this site being suggested is that the prefrontal cortex is what could be termed the ´limiting area` for the control of the physiological processes and resulting emotions. Other areas can bring about changes in the OWL, but the prefrontal cortex receives input directly from the thalamus and sensory cortical areas and ultimately affects the functioning of the basal ganglia. Another advantage to this area is its precise networking structure and selective actions of various neurotransmitter systems. The hypothesis is further supported by evidence that alterations in its function are known to be linked with changes in personality and character such as the cases of Phineas Gage and victims of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The sliding switch mechanism is suggested by ´outside the box´ thinking as having the activation of the globus pallidus/inhbition of the amygdala in one direction (designated the left) leading to normal functioning and inhibition of the basal ganglia/activation amygdala in the other direction (far right). For example ´switch far right` then a noradrenaline-based system would dominate, which would be used in circumstances requiring fast action to ensure survival, other ´emergency` situations or situations requiring a ´souped-up` brain performance and would activate or adapt systems to increase efficiency, change physical focus, change mental focus to self etc. In the case of  ´switch far left` then there is domination of a dopamine-based system, which would be in use at other times, for example in times of pleasure (e.g. at mating, on receipt of food). This system probably dominates in humans where pleasure and the pleasure state is the required and sought after emotional state.

However, nothing is easy and this switch from one neurotransmitter system to another is also more complicated with the suggestion that the dopamine and pleasure response is graded, but the noradrenaline ´fear` response not. The grading of the former can be aptly demonstrated by the number of English words describing the various levels of ´happiness`, e.g. relaxed, happy, passionate, ecstatic and enthusiastic. Therefore, the ´sliding switch` concept is better than a ´on-off` type one because it explains how various levels of pleasure can occur, i.e. the grading of the dopamine response can be translated into the positioning of the indicator along the switch. Extending the hypothesis further, ´outside the box` thinking suggests that the grading of the dopamine-based response can also be associated with perceived value (worth) of an object. As the value increases then the sliding switch moves towards the right to the point where objects most prized by the individuals lie next to the far right switch for domination of the noradrenaline-based system. This hypothetically would explain why ´pain` and pleasure are emotionally not so distant and often interchangeable. Attribution of value and emotions via the emotional tag to incoming information then gives a higher functional quality to the prefrontal cortex and leads to its activity in certain other cognitive processes such as decision-making and strategy planning. Outside the box` thinking suggests that the grading of the ´pleasure` response via the ´sliding switch` may be possible through the complicated cell network structure of the prefrontal cortex itself and its neurotransmitter components.

Implications of emotions on informational input and storage mechanisms

The effects on the input and storage mechanisms for information by the attentional system are mirrored according to this  ´outside the box` version, by the emotional system. Therefore, owing to its interrelating role in the brain memory mechanism itself, manipulation of this system will, like the attentional system, lead to changes in efficacy. The ´real-time` emotional state is dictated by the overall working level (OWL), which is dependent on the domination of either the dopamine-based, or noradrenaline-based brain systems, plus other lesser contributing factors such as the circadian rhythms of sleep and wakefulness. Although the action of the emotional system is decided by physiology, the overall functioning of it with reference to brain memory can depend on the levels of neurotransmitters present (demonstrated by for example possible manipulation through drug action) and activity of the participating brain areas (e.g. prefrontal cortex and amygdala activity are changeable due to lesions, injury and neurotransmitter levels). Therefore, effects that influence either the dopamine or noradrenaline-based system can cause changes in the quality and quantity of the brain memory content.

As far as brain memory is concerned, the emotional state bringing about the highest efficiency is that dominated by the dopamine-based system and therefore, just like the attentional system, anything that maintains or elicits this state is beneficial, e.g. deep breathing, counting to ten. Since the emotional system requires appropriate activities of the prefrontal cortex (role in the sliding switch and recording of values), amygdala (role in the activation of the fear responses) and other components of the hippocampal loop then any influences on these areas (e.g. by manipulating neurotransmitter level) will have an effect on the information submitted (quality and quantity reflected by the attentional state) and any further memory stages. From the individual`s point of view, the implication of the brain memory mechanism suggested here, is that the emotional system, just like the attentional system, can be manipulated to a certain extent by the person himself and therefore, it is possible for an individual to keep the brain memory mechanism working optimally. For example, positive inner speech can bring the emotional state to a relaxed one, with the domination of the dopamine-based brain system and subsequent improvement in the overall content of the brain memories formed at this time.

The emotional system exerts its influence on the brain memory system not just according to the ´real-time` functioning level in response to the external environment and the present stimulus, but also by recalling how it was in the past. This ´outside the box` version for the brain memory system introduces the emotional tag, a recording of the emotional state at the time of learning of sensory information, which is stored alongside the appropriate information in the sNCA. Accessing this tag on recall attaches to the ´real-time` information ´instructions` on how this information should be dealt with (processing and action). This may be re-activation of the all-important ´fight-or-flight` signal, but could also indicate the personal values of events, which are required in certain recall situations, e.g. use of recalled information in decision-making processes based on risk or ´other peoples` views`. Therefore, an individual`s emotional state should be at the optimal level (i.e. domination of the normal, focused attentional state and dopamine-based brain system) for all stages of the brain memory mechanism. Of course, situations exist where this is not possible, but comfort should be taken that the emotional tag appears adaptable and so the feelings of fear or pain do not have to be permanently attached to particular information (an observation used in fear extinction for example).

Emotions and recall without processing

Just like in the input and storage processes, emotional system functioning mirrors the attentional system. Personal experience shows that current emotional state reflected by the OWL can affect the efficiency of the recall process just like it can for the previous brain memory stages. For example, fear can diminish the success of certain types of recall, e.g. problem solving, but have no effect on others such as bike riding; and the relaxation state makes the individual more receptive to recall. Recall when the OWL is dominated by the dopamine based system means for example that: tasks are met as required; there is a sufficient leeway on finding similarities and patterns in stored and incoming information; and perceptual load capacity is limited, i.e. one conscious focus task or more subconscious tasks can be performed.  It can occur even in the absence of external environmental stimulus with internal stimuli being treated just the same. Appropriate sNCA will be fired and recall will go ahead as described.

When the fear emotional state dominates, self-experience shows that recall can be task relevant (e.g. decreased ability to untie knots when in a hurry), but also task irrelevant (e.g. easily distracted by unimportant noises). During input, the action of the prefrontal cortex, hippocampal loop and the amygdala removes the restricted action of the thalamus so that more information is inputted and thus the working memory ´arena` is larger. The hippocampus can provide the internal conditions necessary to sustain activation, thus decoupling internal events from external stimuli. In recall, the fear emotional state will also see an increase in perceptual load capacity (ability to fire sNCA pathways on more general characteristics) and recall can be decoupled from external events as seen with the ´slowing of time` in the reactivation of sNCA pathways and resulting action. Therefore, emotional state just like attentional state can have an affect on the efficacy of the recall process. The task at hand and the success at which that task is being handled will determine whether the emotional state remains with the dopamine-based system being dominate, or whether the fear state will be induced so that the required perceptual load and focus changes will take place. These can be induced when the time limit for the task appears to be overrun.

The other way in which emotional state can alter the recall process is through emotional tag reactivation. The question whether this is actually a special case of recall or an integral part of the common recall process can be answered with reference to the fact that every informational sNCA contains an emotional tag. Therefore, recall of any information will lead to recall of the recorded emotional state. Emotional state affects the way in which information is inputted, stored and recalled in ´real-time` and the recall of a past emotional state, stored in the form of the emotional tag can have the same effect. Therefore, information stored in the sNCA, which is activated in the recall process will lead to re-enactment of either positive or negative emotional reactions as dictated by the co-stored tag. This has also been shown by psychologists who define this emotional tag information as internal context. It includes mood, level of alertness, feelings and so on at the time of input and storage and research showed that the efficiency of brain memory retrieval depended on whether the same contexts (internal and external) were available (Wiseman and Tulving, 1976). The emotional tag information appears to take priority over the emotional state existing at that time through the incoming information, e.g. a fear of spiders takes priority over the ´real-time` visual information, and it dictates how the incoming information should be dealt with. It also allows new information to re-write the emotional tag so that learning can bring a new perspective to old information, e.g. a fear of spiders beginning as a child can be overcome with age and frequent less disturbing encounters.

Both the positive and negative emotional tags have their uses in recall. Positive tags (i.e. those that induce the dopamine-based system, thalamus inhibition and normal or normal focused attentional states) are required to give an individual his personal values, drives as well as determining what gives him pleasure. Therefore, recall allows previous experiences to determine the value (´emotional worth`) of the event being encountered in ´real-time`. Research has linked the medial frontal cortical area with different aspects of social cognitive processing (Amodio and Frith, 2006) and this is supported by the pathways described here for the emotional system and the prefrontal cortex as site for emotional tag storage. Personal experience shows that personal values and drives can change and this is possible with the input, storage and recall of emotional tags with the appropriate information. The continual re-adjustment of ´emotional tags` brings about in the case of highly pleasurable events a curious outcome. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that such events when repeated fail to bring the same level of pleasure as the original event and it is thought that habit and routine in the same way is detrimental to the ´emotional` memory system. Humans constantly strive to change habit and need constant challenges because they need the to keep the fear and pleasure systems active. Therefore, although an event may be stored with an ´emotional tag`, the adjustment of the tag at future re-encounters ensures that the brain continues to work at peak efficiency.

 Fear tags need no explanation when considering recall. The incoming information itself does not indicate a pain response, but the emotional tag reactivation by activation of the stored memory does. Self-experience shows that an event that leads to the activation of a fear emotional tag will induce a series of ´fight or flight` responses built in to secure the safety of the individual, independent of the ´real-time` emotional state. This type of automatic response is behaviourally easy to recognise, e.g. heart leaps at a shadow or pulse races at a noise, and just like pleasure tags, these tags can also be adjusted either positively (fear lessened) or negatively (fear heightened) to match ´real-time` events. In fact, this capability is used to counteract fear tags, which are emotionally and physically draining on an individual. For example, psychologists can use conditioning; hypnotists can use positive associations; and self-induced inner speech can overcome negativity.

Biochemically, emotional tag reactivation is elicited secondary to the activation of the informational part of the sNCA. In the case of recall without processing, the stimulus information and the information activated from the sNCA are the same and hence, there is no conflict and so the process proceeds as described by the ´start-end` definition. In the same way, the emotional tag attached to the sNCA and the emotional state induced by the incoming stimulus (if any, since an internal stimulus produces none) are also compatible and therefore, the emotional system pathways will continue to be activated appropriately. Recall of information has been shown to be improved if this is the case. For example, memories of highly emotional events tend to last longer than others as a result of being frequently rehearsed through the re-telling or constant ´mulling` over the event (Draaisma, 2004), but mood state at the time of retrieval will increase recall if it is similar to that at the time of storage (Draaisma, 2004). The effects were shown to be stronger when individuals are in a positive mood rather than a negative mood (Ucros, 1989) and they are also greater when people try to remember events having personal relevance.

The roles of emotional state and emotional tag follow that described above for all cases of recall without processing, e.g. recognition of known objects, procedural memory recall. It appears to be especially important in the formation and recall of flashbulb memories.   Flashbulb memories and the memory capability of savants represent two opposites in terms of emotional recall. Both use the generalised mechanism described for recall without processing, but in flashbulb memories the emotional status of the individual and the emotional tag attached to the information play an important part in input, storage and recall stages and for savants it appears to play no role. Information appears to be stored and recalled devoid of emotional system status.

From a biochemical point of view, flashbulb memories are informational memories with a highly emotional status stored in the form of the attached emotional tag. Hence, the strong negative or positive emotional status affects every stage of the memory process and as Conway et al. (1984) suggested they are more likely to be rehearsed than normal ones, thus strengthening the connections and groupings of the relevant sNCAs. Also, volume of information and categorisation would increase. For example, the death of Princess Diana is considered a flashbulb memory for most adults. Constant rehearsal, media attention and personal experience can extend the memory of the event from being one of personal experience to a collective one, including facts and pictures gleaned from all sources. The personal emotional status at the time of the event can become overshadowed by the general national grief and hence, the emotional tag of the memory is itself constantly being adjusted.

These flashbulb memories, which are records of highly emotive events for an individual and evoke this emotional response on re-encounter or recall are in strong contrast to brain memories of savants. Here, emotional status and emotional tags appear to play no role in any stage of the brain memory process. Savants are individuals who in particular areas show extra-ordinary talents in brain memory storage and recall, e.g. piano playing, art and mathematics. They demonstrate exact recall with little or no interpretation of information, no differences in quality or quantity and above all no emotion. This deficiency makes it unlikely that they can make decisions or process material where more than direct recall is required. It has been suggested however, that processing is possible as in the case of mathematic calculations and dates, but still this is computer-like algorithm type calculations or sequencing, both examples of where emotions and values are not important.

´Outside the box` thinking suggests that savants have emotional systems abnormal to other individuals and evidence for this is that most savants are considered asocial and demonstrate social problems. Emotional states are instigated involving the action of the prefrontal cortex, hippocampal loop and the thalamus and amygdala in particular and so it could be possible that defects in these areas are to blame for the emotional system dysfunction. The failure to adjust to emotional state and awareness of state would make it difficult to form emotional tags to any incoming information and hence, information would be stored and recalled factually ´as is`, but without the emotional component. The role of the attentional system and monitoring of the recall process would appear to be always at the same functioning level.

The importance of emotions and emotional state is also demonstrated in more ´esoteric` situations such as déjà vu and intuition and empathy. ´Outside the box` thinking links déjà vu and intuition together in terms of brain memory, because both elicit a ´feeling` of recognition, based on recall without processing, to part of an event that is being experienced in ´real-time`. The experience is purely individualistic and essentially, they are the ability to sense patterns (obscure and clear) between incoming information and previous encounters without definitive recognition and with the emotional system playing a more dominate role than usual. Although the recall process begins without processing, a shift to the recall mechanism with it can occur if the ´real-time` interpretation becomes dominated by the past events. 

In biochemical terms, ´outside the box` thinking suggests that both déjà vu and intuition begin with incoming sensory information representing the external event. The input occurs in ´real-time` and brain memory processes proceed as per normal. Recall involves firing of neuronal pathways and sNCAs representing the various characteristics of the event, but the characteristics of the event are not definitive for one sNCA alone and hence, a number are activated to a limited extent. Therefore, no single clear  ´electrical image` is formed and hence, recognition of the event does not occur. The activation of several sNCA by the ´fragments` of the external event gives a ´fleeting` impression of recognition, but the firing of other sNCA in response to other ´fragments` means that it is only a temporary ´feeling`. The emotional tags are also activated, but again depend on the extent of the sNCA firing. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that this part of the process is probably subconscious, but the awareness of similarity to past events can lead to one of two scenarios: a dismissal of the ´fragment` information as unrepresentative of the event in question, or a domination of this information and a ´steering` of the recall process to it. Although the former begins subconsciously, they both result in conscious awareness and a shift in attention and processing to widen or change sensory fields to acquire more or different information. Domination of the ´fragment` information will lead to the déjà vu/intuition information taking over the recall process and the resulting action, but still incoming information will be processed.

The attentional state at the beginning of the déjà vu/intuition episode is likely to be normal until the point of reactivation of the multiple sNCAs. A shift can occur into the normal focused state with conscious awareness, or the state can remain normal as in the case of dismissal of fragment information. The same applies to the emotional system where emotional state remains appropriate to the incoming information until the point of the development of the ´feeling` of the information being familiar. Emotional tags may be activated of the sNCA dominating the ´feeling` at that time and representing the information, but the emotional state can also reflect the awareness of the known/unknown phenomena. The emotional state exhibited can reflect individual attitudes to familiarity within the unknown.

Déjà vu and intuition are ´esoteric` applications of the brain memory process, but because of the variation in usage between individuals and the difficulty in definitive testing they are confined to peripheral research studies. However, ´outside the box` thinking suggests that they, too, are examples of brain memory recall without processing and have their roots just like other memory types, in episodic events. Another ´esoteric´ recall topic is empathy.  Empathy can be said to be brain memory recall of information and emotions in response to outside observed stimuli, so that there is a projection of the individual on to this observed stimulus. This projection is based on previous experience and hence, stored brain memories.  Banissy and Ward (2007) explained empathy as watching another person being touched leads to in the observing individual activation of similar neural circuits to actually being touched. In some people with 'mirror-touch' synaesthesia, it can actually produce a ´felt` tactile sensation on their own body. The ability to empathise was considered earlier to be a human quality, but research has shown it in other species too, such as elephants, bears and mice.

Empathy is important in humans because it forms the basis of our social behaviour and in brain memory terms it plays an important role in recall with further processing, such as decision-making, where projections of behaviour in ´unreal` situations need to be made. The basis of empathy is the store of past experiences contained in the sNCA in addition to visual and auditory skills. Processing of the information according to psychologists can be by ´theory theory` or ´simulation theory`, e.g. ´I know how this person/object is feeling, how he/it will react, because this has happened to me in the past and I remember what I felt and did.` This forms the basis of how social behaviour is learnt and demonstrates its importance. Therefore, people lacking this capability exhibit social problems as for example, in autism (Lacoboni and Dapretto, 2006).

´Outside the box` thinking suggests that in biochemical terms, empathy could be said to occur when the observed behaviour is recognised and subsequent actions are predicted.  The observed actions stimulate the same sensory pathways, except tactile information is missing. An ´electrical image` will result if the relevant sNCA activation is sufficient so that the individual experiences recognition of the event taking place. In this way, the individual has switched from being observer to participant and any emotional or sensory response will be felt just as if experiencing the event at first hand, but only if this information is available within the stored sNCA. Recall without processing with regards to empathy means that the event proceeds fully or to a large extent as predicted.

Although the sNCA theory hypothesised here suggests that if empathy is based on sNCA activation then it should occur in all relevant brain areas where the information of the previous event has been stored, other research has suggested the presence of specialised cells termed mirror neurons (Lacoboni and Dapretto, 2006). The attentional system during observation and activation of sNCA remains normal and focused unless the participant appears in pain, afraid or if a negative emotional tag is reactivated from the sNCA activation. In these cases, then the attentional state will shift to a ´fear` state. The emotional system reflects the attentional state of the individual, the activated emotional tag and the observed reactions of the participants. Therefore, empathy corresponds to more than just sNCA content from previous experiences. It also reflects ´real-time` emotions and the culmination of these factors indicates why it is so important for the learning and implementation of social behaviour. 

Emotions and recall with processing

´Outside the box` thinking suggests that the ´conflict` signal arising between the two contesting forces in the working memory state initiates appropriate changes in the attentional and emotional systems so that the situation is addressed and a remedy found. The attentional system, which acts as monitor not only of intake, but also of time, shifts to the normal focused or if necessary the ´fear` state and instigates physiological and sensory system changes, e.g. sensory focus is changed or held and volume of information increases (prefrontal cortical action increasing perceptual load capacity). Changes to the emotional system follow suit. The result is that an extra ´stage or two` of information processing must be undertaken before the coveted ´electrical image` is eventually achieved. This represents the ´question` stage of the process.

During the processing stage and the search for a suitable interpretation of the stimulus, the emotional system follows the fluctuations of the attentional system. The psychologists describe the effects as a cyclic process, where the individual checks and re-checks the stimulus against expectations. Perception is a series of processes with preliminary sampling (bottom-up processing), direction (uses stored information - top-down processing) and modification (compares sensory data with the perception model). During all this time, the emotional state generally follows the attentional systems lead.

The preferred emotional state is that of relaxation/pleasure with domination of the dopamine-based system. This provides the conditions for more time for consideration of material, hence, for example the analysis of more complicated information rather than just the core features and the regarding of values. Self-report shows that better performance is achieved when the individual is emotionally relaxed and the attentional state is normal and focused on the task. In this case, neuronal firing will follow its normal path from stimulus to tNCA formation and optimal solution for the ´electrical image` formation. Changes to this pathway instigates the fear attentional state and hence, the fear emotional state with alterations in processing appropriate to the heightened state (e.g. changes to quality and quantity of information) and ultimately survival, e.g. input is more focused on the danger and material is processed on a more general basis, less detail, relating to necessity rather than pleasure demonstrated by ignoring personal value. In this state the ability to determine what is potentially dangerous or not is also abnormal and the individual tends to overreact.

Biochemically, the dopamine-based and noradrenaline-based systems during processing remain cyclic and balanced. As the processing stage demands a more widened neuronal firing tNCA state or a change in frame then the emotional state may shift to a ´fear` state before relaxing as the possible options appear. In fact, high levels of dopamine in the brain have been shown to influence the quality and quantity of options. Brugger (Phillips, 2002) showed that individuals with high levels of brain dopamine were more likely to find significance in coincidences and pick out meanings and patterns where essentially there were none. However, under normal circumstances, the two neurotransmitter-based systems remain actively balanced. The shifts between the two are controlled by the prefrontal cortex, hippocampal loop and amygdala action and involve changes in thalamus action.

Just like in recall without processing, any informational sNCA also contains an emotional tag relevant to the content. This, too, is activated in the recall process and the emotional state may be adapted to accommodate the stored information. Unlike recall without processing where there is a clear message as to what emotional state should be exhibited, the presence in ´real-time` of conflict and inability to match sNCA results in a overriding of the emotional tag component by the fear emotional system until the conflict is resolved. As soon as the ´electrical image` is formed then the corresponding tag is also exhibited and the OWL will adjust accordingly.

In recall with processing, the ´electrical image` can be the result of either a clear, strong activation of one event in preference to others, termed the ´magic answer`, or it is an image merely accepted to be the right one, termed the ´accepted magic answer`. The ´magic answer` correlates to the ´electrical image` formed in recall without processing. The concept of acceptance may upset our beliefs that every cognitive process is controlled and desired and it can only apply in decision-making, but experience shows us that some actions are made, e.g. in tiredness or boredom even when there is clear direction for an alternative.

So, if the success of the recall process relies on the definition of strong activation of a single option, what makes this one option strong in comparison to others? In the case of recall without processing, this option was strongest because it reflected the highest similarity of the ´real-time` stimulus to the previous event, but in the case of recall with the extra processing steps this cannot be the only answer since the stimulus shows differences to any previous encounters. Two factors may be involved here:

  • the number of repetitions of events or parts of events (higher the number, greater the likelihood of this option being the strongest).
  • the level of self-interest (greater the level of self-interest or involvement of those things regarded as high value by the individual, greater the chance of choice).

The first factor is clear and is the mainstay of the brain memory storage mechanism. Repetition of whole events or part (the units) will strengthen the firing and connections between the neurons within the appropriate sNCA according to the long-term storage mechanism. The other factor important in the choice of the ´magic answer` is self-interest, which has more of an emotional aspect. Memories associated with high self-interest are likely to give the strongest activation and are more likely to form the ´electrical image` than those of similar events performed on others. The only exception is that a person may regard certain individuals or items as having a higher value than the ´self` such as a mother`s love for her child, and this may affect which memories are chosen for the ´magic answer`. The subject of self-interest is complicated and is probably more applicable for the discussion on how decisions are made and what motivates us to take the course of action we choose, but in the case of brain memory recall with processing it still plays a role. Here, the nature of the ´magic answer` means that not only is the information stored so is the level of self-interest and this has been stored during the original past encounter as either directly with the content of the emotional tag or indirectly by the organisation of the sensory informational content.

If we consider the ´fear` emotional tag, recall of information linked to such a tag would shift self-interest to a heightened level as befitting the ´danger` or ´ fight or flight` signals and appropriate responses would be made (e.g. prefrontal cortex, cingulum and amygdala action and attentional state responses). There is no question that in this case the highest activation would indicate survival type tactics centring on the ´self`.

The other neurotransmitter-based system based on dopamine is less easy to quantify because it determines subjective level of pleasure and value attached to the relevant information. With the sliding switch prefrontal cortex mechanism there is a grading of the dopamine response quantified by the type or number of prefrontal cortical cells involved, hence dictating the level of the self-interest in the appropriate information. Just like with fear, the information showing the highest positive sliding switch activity would be more likely to be the response followed as this would probably have the greatest activation. The ´sliding switch` concept in relation to recall therefore, introduces the ideas of personal value and priority, which influence what is recalled in this case and the subsequent action taken. It is clear that this is a ´real` feature of memories, since we can all list things in order of things we like and dislike and we all know that the greater something is liked the more likelihood there is that this is the action followed – hence greatest activation. Using our memories and experiences each individual creates his own list of priorities on which his action, processing and decision-making is based, e.g. self-protection, things or people of value to him and views on ´how the world works`. The basic premise is that the ´self` has the highest priority and therefore, those actions are likely to be followed. Every individual has basic needs and drives, e.g. hunger and security, but this idea was developed by the psychologist, Murray (1938) who detailed an extra twenty personal requirements based on personality and other esoteric factors such as achievement and dominance. This led to the construction of a hierarchy of needs by Maslow (1970), satisfying both. These concepts are important to memory recall because, by order of priority and value to the individual ascertained by the emotional tag and sliding switch scale they dictate which actions are followed by eliciting the greatest activation in the tNCA state.

Emotional tag storage is a direct record of self-interest and will influence recall but self-interest can also be demonstrated indirectly during the input and storage stage, by the effect of biasness of material for generic version formation and inclusion and grouping and categorisation, both features of variable memory storage. For example, consider Princess Diana`s death. There is a vast array of information available about this event and time, but individuals remember only a few aspects of it. Talking about the event cements those aspects discussed, may add a few details, but the rest is ignored or forgotten.Therefore, there is a level of biasness shown towards the material stored and this can be reflected by self-interest. Since episodic memory forms the basis of all memory types, events strongly relating to the ´self` are more likely to be detailed, repeated or more focused on than others and hence, the generic version or categorisation based on that are more likely to be biased towards certain features than others. This automatically heightens the chance of recall in the future.

Just like in recall without processing, the end result of the included processing stage is the strong activation of a single sNCA, which represents the ´real-time` stimulus, whether internally or externally generated. This forms the ´electrical image` from which perception, interpretation and subsequent action and so on occurs. Owing to the dominance of this one ´option` and the minimum effort required for it to form, it has been termed the ´magic answer` in recall without processing and even though in recall with processing extra steps had to be included before this final option was reached, the term still applies here. The attentional and emotional systems respond in most cases with the formation of the ´electrical image` with a ´relaxation` of state. In attentional system terms, focus may be released from the task at hand and the prefrontal cortex, cingulated cortex and amygdala areas shift the state down from the fear or normal focused state to the normal state. Emotionally, self-report shows that elucidation of the ´magic answer` may lead to a ´sigh of relief` and happiness that the stimulus has been finally identified and the appropriate action according to the sNCA taken. This is brought about by the dominance of the dopamine-based system. However, if the emotional tag associated with the event is one of fear, then the attentional system and emotional system respond accordingly and a fear response is initiated.

However, sometimes the ´magic answer` is merely accepted and if more effort or time was allowed an alternative would be found that would be better. In this case, although the greatest activation of the tNCA is obtained there would be other options available if perhaps another grouping was used or the sensory focus changed. The attentional system and its ´egg-timer` function eliciting timing on the activation may be important here, providing the ´brake` to the processing stage and acceptance of a sub-optimal conclusion. Circumstances that may lead to this type of  ´accepted magic answer` are for example boredom, omission bias and routine.  Whatever the method, the ´accepted magic answer` forms the ´electrical image` and the action dictated by the chosen answer follows. 

Emotions and recall with further processing

The emotional system can play different roles in the various stages of the recall with further processing mechanism. During the definition of purpose the attentional and emotional systems follow that of normal recall. The attentional state is heightened at the recognition that the ´real-time` stimulus is unlike that of previous encounters or will not bring about a definitive solution and effort and extra processing will be needed. The emotional state mirrors this uncertainty, e.g. ´slight panic` feeling. As the purpose is successfully defined, there may be a slight relaxation of both attentional and emotional states, e.g. a sense of relief that the task is defined and possible, but the admission that a succession of processing stages are needed may keep the systems on ´alert`.  Just like in recall with processing, the whole process is carried out under time pressure elicited by the ´egg-timer` function of the attentional system and this can affect the efficacy of the process itself, e.g. feelings of ´panic` may lead to inaccurate hurried purpose definitions.

During the questions stage, the state of the emotional system again appears to follow the attentional system. Aside from the direct emotional tag activation which brings about the corresponding emotional state stored at the time of the informational content of the memory, the emotional state dependent on the action of the prefrontal cortex and hippocampal loop follows the attentional system`s response to input, purpose definition and stored NCA re-activation. Identification of the purpose and at the start of the questions stage leads to a relaxation of the emotional state corresponding to the attentional system`s relaxation state, but the appearance of conflict as the non-resemblance of the matching information sources shifts it again to the fear emotional state. Changes in the emotional state are highly dependent upon the individual and experience. Self-experience shows that some individuals react positively to the conflict signals, obviously like the challenge and this positive approach is reflected in the calm, relaxed OWL and controlled search for appropriate points of access. Others respond negatively and activate the fear systems manifesting in sky-high heart rate, furtive looks and sweating palms for example. The negative effects of anxiety on performance are well documented, but Weltman, Smith and Egstrom (1971) argued that there is no detrimental effect on performance of the main task in their study on anxiety, but impaired performance on the subsidiary task. This was explained by the adverse effects of anxiety being compensated for, by some extent, by putting most of the available attention resources onto the main task at the expense of the subsidiary one. Self-experience supports this observation generally, since faced with multiple tasks, strong individuals will focus attention on the main task or the task showing the highest priority, thus neglecting other tasks or other incoming information. However, self-experience also shows that in some circumstances fear will remove all chance of concentrating on even the main task and techniques must be used, e.g. counting to ten or deep breathing, to bring the recall process back on track. In this case, the psychologist`s constructivist theory of Helmholtz (1866) that motivation and emotion play a part in cognitive success show credence. In this the ´questions` stage of the biochemical recall process, the emotional state goes through a roller coaster ride of changes - happiness until the monitoring system signals failure or time constraints, then panic/fear with amygdala activation through prefrontal cortex activation and a change in processing, input and attention, fear on conflict, happiness on the recognition of various points of access. But in summary, the emotional state follows the attentional state and this dictates how the processing stage will be controlled.

Emotions can also play important roles in the recall with further processing stage of constructing options. The emotional value of events through the emotional tag is a comparison aspect of certain strategies, e.g other people´s views and this can also lead to errors when unfair worth is placed on particular events. However, the most important role of emotions and emotional state is in the end-stage of the recall process. In the case of the simplest path, just like in recall with processing, the ´magic answer` is the result of either firing strength or self-interest based on needs. The strongest option that matches the purpose in then chosen. This is not always the case with circumstances where the multiple options constructed are of equal worth or indistinguishable worth to the event or the individual. This leads to a decision-making stage described here as being based on the ´heart`, ´head` or ´non-active`. Emotions and emotional state are involved in all three methods, albeit to different extents.

´Outside the box` thinking suggests that decision methods based on the heart means that self-interest is the primary factor in determining which path is followed, i.e. emotional values take priority over facts. This can be amply demonstrated by the example of mother love where the love for a child takes priority over the mother`s self-interest. Whatever the content of the information, the ´option` chosen is the one that has the emotional value of the required calibre. This probably means the emotional values dictated by the hypothesised sliding switch scale of the prefrontal cortex and stored in the emotional tag are the determining criteria, with the single negative value taking priority over those of pleasure. This type of decision-making is supported by the psychologists` theories such as Anderson`s rational-emotional model (2003) and the social functionalist approach (Tetlock, 2002). This implies that there must be a link between the emotional system and decision-making mechanism and evidence for this is abundant, e.g. Bechara (2005) described two separate, but interacting neural systems that control decision-making: an impulsive amygdala system for signalling pain or pleasure of immediate prospects and a reflective prefrontal cortex system for signalling pain or pleasure of future prospects.

The biochemical mechanism involved in this type of decision-making process requires the comparison of emotional tags. Each option constructed in the previous stage from each point of access has activated sNCA and these contain the relevant information to the purpose as well as an emotional tag based on the proposed prefrontal cortex sliding switch. Therefore, when the sNCA informational content is activated according to the start input and purpose, then the value of the emotional tag is also registered. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that it is the prefrontal cortex that compares the emotional values of each option, as the prefrontal cortex is also the proposed site for the emotional tag storage. This is supported by evidence, which shows one area of the prefrontal cortex in particular, the orbitofrontal cortex, being responsible for decision-making (Kringelbach, 2005 and Wallis 2006). The choosing of the option based on emotional value will then initiate the running through of the information linked to the sNCA so that the appropriate action could be made, which would explain the observation that areas involved in decision-making are the parietal cortex, basal ganglia and motor structures (Kaini, Hanks and Shadlen, 2006). Conflict between information of the purpose sNCA and the stored sNCA may mean that the ideal solution has not been found and that is why decisions ruled by the heart are not always logical. As a method of decision-making per se this method is probably not applicable in many circumstances encountered in our daily lives, but the emotional value of the consequences of performing the event is a vital part of the other type of decision-making process, that based on the ´head`. 

´Outside the box` thinking defines the alternative method of decision-making based on the ´head` as making decisions based on facts and logic and instead of comparing the emotional worth of the available events. Out of the three techniques suggested risk is associated with emotional system functioning. Risk can be calculated using the strength of emotional response and can be re-defined as the assessment of the chance of reward or loss being received. Decision-making seeks to maximise reward (happiness, dopamine-based neurotransmitter system) and minimise loss (stress, noradrenaline-based neurotransmitter mechanism) and therefore, the emotional strength of each option is calculated for self-interest. The values obtained from each option are compared and that producing the highest value (reward or loss) indicates the most ideal solution. The translation between emotional signal of incoming information into informational signal from the sNCA may explain the time delay seen in responses observed by Komura et al. (2005). The link between risk and emotional strength is abundant with some linking neurotransmitter effects to loss and reward, e.g. Morgan et al. 2006, Talbot et al. 2006. Others link the prefrontal cortex, particularly the orbitofrontal cortex to reward (Coricelli et al. 2005, Wallis, 2006).

Aside from the use of the emotional tag, emotional state also plays a role in the decision-making stage of recall with further processing. The seven-stage process provides a roller-coaster ride of changes to both the attentional and emotional systems from the start to the finish, the formation of the ´electrical image`. Details of the changes are:

Stage 1 incoming sensory stimulus, acknowledgement of problem, formation of goal – the emotional system shows dominance of the dopamine-based neurotransmitter system and hence happiness at the receipt of the stimulus, changing to tension at the realisation of a problem and during the search for the appropriate stimulus to match task (purpose stage). 

Stage 2 options construction – there is relief as new options are formulated, but this could lead to frustration (negative emotions) if the task does not go as it should or options are difficult to find.

Stage 3 acknowledgment of option results - borderline relaxed/fear (pleasure/stress). Running through the options can lead to emotional tag activation.

Stage 4 assessment of activation/similarity/emotional response matching to purpose NCA - borderline relaxed/fear (pleasure/stress). This stage is dependent on the number and quality of options available and rough estimate of suitability to task. It involves looking  for one result even if not expected at the beginning, e.g. look at to accept reward if utility result not good leading to  ´compromising`. There is relaxation if one result looks possible.

Stage 5 decision stage with respect to strength, characteristics and emotional value – emotional system mirrors attentional system in that the easy, clear-cut decision based on criteria leads to relaxation of system. Unclear or compromised decisions shift the emotional state to one of fear.

Stage 6 action – there is relaxation of the emotional state as action takes place.

Stage 7 – acknowledgement of the outcome relative to expected – emotional system mirrors attentional system with happy/relaxed if the outcome matches the expected one or is a pleasant alternative. If not, then the emotional system shifts to one of fear.

Emotions and emotional state also play roles in the third type of decision-making, that of non-active. Although the methods maybe based on other criteria, e.g. external orders where others determine the decision followed, emotions are registered not only at the communication of the order, but also at the outcome stage. Therefore, the emotional system still is important even if not acted upon consciously or subconsciously.

Decision-making example based on emotional value

Choosing tea or coffee is a type of decision that is one of the most common faced by individuals everyday – the decision between two ´real-time` recognised objects placed before the individual with both serving the same purpose. The action in this case is the drinking of the beverage in order to satisfy thirst. The process leading to that decision-making stage follows that described in recall with further processing since the inclusion of the decision-making stage implies that tea or coffee have the same ´value` in the eyes of the partaking individual. Therefore, faced with two relatively equal options, the individual has to apply the PISCO method (De Bono, 1982) to solve the problem of deciding which drink to take.

The biochemical mechanism for the decision-making process from start to finish follows the proposed seven stages. The first stage involves the inputting of sensory information from the external environment and the identification of the goal. In this case, sensory input reveals two possible drinks in the external environment. Identification of both using stored information from previous encounters and cued from the sensory input leads to the knowledge that both are drinkable and will satisfy thirst. In this case of recall with further processing, then no clear option of which drink to take is forthcoming. Therefore, further assessment of the two options has to be instigated and this begins with the formation of the purpose NCA grouping according to defining ´where the individual would like to be` at the end of the process, i.e. thirst satisfied. Attentional and emotional system changes follow those described above.

Stage 2 involves the construction of options. In this case, the points of access for both are the incoming sensory information. Looking at one drink, tea for example, stimulates the sensory organs and fires the appropriate pathways to the brain. The firing network stimulates firing of the sNCA and memories, including autobiographical and factual ones of tea and tea drinking are recalled. The accompanying emotional tag is also recalled, so that the emotional ´value` of the drink is known. Strength of firing within the complex determines which brain memories have priority. Shutting of the eyes at this point may prevent visual stimulation, but the memories still flash before the eyes. By changing the visual view (intended or through saccades) then the stimulus changes to the other option, coffee and just like tea, the relevant sensory pathways are fired leading to the activation of the sNCA for coffee and information and emotions relating to this drink are then recalled. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that at this point there is either a clear choice of drink due to habit or strong emotional attachment to one of the drinks for example (simplest path), or an ´awareness` that both are of equal value and that further processing will be necessary to determine which beverage will be eventually drunk.

This further processing (Stage 3 and Stage 4) begins with the assessment of both options according to certain strategies, such as aims, goals and objectives, consequence and sequel.  In this case, since both drinks are placed before the individual then emotional feelings about the drink probably outweigh more practical concerns (e.g. preparation of the drink), or more political ones (e.g. whether the tea leaves or coffee beans have been organically sourced or subject to Fair Trade agreements). Therefore, the strategies used are more likely to involve emotions and personal opinion, such as the methods of ´emotional values` or ´other peoples` views`.  The sNCA of both options are ´run through` according to the strategy chosen. Again, if a ´clear` solution appears then the decision-making process has shifted to its ´end-stage` and the drink of choice is picked up and drunk (the action). However, if there is still conflict then a decision has to be made (Stage 5) and the method used is one of the three proposed, ´heart`, ´head` or ´non-active`.

In this case the most likely decision-making strategy is ´heart` based on personal opinion rather than on basic needs, drive and fact.  Why? The drinking of tea or coffee is normally given a low priority, i.e. it is not important to the individual`s view of the world, behaviour etc. if one drink is chosen above the other; it may be inconvenient, not the best from a pleasure perspective, but not survival-threatening. (This is where some people place an inordinate sense of value to what others would call ´little things` and where personal perspective is apparent). Therefore, in this case, the emotional tags of both sNCA are examined and that showing the strongest pleasure is chosen, i.e. that beverage is drunk (Stage 6). This can be seen another way in that the one not leading to noradrenaline-based activation, i.e. the ´fight or flight` response, is chosen. The examination of the emotional tag is not so simple as implied. One has an overall feeling about an object, but further examination can divide this into separate facets of ´like` or ´hate`. For example the overall ´pleasure vs hate` emotional status attached to each object as indicated by the recall of the sliding switch position may give a simple ´like tea, hate coffee` answer. Further investigation of the sNCA associated with tea may indicate more pleasurable memories associated with drinking tea than coffee that justify this overall rating, e.g. favourite mug, time of day or company. Therefore, the decision is made according to the emotional tags stored in the relevant sNCA. 

Although most people would not use the ´head` decision-making strategies for such a minor task, some may employ ´non-active` strategies, e.g. habit (always picks tea) or compliance (everyone else present is drinking tea). However, most people take an active role in their actions and it is more likely that the decision in the case of tea or coffee is made based on personal opinion. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that the likely review of the outcome probably just involves a comparison of the quality of the tea/coffee being drunk against previous experiences, or the emotional value of the event. This information may be stored or ignored depending on the extent of the difference to the original stored knowledge, or on the other events taking place at the time. 

Implications of emotions in recall

´Real-time` emotional state, just like in the input and storage stages, mirrors in recall the action of the attentional system. The importance of the emotional system in recall and processing in this version of the brain memory mechanism lies more in the use of the emotional tag. Emotional tag reactivation of sNCA with input can affect the ´real-time` attentional state shifting it to the fear state if appropriate. This is ably demonstrated by a fear of spiders for example. Activation of the emotional tag will dictate how the ´real-time` information will be dealt with. Another example is its role played in processing as an individual`s values dictate how and what content of NCA is reactivated (´strongest activation wins`). In recall with further processing, options can actually be chosen on the basis of the strength of the emotional tags. For example, in decision-making techniques options favouring the ´heart` (i.e. those where the emotional status from values is elicited through the prefrontal cortex sliding switch mechanism) can override those based on NCA firing strengths of particular features (´head`). Therefore, in this ´outside the box` version of the brain memory mechanism a relaxed mental state is important for the correct recall conditions and optimal usage of the stored information.

Although the physiology of the emotional system is already determined by evolution and development, individuality arises biologically from neuronal status (firing levels and neurotransmitter levels for example) and psychologically from past experiences, since values are assigned for each representation in the NCA using the prefrontal cortex sliding switch mechanism. Therefore, this version of the brain memory mechanism implies that how the brain memory content is recalled and processed can be ´manipulated` by externally influencing both of these components. For example, the dopamine neurotransmitter-based brain system dominating in pleasure can be altered by changing the dopamine cellular concentration and activity in participating brain areas (e.g. in the prefrontal cortex as a result of amphetamine use). Therefore, actions leading to imbalanced neurotransmitter activities should be avoided. Relating to emotional tags, for example, the continual expression of fear, leads to ´skewed` stored values, so that decision-making is difficult. Therefore, it would be advisable to ensure that values are ranged through widened experiences and are logical in grading. This is probably achieved through stimulation with the more comparisons being made the better the use of the value system for processing. Empathy, based on the feeling of what will happen, allows third party experiences (e.g. those obtained from the use of computers) to contribute.

 

 

SLEEP

We all know that tiredness has effects on cognition and brain memory. When we are tired, it seems more difficult to learn something and recall needs a certain level of determination, unless the information is vitally important for our survival. As it is natural for individuals to sleep and there is a circadian rhythm to the sleep-wake cycle then there also must be natural changes in the level of performance of certain systems responsible for cognition.

Sleep-wake cycle

The natural sleep-wake cycle is one of most important circadian rhythms in humans. Most individuals sleep 7-8 hours in a 24 hour cycle, but studies of people isolated from the external environment and therefore living without external cues (Zeitgebers) show longer cycles. The rest of the cycle is spent in a wakeful state, where alertness follows a set pattern - increasing after sleep to a maximum between 3pm and 7pm and decreasing to the following sleep cycle. This pattern of ´alertness` is mirrored by changes in cognitive performance. Blake (1967) studied naval ratings and tested them at five different times of the day (8am, 10.30am, 1pm, 3.30pm and 9pm). He reported that their best performance was at 9pm, with second best at 10.30am, but later studies showed that best performance was at noon, due to the highest levels of adrenaline. Blake also showed that there was a dip at 1pm (the ´post-lunch dip`), which researchers believe is due to energy capability being deflected away from mental tasks towards the digestive system. Even smaller periods of cognitive change were observed by Klein and Armitage (1979) who described a 96-minute cycle called the Basic Rest-Activity Cycle (BRAC). It was suggested that this might be related to the one seen in sleep (Lloyd, 2004). Support for this work came from Carlson (1986) who found numerous cycles of around 90 minutes in length all controlling mechanisms associated with the medulla. This ´clock` seems to control a pattern of regular changes in ´alertness` and is associated with activity during the day, as well as NREM and REM sleep cycles at night. It also controls body temperature.

The control of the natural sleep-wake cycle appears to be dependent on the environment and is governed by an internal clock thought to be a small group of cells in the forebrain, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which is linked to the activity of the adrenal glands. ´Outside the box` thinking associates the SCN with synchronicity of neuronal firing and it appears to be activated by specialised retinal ganglion cells, which respond slowly to light. It is thought that the SCN cells` molecular cycles are based on gene expression modulation, e.g. histone acetylation and phosphorylation (Levenson and Sweatt, 2005). The system involves clock genes (circadian locomotor output cycles kaput), which are transcribed to produce mRNA that is then translated into proteins. After a delay, the newly manufactured proteins send feedback and somehow interact with the transcription mechanism, causing a decrease in gene expression. As a consequence of decreased transcription less protein is produced and gene expression again increases to start the cycle anew. The entire cycle takes about 24 hours. The coordinating mechanism appears to be light, which can reset the SCN clock cells each day.

Meredith et al. (2006) found that the circadian clock controlled the daily expression of the large conductance Ca2+-activated K+ channels (BK).  BK channel–null mice (Kcnma1 -/-) have increased spontaneous firing rates in the SCN neurons selectively at night and weak circadian amplitudes in multiple behaviours timed by the SCN. Since SCN neurons are GABA dependent then firing is inhibitory. Kcnma1-/- mice showed normal expression of clock genes such as Arntl (Bmal1), indicating a role for BK channels in SCN pacemaker output, rather than in intrinsic time-keeping. The findings implicated BK channels as important regulators of the spontaneous firing rates and suggested that the SCN pacemaker governs the expression of circadian behavioural rhythms through spontaneous firing rates modulation.

Long et al. (2004) found that SCN neurons show circadian variations in firing frequency, with considerable synchrony of spiking across SCN neurons on a scale of milliseconds. Spontaneous spiking was often synchronized in pairs of electrically coupled neurons. Colwell (2005) found that in isolated cells, gap junctions between neurons promote synchronous electrical activity and rhythmic behaviour and the degree of this synchrony could be predicted from the magnitude of coupling. He suggested therefore, that electrical synapses in the SCN help to synchronize its spiking activity, and that such synchrony is necessary for normal circadian behaviour.

Output from the SCN goes to the hypothalamus, midbrain and cortical areas and elicits changes in their activity. In humans, nerve branches go from the eyes to the SCN, then to the pineal gland, which controls melatonin and serotonin production. Mammalian pineal glands evolved from more primitive visual sensory organs and they cannot respond directly to light but through the eye and optic tract. The pineal gland also appears to have no direct input from the rest of the nervous system and does not send fibres to other parts of brain, eliciting its effects purely through hormones. The circadian rhythm of external light is reflected by the serotonin and noradrenaline content of the pineal gland, which demonstrates diurnal variations - serotonin being high by day and low at night and noradrenaline vice versa. This is in contrast to the hypothalamus where the 5HT level appears constant. Changes from light to dark are associated with changes in the activity of the enzyme converting serotonin to melatonin so that melatonin levels in the blood increase. When there is sufficient melatonin circulating in the blood, the person needs to sleep. The levels of melatonin therefore, reflect the natural levels of tiredness an individual feels.

The opposite of tiredness and sleepiness is arousal, which is defined in the dictionary as being ´awaken from sleep, stirred from slothfulness`. Arousal means ´alertness`, and therefore, it is more akin to changes in attention and attentional state and their corresponding effects. Arousal occurs naturally in the period approaching peak cognitive and memory performance. Biologically, the areas in the brain responsible for it are the lower brain areas such as the pons, medulla and the reticular formation. It is possible that the tegmentum links to the pons and medulla, then to the reticular formation, which will lead to quicker discrimination (Fuster, 1958), but the reticular formation is well known for its gate-keeping function, supervising the comings and goings of the brain and organising sleep and waking. It enables us to concentrate in the midst of distraction, sending out a signal to focus, thus increasing the amount of incoming sensory information. Brain areas responding to arousal are the cells of the locus coeruleus, which contain noradrenaline, the 5HT containing cells of the raphe nucleus, acetylcholine containing cells of the brain stem and basal forebrain and neurons of the midbrain that use histamine. Collectively, these neurons synapse on the thalamus, cerebral cortex and other brain regions causing depolarisation of neurons, an increase in excitability, and a suppression of rhythmic forms of firing. Thus, just like sleep and tiredness, changes in arousal will bring about subsequent and expected changes in cognition and brain memory performance.

5HT role

So far, discussion on neurotransmitters in the brain memory process has focused on acetylcholine, dopamine and noradrenaline, but another neurotransmitter, serotonin (5HT) also plays an important role. Three functions for 5HT in the brain memory process have already been mentioned: the first is its activating role in the prefrontal cortex and its link to dopamine and dopaminergic firing (Evers et al. 2005); the second, its role as precursor to melatonin in the pineal gland responsible for the circadian sleep-wake cycle; and the third, its role in arousal where its action on raphe nuclei adds to the overall increase in neuronal firing. Serotonin can be found in high concentrations in several brain areas, e.g. hypothalamus, pons, medulla, hippocampus and olfactory bulb, but in fact this only accounts for 5% of its concentration in the body. The other 95% can be found in the gut. Therefore, it is linked to a number of physiological processes concerning other systems such as blood clotting, heart-beat, sleep, depression and migraine headaches.

5HT also appears to play a role in brain memory. For example, Meeter et al. (2006) reported that both 5-HT depletion and specific 5-HT agonists lower brain memory performance. These effects are largely dependent on transmission over the 5-HT1A and 5-HT3 receptors, which regulate the selectivity of retrieval. It is possible that 5HT elicits its effects on memory in a variety of different ways:

1) through overall firing of particular areas, e.g. raphe nuclei and prefrontal cortex, some firing of which may be related to the sleep-wake cycle. Evers et al. (2005) looked at probabilistic reversal learning and found that ATD enhanced reversal-related signal change in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, but did not modulate the ventrolateral prefrontal cortical response. Overall firing requires serotonin production, release, and receptor binding. The secondary effects of binding of serotonin to its receptors are similar to binding of noradrenaline to its receptors and reflect the particular brain areas. Binding to 5HT1 receptors causes inhibition of adenylate cyclase with no rise in cAMP (competition with other adenylate cyclase enzymes – alpha means inhibition; beta means activation). It can however, cause activation when binding to the 5HT1A receptor occurs in the hippocampus. Adenylate cyclase activation leads to opening of chloride channels and the hyperpolarisation of cells. Binding of serotonin to 5HT2 receptors in the cortex or hippocampus leads to I3P breakdown and subsequent release of calcium, release of other neurotransmitters and glycogen binding. Binding to 5HT1A receptors is similar to noradrenaline binding to beta-adrenergic receptors leading to diacylglyceride production and phosphate/serine binding to proteins, and phosphorylation of potassium channels resulting in closure. Binding to 5HT1 receptors can lead to Gprotein binding and subsequent potassium channel activation, but binding to 5HT2 receptors leads to Gprotein binding ending in potassium channel closure.  Jouvet and Renault (1966) also showed that lesions of the serotonergic raphe system in a cat resulted in the cat being awake for several days showing that this area plays a role in initiating sleep.

2) 5HT could also play a role in brain memory by causing changes in the visual system or other sensory systems. For example, LSD is a potent hallucinogenic drug and 5HT receptor binding agent causing visual system disturbances. A dysfunctional visual system can produce brain memory deficits. Evidence for this came from sleep deprivation sufferer, Randy Gardner (Horne, 1988), who was awake for 264 hours and towards the end suffered from disorganised speech, blurred vision, and a small degree of paranoia and also from Kavanau (1997), who showed that depression of visual input led to a lack of memory for the visual input and a increased stabilisation of memories already present.

3) 5HT could have an affect on brain memory by changing focus and attentional state. It is known that tiredness alters a person`s ability to focus or pay attention. This effect could be due to the action of the prefrontal cortex (Evers et al. 2005), where there is a link between the level of task relevant material and activity (3.1.4), and firing due to serotonergic binding or serotonergic affect on dopamine release (Pehek et al. 2006). Pehek and colleagues showed that dopamine release in the medial prefrontal cortex involved 5HT2A receptors. Mehta (2007) and Ji and Wilson (2007) reported deficits in hippocampal activity, an area high in serotonin, with sleep and tiredness resulting in memory dysfunction. They attributed the effect to the hypothesised role of hippocampus in memory consolidation. Work by Yoo et al. (2007) supported their findings and they reported that a single night of sleep deprivation before a learning episode had an effect. They also saw a different pattern of functional connectivity in basic alertness networks of the brainstem and thalamus and found that prefrontal regions predicted the success of encoding for sleep-deprived individuals relative to those who had slept normally.

4) 5HT could have an affect on brain memory by changing the emotional state. A shift from the dopamine-based brain system to the noradrenaline-based system could be induced if the fear mechanism is activated due to tiredness resulting in failure to learn.  Prefrontal cortex activity would be altered by the 5HT and this would influence emotional and attentional states with corresponding changes in cognitive and memory processes. Therefore, changes in emotional state mirroring changes in 5HT binding and prefrontal cortex activity may result in memory deficits. The work by Meeter et al. (2006) showed that depression is linked to 5HT under-transmission and 5HT1A agonists can ameliorate the memory deficits observed.

Although acetylcholine, dopamine and noradrenaline act directly on the brain memory mechanism, serotonin probably acts by indirectly affecting one of them, or by binding to receptors that can bring about changes in one of them. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that this is a kind of safety mechanism, or ´back door` by which the neurotransmitters can affect the brain memory mechanism, thus increasing the chances by which memory can be brought about or affected.

Role of sleep in storage

It is relatively easy to understand why tiredness and lack of sleep can have a negative effect on brain memory, because their action can influence ´real-time` physiological processes. However, the positive effect of sleep on brain memory reported by researchers and recognised by non-scientists (demonstrable by the use of popular phrases such as `Why don`t you sleep on it?`, or  ´Everything will look better in the morning`) is unlikely to work by the same mechanism. Visual memory recall has been shown to be improved after sleep even though ´real-time` visual input is not taking place (Kavanau, 1997). Researchers have therefore suggested instead that the positive affect of sleep on brain memory occurs at the formation of the sNCA stage, in what the psychologists term ´memory consolidation`.

Sleep, which has been described as a whole organism experience as a response to local network interactions (Krueger et al. 2008), consists of 5 stages : 4 NREM (Non-rapid Eye Movement) stages and 1 REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage. An individual experiences approximately 5 cycles per night with the REM stage increasing at every cycle and NREM stage 4 and the REM stage repeated in 90 minutes cycles (BRAC rhythm). Not all stages are repeated every time but the sleep period begins with Stages 1-5 then this is followed by only stages 4,3,2 then 5, then Stages 2,3,4,3,2,5. Research has shown that NREM and REM sleep have different characteristics, but if people talk about sleep, they attach more importance to the single ´dreaming stage` (Stage 5, REM) than the other 4 NREM stages, although in actual fact it appears that the latter is more important for long-term memory storage.

The coveted REM stage has an EEG almost indistinguishable from the waking brain with fast, low-voltage fluctuations. The muscles are incapable of movement except the eye and inner ear and sympathetic activity dominates with body temperature sinking, heart and respiratory rates increasing, but irregular. Oxygen consumption of the brain is actually higher than when awake and concentrating on difficult mental tasks. This is mirrored by brain activity where the primary visual cortex is equally active in REM as the waking state, although less active than the NREM stages. Extra-striate cortical areas and parts of the limbic system are also more active in REM than the waking state (excitation is internally generated), whereas regions of the frontal lobes are noticeably less active in REM (visual imagery in dreams not interpreted).

The control of REM sleep is the responsibility of the brain stem core, particularly the pons and action of modulatory neurotransmitters. The firing rates of the locus coeruleus and the raphe nuclei (both involved in the sleep-wake cycle described in 3.4) decrease to almost nothing with the onset of REM, but there is a sharp increase in firing rates of acetylcholine-containing neurons of the pons, which has been suggested as inducing sleep. REM sleep can show variability, for example: brain waves of 11 week old foetuses show consistent electrical activity that of REM sleep, but as life progresses the degree of REM sleep falls; and in depressed patients not only were their hippocampus up to 15 times smaller than non-depressed people, and the levels of serotonin also lower, but they also showed reduced levels of NREM sleep and higher levels of REM sleep. Although REM is linked to increased firing rates, learning studies have shown that it is not linked to long-term memory (Rasch et al. 2008).

In contrast, the NREM stages seem to be the periods of rest, with muscle tension throughout the body reduced and movement minimal. Temperature and energy consumption are at their lowest, and the ANS activity is increased so heart rate, respiration, and kidney function all slow down and digestive processes speed up. The brain appears at rest with energy consumption and neuron firing rates at their lowest. Slow, large-amplitude EEG waves unlikely to reach the cortex are observed. Dreaming can occur at this stage in 30% of sleepers, but the dreams are less detailed and less coherent than REM dreams.

Research has shown that it is these NREM stages that are important to brain memory because it is thought that during these stages ´housekeeping` functions of nerve cells takes place, e.g. glycogen stores are replenished in neurons and glial cells, receptors are inserted in membranes and synapses are strengthened. These are all functions proposed by ´outside the box` thinking as being required for the long-term storage of brain memories and part of the multiple cellular changes thought to take place. This hypothesis is supported by the earlier psychologists views on the role of sleep. Their restoration/recovery theory (Oswald, 1980) proposed different functions for the two types of sleep. Oswald (1980) suggested that during NREM sleep, bodily processes are renewed, and during the REM brain processes are restored including replenishing neurotransmitters. Alternately, Lawton (2004) suggested that during the NREM stages the brain repairs the damage done by free radicals, a view supported by evidence that animals with high metabolic rates and hence high radical damage sleep more (Allison and Cicchetti, 1976). Another view is that NREM stages leads to the topping up of glycogen stores in the glial cells that supply the neurons with energy when required. When these are run down they must be replenished so the brain goes into a quiet state (NREM) and neurons hyperpolarize. In the REM stage however potassium ions are pumped back into the neurons thus polarising the cells and ´switching on` the cortex. Thus, the NREM stages were suggested as the ´sleep periods` responsible for replenishing proteins, strengthening synapses, inserting receptors, and topping up glycogen, all so-called ´housekeeping functions` and part of the cellular changes required to convert iNCA to sNCA. Support for the theory came from blood flow studies: increases in oxygen consumption in the brain were seen in REM; the cases of babies and decreased REM sleep with age; problems occurring in sleep deprivation; and growth hormone release in slow-wave NREM sleep. Direct evidence linking long-term memory storage and sleep came from studies by Lawton (2004). He showed in gene expression studies that brain activity switched on genes involved in protein synthesis and membrane repair during sleep. Van der Werf et al. (2009) showed that sleep even before a learning event aided the memory process, thus providing more evidence for the restoration/recovery theory.

Therefore to summarise, long-term memory storage, i.e. memory consolidation, has been positively linked to NREM sleep. During these sleep stages, ´housekeeping` functions take place, which may be linked to the gene modulation and protein synthesis as part of the multiple cellular changes needed to convert short-term memory storage to long-term. The advantage of sleep for such a function is that although the nerve cells can perform their duties even if the person is not asleep, there are always incoming sensory signals and so cellular functioning and capability is split between two ´tasks` - assessment of incoming and storage. Sleep removes the sensory input part thus reducing demand on cellular processing. This view is supported by studies on the depression of visual input by Kavanau (1997), where the absence of visual input leads to the increased stabilisation of memories already present. In the REM phase, the nerve cells may be extra-sensitive with their renewed balance and ´high alert` status and slight changes in neurotransmitters or ion concentrations may be enough to bring about end-plate potentials to fire cells without external stimulus. This extraneous firing may be enough to elicit ´recall`, albeit in unusual cell groupings and may be an explanation for dreaming and that dreams are often related in some way to events previously encountered.

Psychologists have suggested two other theories as to why humans need sleep, but these can be explained more from a behaviour and emotion perspective than a biochemical one, unlike the restoration/recovery theory. Some suggested that sleep is important to restore psychological function since an association was found between the quality of sleep and mood (Naitoh,1975). Insomniacs tend to be more worried and anxious than people who sleep normally (Berry and Webb, 1983), but the evidence is difficult to interpret, for example, Is lack of sleep caused by constant worrying? Another study showed that people who slept well one night reported lower levels of anxiety the following day and Naitoh (1975) reported that even one night without sleep led to negative personality effects. Emotions play a role in memory so this theory may be explained in these terms. The other psychologist theory for sleep is known as the evolutionary/ecological theory where Meddis (1979) reported that sleep is the time of increased safety for animals since they are less mobile and less likely to be spotted by predators – a view not supported by nocturnal animals for example, or snoring.

Therefore, it can be summarised that although the levels of tiredness and arousal may have an affect on brain memory content, sleep is itself important to long-term brain memory formation because it provides the correct circumstances for the multiple cellular changes needed to convert the short-term memories into more permanent ones.

 

PHYSICAL CHANGES

The complexity of the physiological mechanisms and interrelationships between different systems means that physical changes at thousands of different points within the process can lead to effects on brain memory, whether detrimental or observable. ´Outside the box` thinking has led to some of these being grouped accordingly:

1)      physical damage, e.g. injuries and age-related changes.

2)      dysfunction found in mental health disorders, e.g. Alzheimer`s disease.

3)      dysfunction caused by substances, e.g. drugs and medication.

 

ORGANISATION AND PROCESSING OF MATERIAL

´Outside the box` thinking suggests that organisation and processing of material can be divided into two types: those under what could be termed ´personal control`, i.e. are determined by the individual and, therefore, indicate individuality in all stages of the brain memory mechanism; and those that can be considered more technical, relating to the process itself and hence, under the same conditions, the brain memories of different individuals would be the same.

Influences under personal control include:

1) selection of reference points, cues or points of access – unless directly guided, the selection of reference points in the storage stage of the brain memory process for example is individual as seen by differences in witness statements for example. Recall is also individual, not only from the recall of personalised past experiences, but also through the choice of cues and points of access. These reflect the individual episodic brain memory knowledge base.

2) level and choice of ´chunking` of information - ´chunking` of information means the grouping of specified collections of material for the benefit of brain memory storage and later recall. The level and quality of ´chunking` reflects personal experiences (episodic brain memory base) and processing of the material at the storage stage. Categorisation and generic versions, although demonstrating characteristics probably shared by many individuals at the more general level are particular to that individual at the higher ends of the hierarchies through biasness and selection of material. Associations between past experiences (connectivity between the sNCA) also reflect individual needs, wishes and knowledge.

3)determination of emotional values – the emotional system has affects on the input stage of material alone. The personalised OWL and stored record of this emotional state (emotional tag) associated with the information affect what information is selected and how it is processed (e.g. emotional values, self-interest). Personal behaviour probably comes into this category, since it is linked to one demonstrable feature of it, that of the emotional system. Therefore, any factor that affects personal behaviour can also affect the brain memory mechanism. Some of these factors are personal character traits such as stubbornness, ambition and humour, level of creativity and self-confidence, as well as external determinants such as personal environment and financial status.

This group of factors is probably the easiest to influence externally in order to improve the brain memory mechanism as a whole.  For example, training methods or organisational methods, e.g. the use of mind maps and mnenomonics, self-addressed speech (inner and loud), increased awareness, improved basic knowledge can show positive effects on the memory ability of an individual. For a more comprehensive improvement, however, the second group of influences, the technical one, must also be addressed.

Technical influences are those that are common to individuals. Therefore, under the same conditions, there would be no or little differences to the brain memories stored and recalled. Influences of this nature include:

1) order of intake – observed with primacy and recency effects, shared by individuals learning under the same conditions.

2) guided processing – level of processing theory postulates that the greater the level of processing of information before storage then the greater the possibility of successful recall. If the individual is ´guided` in this processing stage, either by external means (another person) or internally (by processing habits or inner speech) then it is likely that the brain memory content will be the same or similar for all partaking individuals. The same criteria also applies for further processing stages such as the construction of options and decision-making. This influence can be ably demonstrated by ´shared memories`, e.g. memories of Princess Diana`s death. The sharing of this experience, from both an informational perspective and emotional and the frequent recall, i.e. rehearsal between people through re-telling, has led to a ´shared` memory of the event in some.

3) use of particular techniques – this has already been described for the case of decision-making, where so many options are available, but an individual has his own selection of ´favourite` techniques. Choice reflects level of experience and past success, but can be influenced by others or situation. Therefore, individuals using the same technique and assumed to have the same level of experience are likely to come to the same conclusion. This has been demonstrated in a study investigating the use of certain tools, where development has led to the same answer for a problem independent of species (Morris, 2002). In the case of decision-making, similar intake, same interpretation of the task (purpose NCA), guided mental models, dictated probability and frequency conclusions will all lead to lack of individuality in the final solution.

 

LANGUAGE

With regards to the brain memory mechanism, language has two functions: the first as a source of extra information relating to an event; and the second as a ´tool` for information processing, communication and thinking. ´Outside the box` thinking follows the hypothesis of Whorf (1956) in that language determines thinking, in preference to the views of Watson (1913), who believed that thinking was only inner speech. Whether a tool or as a source of information, language is learnt and requires a number of skills for successful implementation.

Input mechanism

As far as biochemistry and physiology is concerned, language is challenging because it not only requires the visual and auditory sensory systems, but also motor systems (e.g. for speech). It also rarely exists in the ´single moment in time`-type event, with sequences instead being the predominant form. Sensory systems must be capable of perceiving the basic and more advanced forms of the language, as well as using them with or without stimulus from the external environment. For example, the visual system must be capable of detecting the lines, curves and dots that make up the letters of the Germanic language as well as grouping them into syllables, then words and sentences. Linked with the words is the application of common meaning, standard for individuals sharing the same language tool.

There are many scenarios relating to language and its use, but in this section dealing with brain memory input, let us consider the case of an individual with full language capability learning a new word for an object placed in the visual field. Language input begins with the object activating cells in the visual pathway representing its most characteristic features (the reference points). End-of the road cortical cells fired according to the complexity of the image seen will form the temporary sensory stores. By keeping the object within the visual field, as appears to be carried out when learning is taking place, sustained activation of the relevant cells and pathways continues, shifting the temporary stores to the more stabile visual short-term memory stores. If we assume that the word to be learnt with it is spoken (i.e. the verbal source), then the auditory system is also activated simultaneously with the visual pathway.  The auditory characteristics of the spoken word are represented by those neurones and pathways fired. These too form an auditory sensory store, which will shift to the auditory part of the short-term memory store if the conditions of sustained cellular activation are met (possibly by word repetition). Therefore, the iNCA of the ´real-time` event consists of both visual and auditory components. This implies hypothetical connectivity between the two cortical areas with complexity dictating exact iNCA location. Research has shown, however, that there are two areas in the cortex specialising in language and these are the Wernicke and Broca areas. The function of these areas will be discussed in more detail when the storage mechanism is described.

Both components are unlikely to be ´single moment in time`-type events, with the object consisting of multiple parts and the word more than one syllable. Therefore, brain memory requires the joining of multiple iNCA representing single time-frames in the same way as visual movement or motor sequences. Hence, language provides good evidence of an appreciation for time. On a larger scale we have words representing it, e.g. today and tomorrow, and on a more esoteric scale, time is implied by words that have more than one syllable. This can be explained by words existing because of the joining of time-frames. Single syllable words like cat or dog when spoken, are spoken in the present time, but with words of two syllables when the first syllable is spoken, then the second is waiting to be spoken in the future and when the second syllabub is spoken then the first has already been spoken and that time-frame passed. Words with even more syllables and then sentences indicates that understanding of the meaning of the words may only occur after a particular sequence of syllables are spoken or read, i.e. an appreciation of time must therefore exist. This concept is slightly different to other visual experiences where the input can be thought of more like frozen pictures. However, it is shared by other types of sequential memories, such as music and shoe-lace tying.

In the above example, the word to be learnt was spoken and relied on the perceptive capabilities of the two sensory systems, visual and auditory. In the case of the word being written, this means that both object and word are visual stimuli and therefore, compete for the same sensory system. The brain copes by prudent use of the visual field and processing capability. Suffice it to say, the visual input continually shifts from the word to the object so that two ´tracks` of visual neurones are fired. Head/eye movements are in this case necessary and it is possible that the movements correlate to the refractory periods of the fired neurones in the same way that saccades initiate the shift in firing (´outside the box` thinking). Sustained activation of both pathways for word and visual image drive short-term memory store formation as normal.

To summarise the input of language biochemically, one should think of the auditory, visual (and motor) systems all in a state of flux. The mechanisms described in the relevant sections above for incoming visual information in movement and auditory information applies to language. In both cases, sensory stores are first formed corresponding to the sensory input and then sustained activation leads to the formation of the visual and auditory iNCA in appropriate cortical areas joined physically or hypothetically together to represent the ´real-time` event. Appropriate cortical areas means that the higher the complexity of the event, the higher the corresponding cortical firing and also means in the case of language activation of the two centres of the brain known to be linked with language, the Wernicke and Broca areas. Because language is so highly dependent on brain memory and learnt rules and standardised input, more will be discussed about the input and storage later on in the section on storage and recall. 

Storage mechanism

In general the sequencing mechanism described for motor sequences applies to language storage, but some specific peculiarities of the mechanism exist and these are:

1)      existence of syllables and linking between syllables to form words.

2)      attachment of meaning to language brought about by linking sensory information.

3)      location of the language sNCA may not directly correlate to the specific language areas.

4)      practice and learning attitude can affect language proficiency.

5)      variation competency allows minor changes in language not to affect understanding.

Since language syllables are separate entities (in fact that is why they are so defined), successive syllables share no common features, thus the biochemical storage mechanism must include the internal ´holding` mechanism necessary for most motor sequence learning. There is a restricted number of available syllables (units in sNCA1 storage), so the variations in words is achieved by linking these known syllables to one another (sNCA2 storage) in an ordinate number of different ways, e.g. the words car, carpet and scar all have the syllable ´car` in common.  The extent of linking represents vocabulary. Requirements from storage therefore, involve not only single event storage at the sNCA1 level, but also linking through the sNCA2 level so that there is grouping of the syllables into words. Storage (as well as input and recall) itself is multi-modal with storage of visual and auditory information as well as muscular action (i.e. mouth and tongue movements for speech).

The second peculiarity of language is the attachment of meaning to language brought about by linking sensory information to the words. Sensory information can stand on its own and so can language per se, but meaning is brought to language only by reference to sensory information. This can be demonstrated by how language is actually learnt. Learning the name of something at an early stage of development requires the visual pathway to be activated by the object being placed in the visual field. As the object is kept there (children are known to intently look at something), the iNCA is created representing the core features of the object (other features too complying to perceptual load capacity rules). At the same time, the language spoken by the ´teacher` enters as auditory stimulus for the auditory system and it too provides additional information to the iNCA. Chunking of the incoming information will increase learning capacity at that time. Studies on short-term memory have shown that between 5 and 9 pieces of information, notably words, can be retained at any one time. Long-term storage then occurs if the conditions for learning are met. Therefore, sensory information representing the event and language in the form of visual, auditory and muscular information are stored together in the sNCA. Hence, an individual builds through the root episodic memories his ´own view of the world` and his ´own view of himself` and links sensory and muscular information to language. Speech does not have to be loud to produce the same results, since inner speech or mouthing are also effective.  Neither does the visual information have to include a ´picture` of the item. Reading the word (visual interpretation of a group of standard letters) can also lead to long-term memories being formed as in the examples of learning historical dates or poems.

The third peculiarity for language storage is related to the actual location of language sNCA. This pinpoints a discrepancy between the recognised, alleged specialised language centres in the brain (the Wernicke and Broca areas) and neuronal cell assembly theory proposed here that suggests widespread cortical involvement representing the sensory event during the input and storage stages. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that the overwhelming evidence for specialised language centres may be overshadowed by the overall requirement of other brain areas (e.g. cerebellum activity due to motor sequencing corresponding to mouth movements) and that perhaps the Wernicke and Broca areas demonstrate instead a monitoring or coordinating function required for language in particular. However, evidence supporting the view that words are stored in a different place to that of the sensory information came from sufferers of agnosia and aphasia.

The fourth peculiarity of language storage is the importance of practice and learning attitude. Since language is learnt, practice and usage are extremely important for the learning and maintenance of language ability. Other skills are also required such as attention and concentration as well as personality traits such as patience, motivation and ambition, which is indicative of emotional system involvement. Continual usage of language leads to the strengthening and connectivity of the long-term stores, sNCA1 and sNCA2. However, it should be noted that learning can only occur under the conditions described and this depends in the early stages on physiological development. It is of no surprise that two year olds cannot read Shakespeare. Although language input occurs throughout life, psychologists have determined that language learning appears to have an optimum time. Critical period hypothesis shows that language learning depends on biological maturation and is easier before puberty (Lenneberg, 1967), which could explain why learning a second language becomes more difficult later in life. However, there are limitations to this hypothesis with evidence from ´Genie` suggesting that the critical period is for learning syntax and phonology and is less evident for vocabulary learning. In fact, natural development of language links auditory input to visual representation. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that a reason for this may be that the mechanism of auditory storage is better suited for sequences. Nouns of single or two-syllables are learnt first from the objects encountered and they are learnt from hearing the word spoken and repeated many times. Longer words are learnt later probably when the syllables as units are well established in the sNCA1 memory. The end-result, if one can call it that since there is essentially no end to language learning, is a vast storage of words linked to objects and actions plus words linked to concepts, jargon, slang, style and expression, some of which are common to all language users and some individual.

The final peculiarity relating to storage of language is variation competency. Just like motor sequences, changes in input, e.g. how we speak words such as pitch, tone, dialect or write words such as writing styles, typefaces, capitals, appear not to influence the brain memory storage or recall processes and can all be coped with. This implies that language just like visual processing is split into input for ´now` and for ´memory` with certain features considered important for future reference (core features) and others ignored. This would indicate that the core features include shape, but not size for visual features and pitch, but not loudness for auditory information consistent with normal episodic memory storage.

The importance of brain memory in language is clear, and the storage mechanism turns single sounds and shapes into meaningful words. The consistency between the users of the language means that language can be used as a communication tool. Without brain memory playing its part, then only sounds and shapes would exist and the biochemical mechanism by which language is stored long-term is similar to that of other sequences requiring rehearsal (repetition of the word) or internal ´holding` to provide the sustained activation conditions necessary to convert the temporary iNCA into the long-term sNCA, at both level 1 (the core and variable features) and 2 (timing and linking between syllables).

Language and recall without processing

There are two possible scenarios for language use in recall without processing and they are: it is an accompaniment to incoming information relating to that event, i.e. it is part of the sNCA leading to perception or recognition on recall; or in cases where there is no incoming information, it forms the ´stimulus or cue` for recall.

The biochemical mechanism for the recall process with language as part of the informational content or as ´cue` depends on prior knowledge of the language to the point that meaning is associated with the words and syntax. This is learnt over time. In the first scenario, the storage of words has the same mechanism as for other information  so stimulus firing on recall will activate those sNCA representative of the event and accompanying language. For example, for the recall of a word in response to a visual cue, then the visual information causes firing along the visual pathways and hearing the word causes firing along the auditory pathways in the distinctive pattern. Recall means that the ´image formed` from the cued input and activated sNCA is the ´meaning` of that word and input. Activation of the sNCA occurs not only in the cortical areas representing the visual and auditory information, but also include those areas specialising in language - the Wernicke and Broca areas - and those controlling muscle movements, jaw position etc. responsible for the sounds of the word to be spoken. 

Recall of the word without incoming sensory information, but as an internal cue or stimulus (e.g. ´inner speech`) occurs in the same way as that of an actual event. The cue will initiate the appropriate sNCA firing so that the ´electrical image` is formed and the ´meaning` of the word elicited. As this is recall without processing then no conflict is observed and the mind is free to wander where it wants. Using just words forms the basis of forward planning – perhaps considered as a version of story-telling set in the future. Words can also lead to different categories because the words are not related to what the incoming sensory information inspires. Self-experience shows that one can talk about Australia, but sit in the living room with no ´real-time` sensory input relating to this topic. However, when words are used as input, attentional capacity means that auditory, visual systems are overloaded with words and awareness is not on what is being said and not on what is being seen, although it is obvious that this still happens, e.g. driving a car and talking about Australia.

The importance of language in recall cannot be underestimated. Although biochemically it shares a recall mechanism akin to sensory information its use dictates that it is considered a tool rather than an event  and in doing so it becomes part of the essential recall mechanism.

Language and recall with processing

Just like in recall without processing, language plays two roles in this type of recall as well – that of accompaniment to the information and that of cue or stimulus to activate the sNCA leading to recall. In both cases, language skills are important and dictate the level of its usage and the mechanism for both is the same as that described in recall without processing.

Comprehension can be included in this section since processing may be involved in some cases, e.g. categorisation and generic version and that although ´magic answer` type activation occurs because of language ability and memory, in cases of difficulty ´accepted magic answer` type recall may also occur. Understanding texts and stories for example, requires language comprehension, which biochemically requires stimulus of information pathways to accompany the incoming information and the reactivation of sNCA, so that meaning can be attributed. There are differences between whether the comprehension task is oral or written, but in biochemical terms only the input pathways are affected. With oral comprehension there is only one chance at understanding so auditory pathways must be highly attentative, whereas written communications can be re-read many times. It is also harder to identify the individual words in speech than reading (sound and pauses), but cues exist in speech to aid comprehension, such as changes in tone, intonation, stress and timing. Written text is often better expressed than speech, e.g. no repetition, better vocabulary etc. and hence, language skills are often less advanced for writing than speaking as anyone learning a second language will know. This is reflected by memory capability because direct memory recall is involved, but also comprehension requires attaching meaning to more esoteric concepts. Psychologists stated that this requires inference drawing (use of sNCA, ´own view of world`) or search-after-meaning theory (Graesser, Singer and Trabasso, 1974) that include reader goal assumptions, coherence assumption and explanation assumptions – basically sNCA theory and ideas of ´how the world works`.

Biochemically, comprehension relies on language memory formed from experience and usage. The stimulus is either the written word or speech and, therefore, appropriate pathways are fired. Both the left hemisphere and right hemisphere of the brain are required with the sides having different functions, e.g. left hemisphere – grammar and word production, right hemisphere – general aspects of speech, intonation and emphasis. Areas involved in language include: the primary visual cortex, angular gyrus, primary auditory cortex, Wernicke area, arucate fasculus, Broca area and the primary motor cortex. Recall is the marriage of the stimulus (the words) to the sNCA (the meaning attached to the words) and understanding comes from the use of this and ´own view of world` type memories relating to grammar (or how these words can be put together to form different meanings). Therefore, for comprehension to occur, the individual has to address what is happening and words form the ´electrical images` according to the sNCA from previous experiences and relating to the known words and learnt grammar. High levels of attention may be required, although multi-tasking is common unless the comprehension task is particularly difficult or unknown. Other factors influencing the level of comprehension are: brain waves – beta waves linked to talking and thinking whilst alpha waves with foreign language learning; speech difficulties caused by illness or stroke for example; emotions such as changes in speed of language; and hypnotism which slows down verbal fluency.

Language and recall with further processing

The answer to the question whether language plays an important role in recall with further  processing and hence PISCO-type processing or not, is unclear. On the one hand, there is evidence that language is required to describe the ´unreal` or in problem-solving, and on the other hand, other species obviously can use previously gained knowledge to solve problems without any complicated language rituals, e.g. the use of tools by apes. In the other two simpler forms of recall (without and with processing), language is used as a ´cue` or stimulus and to expand the information base, but in recall with further processing the role of language may actually be expanded to become part of the mechanism itself. Some roles for language in the PISCO method are: for the establishment of purpose, identifying the goal and running forward; input and use as a cue.   

 

SUPPLEMENTARY MATERIAL

Attentional state and cognitive function

 

EFFECT ON …..(SELF REPORT)

NORMAL STATE (PRESUMED HAPPY)

NORMAL FOCUSED

FEAR STATE

Focus on desired object

No problem.

Required.

If relevant to fear state, both no problem. If irrelevant, problem focusing.

Focus directed by external force on an object

Shifts to focused.

Required.

Carried out without criticism or comment.

Level of attention paid to large things, small things /concentration

No specific attention, ´flits`. Distraction easy.

Attention brought to both. Distraction possible, but depends on circumstance and individual.

Attention paid to relevant objects, and attention paid to small things even if irrelevant.

Concentration

Low level of concentration on any single object/task. Concentration wanders.

Level for desired task acceptable so long as relevant and not ´mood destroying`.

High level.

Consciousness

Normal awareness.

Appears heightened – conscious awareness for desired object/task.

Appears heightened – Subconscious and conscious. 

 

 

 

 

Input of sensory events

Normal. Sees, hears everything and nothing.

Focuses on only desired object/task.

Heightens senses – detail taken in whether conscious or subconscious.

Storage of memorable events.

No specific learning takes place.

Specific learning of desired object/task – requires attention and focus – continuous activation through rehearsal or circumstance.

Memories formed unconsciously and consciously. Overall – not just in fovea. No rehearsal necessary.

Level of monitoring

Low.

Higher – monitors to makes sure focus remains on object.

High – monitor of response, physiology condition etc.

Sequences

Not possible – shift to focused.

Rehearsal, repetition required, focused attention.

Not possible to learn unless ´calmed`.

Recall (working memory)

Level of recall depends on level to which learnt. ´Flits`, inspired by clues.

Level of recall depends on level to which consciously learnt. Recall focused in response to specific cues etc.

Recall may be greater than expected – needs prompting, but nevertheless possible, or non- existent unless under supreme prompting, eg. hypnosis.

Level of forgetting

Highest. Not there in the first place.

Focused object/task – normal forgetting- needs reminding every so often.

Lowest. Rehearsal, eg. by repeating story reinforces memory.

Leadership system

Not functioning.

Under strict control – guiding, learning/completion of task.

Under strict control – remove from fear situation.

Processing system

Available, but only in low level use – i.e. object recognition, emotional storage etc.

Suitable for task.

Suitable for task.

Recognition of well-liked object and hated object.

Both. Recognition of hated object causes shift in mood.

Both. Recognition of hated object causes shift in mood.

Both. Recognition causes shift in mood – well-liked leading to relaxation, hated re-enforcement self-congratulatory.

Problem solving

Not possible- must shift to focused.

All possible corresponding to own capability. Willing to learn new problem-solving techniques, be adventurous etc.

Only those relevant to job in hand attempted. Only tried and tested methods used. Processing to remove individual from danger/fear situation.

Decision-making

Low level decision-making, e.g. ´luck`, capitulation to others.

Possible corresponding to own capability. Willing to learn new decision-making techniques, listen to other peoples` points of view.

Only tried and tested methods used. Listens to others only if respected. May not coincide with those holding position of authority.

Language skills

Good

Good if on focused object/task. Practice – conversation possible during recalled movements, e.g. talk and drive at same time.

Distracted – more on removal from fear circumstance. Talk on situation, but not ´off`` subject.

Perception of time

Normal, but slower if bored. Looking back, fast if lots of activity within time-frame.

Normal – tends to appear to go fast.

Slower than normal

Feeling of self-identity

Normal.

Normal, positive swing.

Either ultra-strong or ultra-negative.

´tiredness`effect

Input without realisation, low morale, poor attention, poor storage, poor recall.

Focused input unaffected since ´alert`. May be harder to get started.

Immediate alertness. No longer tired whilst event taking place.

Emotional state and inner physiological systems

Peaceful, normal running.

Happiness whilst successful at learning, switches to panic, if behind, forgets. Reward when task finished, learnt.

Fear – relaxation when event over.

 

 

 

 

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Physiological mechanisms for shifting, selecting and engaging visual stimulus

The act of shifting and selecting and engagement of a new visual stimulus may require movement of the head or eyes so that it is located in the fovea in the visual field. Physiologically, these processes have been attributed to the actions of several brain areas:

1) Posner (1980) in his orienting stage showed that there was activity in the superior colliculus, parietal, temporo-parietal and temporal brain areas and frontal eye fields. Activation of such areas is consistent with stimulation of the WHAT and WHERE pathways.  Examination of a cortical area called the frontal eye fields (FEF) has shown that there are direct connections between them and numerous other brain areas known to be influenced by attention, including V2, V3, V4, MT and parietal cortex (Moore and Fallah, 2001). Neurons in the FEF have motor fields and if stimulated, the eyes rapidly make a saccade to the motor field of the stimulated neurons. This suggested to the psychologists that the brain pathways responsible for directing the eyes to objects of interest might also play a critical role in guiding attention. However ´outside the box` thinking suggests that is clear that both WHAT and WHERE visual systems are involved in both the steering process and ´holding` of the object in the centre of the visual field in order that the response or brain memory input process is successfully concluded. Attention is the act of having the stimulus in the focus and hence, the visual systems required to carry this out must be activated.

2) Connor (2006) showed that cortical medial temporal activity accompanies a shift in receptive fields towards the attended stimulus.

3) Lateral intraparietal (LIP) neurons found in the lateral intraparietal sulcus were shown to be active in discrimination tasks involving guided eye movements (Hanks, Ditterich and Shadlen, 2006). The same LIP neurones were also shown to be active in experiments where subjects were taught to ignore visually salient stimuli (Wolfe, 2006).

4) Rafal and Posner (1987) demonstrated that the pulvinar nucleus of the thalamus played a role in controlling focused attention during the engagement of new visual stimuli. It prevented attention from being focused on an unwanted stimulus as well as in directing attention to significant stimuli. The pulvinar nucleus of the thalamus is an area responding to GABA, normally indicative of hyperpolarisation, and it has reciprocal connections with most visual cortex areas of the occipital, pariental and temporal lobes giving it the potential to modulate widespread cortical activity. Individuals with pulvinar nuclei lesions respond abnormally slowly to stimuli on the contralateral side, particularly when there are competing stimuli on the ipsilateral side. This deficit might reflect a reduced ability to focus attention on objects in the contralateral visual field as suggested by Rafal and Posner (1987).

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Characteristics of attended information

Characteristics of attended information are:

1)      It is selected by physiological mechanisms, e.g. WHAT/WHERE pathway activation, cortical area medial temporal activation in shifting (Connor, 2006), parietal cortex activation modulated by nicotine (Posner, 1980), and the pulvinar nuclei of thalamus (Rafal and Posner, 1987). It may also be selected from top-down mechanisms as shown by self-speech changing unattended information into attended. It normally has a foveal location, even though shifting attention to other locations increases visual processing (priority to the unattended). McNab and Klingberg (2008) showed that prefrontal cortex and basal ganglia activation occurred, especially in the globus pallidus, before any filtering of irrelevant material.

2)      It is fully processed according to psychologist theory (perceptual load capacity) and biochemical evidence of all aspects of the visual field causing some level of firing and processing.

3)      It is associated with enhancement of strength of neural responses as seen by spatial attention studies. Focus means higher levels of cellular activation. Chen et al. (2008) found that in spatial awareness tasks, increasing the task difficulty caused relevant changes in firing patterns.

4)      It is associated after a period of time with switching of the focal point or reduced sensitivity to the attended stimulus. The effect was demonstrated by Ling and Carrasco (2006) and the classic Hernandez-Peon experiment, where the cat under observation listened to a metronome. After a period of stimulation, the cat no longer heard the noise and this was found to be the result of the auditory sensory pathway closing down at ear level. This conforms to the refractory period hypothesis put forward to explain saccades in movement.

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Psychologist theories on divided attention

Various models have been suggested for divided attention:

1)      Central capacity interference theory (Norman and Bobrow, 1975). There is central capacity and the ability to perform both tasks depends on demands placed on those resources by the two tasks. The theory is supported by Bourke, Duncan and Nimmo-Smith (1996).

2)      Theory of specific mechanisms (Allport, 1989). There are various specific processing mechanisms, each of which has limited capacity. Similar tasks compete for the same processing mechanisms and competition disrupts performance.

3)      Individuals possess multiple resources with three successive stages of processing (encoding, central processing and responding) with several pools of resources based on the distinctions among stages of processing, modalities, codes and responses (Wickens, 1984).

4)      Combined theory of Eysenck (1984). This is a combination of both central capacity interference theory and theory of specific mechanisms adequate to explain task difficulty in dual-task cases and effects of similarity.

5)      Baddeley (1986) proposed an approach based on a synthesis of the central capacity and multiple resource notions consisting of a hierarchical structure with a central executive at the top (involved in the coordination and control of behaviour) and specific processing mechanisms operating relatively independently of each other below.

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Emotional effect on cognitive processes

 

EFFECT ON (SELF-REPORT)

NORMAL STATE – PRESUMED ´HAPPY`

FEAR STATE

Focus on desired object and focus brought by external force on an object

Both no problem

If relevant to fear state, both no problem. If irrelevant, problem focussing.

Level of attention paid to large things, small things. Concentration.

Attention brought to both if required. Mirrored by concentration – level for desired task.

Attention paid to relevant objects, attention paid to small things even if irrelevant. High level of concentration.

Awareness/

Consciousness

Normal

Appears heightened – subconscious and conscious. 

Input of sensory events

Normal, relying on level of focus and attention.

Heightens senses – detail taken in whether conscious or subconscious

Storage of memorable events.

Specific learning normal – may require learning techniques.

Memories formed both subconsciously and consciously.

Recall of memorable events.

Level of recall depends on level to which consciously learnt.

Recall may be greater than expected – needs prompting, but nevertheless possible.

Recognition of well-liked object and hated object.

Both. Recognition of hated object causes shift in mood.

Both. Recognition causes shift in mood – well-liked leading to relaxation, hated re-enforcement self-congratulatory.

Problem solving

All possible, corresponding to own capability. Willing to learn new problem-solving techniques, be adventurous etc

Only those relevant to job in hand attempted. Only tried and tested methods used.

Decision-making

Possible corresponding to own capability. Willing to learn new decision-making techniques, listen to other peoples´ points of view.

Only tried and tested methods used. Listens to others only if respected. May not coincide with those holding position of authority.

Perception of time

Normal, but slower if bored. Looking back, fast if lots of activity within time frame.

Slower than normal

Feeling of self- identity

Normal

Either ultra-strong or ultra-negative.

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Psychologists` views on emotions

 

PSYCHOLOGY VIEWS ON EMOTIONS (SUMMARY)

Components of emotions

Three components - subjective experience (´self-report`), physiological change, emotional expression (e.g. crying).

Also defined as behavioural (startle response), physiological (e.g. breathing) and psychological (e.g. love).

Definition of psychological states

Ekman defined 6 basic emotional states – happiness, disgust, surprise, sadness, anger, fear. Wundt defined emotions in following dimensions: pleasant/unpleasant, calm/excitement and relaxation/tension Other emotions expressed are mixture of several of these, e.g. anger contains unpleasantness, excitement and tension.

Theories

James-Lange theory, Cannon-Bard theory, Schachter and Singer´s cognitive labelling theory, Lazarus´s cognitive appraisal theory, Parkinson`s four-factory theory of emotion.

Occurrence

With us all the time. Highly individual. May be extreme, but people with no displayed emotions may be described as ´cold` or ´robot-like`.  Greenfield (2000) described emotions as the ´building blocks´ of consciousness.

Physiological manifestations of emotional states

Emotional situations sees changes in physiology, e.g. heart rate, blood pressure, rapid respiration. Physiological response leads to emotional experience (Schachter and Singer, 1962) and that emotion is an awareness of the physiological response, but this emotional response is altered by knowledge, experience, others reactions, i.e. things already stored in memory. Described by some as recognition that physiological changes had taken place. In 1937, Papez determined the Papez Circuit, a group of brain areas he said were responsible for emotions – the hypothalamus, mamillary bodies, cingulated cortex, and later on the amygdala and the hippocampus, too. 

Psychological manifestations of emotional states

Seen in behaviour. Children demonstrate extreme emotions more often than adults as cannot assess memory and employ deductive reasoning. Very young children have fears elicited from the abstract, intense intrusions on their senses such as loud noises pain, light flashes, whereas older children have specific fears about robbers, the dark, bodily harm etc.

Communication of emotions

Verbal and non-verbal (body language). Words conjure up emotional state, i.e. everyone knows what laugh means. Physiological symptoms confirm emotional state independent of what is verbally communicated.

Influences on emotions

External (e.g. witnessing an accident) and internal (e.g. chocolate, drugs). Freud believed that emotions and reason are separate and that emotions are held in check by something else, i.e. Id, Ego.

Emotions in other species?

Yes, e.g. purring in cats, tail wagging in dogs. Emotion measured in other species by behaviour, especially linked to reward, aversion, active avoidance/passive avoidance, aggression

 

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 Diagram of the dopamine-based brain system

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Diagram of the noradrenaline-based brain system

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Differences between informational memories and emotional memories

 

PROPERTIES OF INFORMATIONAL MEMORIES

PROPERTIES OF EMOTIONAL TAG MEMORIES

 

 

Begins with babies and onwards through life.

Begins with babies and onwards through life.

Involves many cortical areas, but pathways from sensory organ to cortex particularly important.

Involves basal ganglia, and prefrontal cortex plays important role.

Begins with sensory organs. 

Has central input from the thalamus.

Represents events experienced.

Represents emotional state experienced at time of informational memory.

Required for recognition, used in processing, decision-making etc.

Required for emotional state re-enactment, but plays role in cognition and behaviour, e.g. decision-making

Information recorded includes shape, features (e.g. colour), movement, relative size, with links to next step ie order  (e.g. words). Quality and quantity of information stored in one pass dependent on perceptual load capacity linked to attentional/emotional state.

Information recorded is the emotional state at time of informational input. Has extremes of ´fight or flight` or pleasure, but also more subtle in relation to pleasure giving values etc.

Brain memory mechanism - ´as is` input memory stage direct to long-term memory, but variable memory includes working memory stage.

Brain memory mechanism – input memory (OWL) direct to long-term memory.

Multiple facets to information contained within sNCA. .

One-off, sustained through event.

Sequences possible. Link one sNCA to next step, therefore leads to an appreciation of time.

No appreciation of time – emotional state recorded translated into physiological state.

Memories can be changed all the time, e.g. information added, deleted.

Can be changed, e.g. fear removed, pleasure values reassessed.

Many factors influence content of informational memories through effects on input and storage stages and later processing

Factors influencing emotional tag include physiological effects on emotional system components plus psychological effects due to changes in value, fear criteria etc.

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Prefrontal cortex ´sliding switch` mechanism

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Possible circumstances leading to ´accepted magic answers`

ACCEPTANCE METHODS

DETAILS

Indivual follows opinion/path of others

Social functionalist approach - Tetlock 2002 -  where social and cultural context of decision-making taken into account. Social hierarchy, lack of confidence, personality traits important. Individual can obey others without any extra processing or consideration of facts taking place.

Omission bias

Individuals prefer inaction to action - emotional factors producing decision avoidance.

Status quo bias

Individuals repeat an initial choice over a series of decision situations in spite of changes in their preferences. Role of emotions in making decisions – anticipated blame/regret, experienced regret, fear regulation, selection difficulty, cost of action and change.

Satisficing (Simon)

Minimum acceptable level defined and first solution over it accepted. Fulfils greatest need.

Elimination by aspects

Eliminate options by considering one relevant attribute after another (Tversky, 1972) – for processing case, seek out processing that is relevant without ´best` consideration.

Boredom

Individual not interested in investigating alternatives, whether ideal or not.

Lack of confidence

Personality trait –avoidance of conflict with others or afraid of embarrassment forces selection of one option over another.

Laziness

Personality trait – unwilling to expend time and effort to seek out optimal answer.

Humour

Likely to choose option that allows individual to satisfy own or others sense of humour, make them laugh etc.

Time constraints

Not enough time to seek out optimal answer.

Snatch at first

Mixture of many factors, e.g. laziness, lack of confidence, forces first available option to be answer.

Rarity assumption (´not done that for a while`)

Human quality of accepting unusual over known.

Routine, habit, expertise

Answer chosen through habit. Little extra processing carried out as answer foregone conclusion.

Personal values

Self-interest, needs and drives dictate chosen answer.

 

 

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Construction errors with an emotional bias

Construction errors with an emotional bias can occur for a number of different reasons, some of which follow:

1) false facts/lack of knowledge/biasness of chosen facts - both of these manifest in sNCA of limited extent or containing incorrect features, which lead to the construction of options that are inappropriate to the task at hand. False facts or lack of knowledge can reflect the individual´s perchance towards material of a certain kind in the input and storage stages, e.g. a preference for dogs as pets will lead to substantial knowledge of this animal, and less on others so that choosing a pet could be swayed in one direction. 

2) misunderstanding of problem - it is clear that if the initial understanding of the problem is incorrect, then the options and final solution will also likely be incorrect. The application of emotional values onto the task instead of applying facts and reason will lead to an inappropriate solution.

3) habit - habit is probably a more esoteric reason for making errors in the construction of options in comparison to lack of information or incorrect information, but it can still have a huge effect on the end-result. The problem lies not so much with information availability, but with the individual`s unwillingness to consider the stronger features or the more unusual aspects as points of access - happiness being with the familiar.

4) dominance of emotional values, i.e. ´heart rules the head` - errors in the construction of options can occur sometimes if personal values and beliefs guide the points of access or solutions offered. The ´magic answer` can dominate owing to the level of self-interest attached to the information. This can also apply when a range of options are given. Certain strategies even rely on the comparison of emotional values, but in others this type of criteria can restrict the number and quality of options formed.

5) time factors -constructing options can be a time consuming operation. Although limited to a certain extent by the attentional system`s ´egg-timer` timing constraint, the amount of time given to determining options can lead to errors. Insufficient time may lead to the exclusion of more appropriate solutions, whereas a surplus of time may lead to the consideration of extraneous information and even misrepresentation of the problem. The time constraint imposed is individual and can manifest in behavioural and personality indications, e.g. a generally more nervous person is likely to grab at the first seemingly ideal solution just so the task can be ´completed`.

6) individual personality - personal characteristics can determine to a certain extent the way in which options are constructed. Characteristics such as lack of motivation, lack of experience, confidence and self-identity, impatience, stubbornness, laziness, compliance to others and standing within society can all affect which options are constructed. They also dictate how and what memories are stored, so in fact brain memory recall is actually prejudiced from the start.  

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Self-interest needs

The psychologists have developed many theories to identify, quantify and qualify the needs of an individual which affect action and some of these theories on classification/categorisation are: 

1)  instinct – McDougall (1912) described numerous instincts, e.g. laughter and rest and accounted for all behaviour by attributing it to the attempt to satisfy one or other of these instincts.

2) internally and externally aroused motives, e.g. sight of mouthwatering food leads to the need to eat.

3) cyclic and non-cyclic motives, e.g. circadian rhythms.

4) primary, basic, secondary or acquired needs, e.g. requirement to eat is a primary need since it does not require learning.

5) need-press theory – Murray (1938) described 20 basic needs which each have a intended effect (desire), feelings (emotions) and specific actions, e.g. achievement.

6) drive theories – Woodworth (1918) introduced the notion of drives, which he described as motivational forces that cause individuals to be active and to strive for certain goals. Hull in 1943 produced the drive-reduction theory where he argued that there is an important distinction between needs and drives – needs are essentially physiological in nature, drives more psychological. He assumed that behaviour is motivated by attempting to reduce one or more drives, e.g. when a child is hungry he goes to eat thus reducing the drive, and leading to him eating more frequently. A central assumption is that an individual`s behaviour in a given situation is determined by a drive or motivation and by what he or she has learnt (habits). Therefore, the tendency to respond equals drive multiplied by habit. Hull later added further assumptions about the role of incentives and other factors, but in general the approach was found to be inadequate, because of the number of exceptions, conflicting results from studies on other species and the minor role given to cognitive abilities.

7) Maslow`s hierarchy of needs  - Maslow (1970) put forward a hierarchy of needs  with the need for survival having the greatest priority and with descending priority the need for safety, then love and belonging to need for esteem, then finally to the need for self-actualisation (discovering and fulfilling one`s own potentials). Americans were found to perform actions that satisfy 85% of the physiological needs, 70% of safety needs, 40% of self esteem needs and only 10.5% of self-actualisation needs (Maslow 1970). Lower needs were found always to be satisfied first and then the higher ones (Aronoff 1967). The advantage of such a theory is that it is more comprehensive than the other psychological theories, but also provides an understandable basis of action from a biochemical perspective. Physiological needs must always take priority over the more ´esoteric` psychological ones.

8) cognitive theories –Locke (1968) proposed that humans are motivated by long-term goals with motivation being the key to the goal: the harder the goal, the higher the level of performance. This was supported by Latham and Yuki in their woodcutting study in 1975. Goal setting led to improved performance in about 90% of studies especially under the following conditions: goal commitment (individuals accept the goal has been set); feedback (information about progress towards goal); reward (goal attainment is rewarded); ability (individuals have sufficient ability to attain goal); and support (management or others provide encouragement). This theory supports the general PISCO method described in 10.1 and corresponds to the establishment of purpose sNCA formation required for successful memory recall.

Layered over the physiological and psychological drives and needs that determine the choice of path taken, is the development of a layer of individual beliefs and morals, which can also play a role. Shaffer (1993) defined morality as being ´a set of principles or ideals that help the individual to distinguish right from wrong and to act on this distinction` and he described components of human morality as being emotional, cognitive and behavioural. From a biochemical point of view, ´outside the box` thinking suggests that these morals are derived from self-interest and empathy developed from experiences. Such brain memories are a combination of information and emotional tag as normal, but the emotional tag is highly defined, thus valuable in choosing a path according to self-interest criteria only.

Therefore, with self-interest being such a ´blanket` description for the choice of a path, it will be an individual need (or group of needs) or a personal belief (moral) that will lead to the path chosen if self-interest is the ruling factor.  

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Non-active methods with an emotional bias

Some of the circumstances where non-active decision-making with an emotional bias can be chosen are as follows: 

1) habit – although there are better solutions, habit relating to emotional bias dictates that past experience with high self-interest determines the path to be followed whatever.

2) omission bias - individuals prefer inaction to action. Emotional factors produce decision avoidance. Therefore, the path of least resistance and effort is taken.

3) status quo bias - individuals repeat an initial choice over a series of decision situations in spite of changes in their preferences. Role of emotions in making decisions with anticipated blame/regret, experienced regret, fear regulation, selection difficulty, cost of action and change.

4) external orders – the opinion/path from others is followed even if against personal logical/mathematical-type decisions, e.g. social functionalist approach of Tetlock (2002), where the social and cultural context of decision-making is taken into account. Social hierarchy and lack of confidence can influence actions.

5) satisficing (Simon, 1978) – target set as minimum acceptable level, so the first solution over this level is accepted. Fulfils greatest need.

6) luck – toss of the coin, throw of the dice determines action taken.

7) obstinancy – refusal to accept another solution for whatever reason.

8) rarity assumption or ´not done that for while` - action determined by the search for the ´novel` to reduce boredom.

9) boredom – action taken that is the most ´exciting`.

10) time constraints – action chosen that fits in with time constraints.

11) lack of confidence – action chosen, where individual does not need to have confidence.

12) laziness  - easiest option taken.

13) snatch at first – first option taken whatever.

14) humour – the most pleasurable to individual or to others taken in preference to logical solution.

15) random choice- the individual can choose whether to accept ´fate` and perform no more processing or apply a further level of processing in order that a ´logical`, desired path is followed. If the former is desired, individual relies on ´random choice`.   

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Possible strategies for choosing tea or coffee

STRATEGIES FOR PROCESSING

SOLUTIONS APPLIED TO CHOOSING TEA OR COFFEE

Aims, Goals and Objectives

For example: goal is to quench thirst. Look at autobiographical memory of previous tea and coffee drinking occasions and see which is linked to the quenching of thirst and the level of pleasure/satisfaction at quenching the thirst.

FI-FO (Information-In, Information-Out)

Since both drinks are standing before the individual, then he only has to decide which to pick up. May be in other cases, the individual needs to make it and therefore, relevant detail from autobiographical memory is required.

C and S (Consequence and Sequel)

Autobiographical memory may bring back memories of for example stomach-ache after drinking one beverage or facts about raised blood pressure and these brain memories take priority in this method. 

Emotional Values

Not only the emotional tag is considered here, since strong like or dislike for one or the other drink would have already led to a definitive selection. This method also looks at personal feeling in the light of others, e.g. empathy, may mean here that you are the only one drinking tea, so feelings of isolation may dictate which drink you take.

OPV (Other Peoples` Views), EBS (Examine Both Sides) or ADI (Agreement, Disagreement, Irrelevance)

Methods mean that the decision is influenced by considering other people. This may include looking at their personal values regarding the situation, using empathy and previously gained knowledge of how they act in the relevant situation.

CAF (Consider All Factors)

All factors relating to both drinks would be considered, e.g. source, preparation method and political or economic factors. In this case, since the drinks already stand before the individual then some factors are excluded.

APC (Alternatives, Possibilities and Choices)

In this case, not particularly relevant since only two choices available, tea and coffee. All autographical and factual memories relating to the two are considered.

PMI (Plus and Minus Points)

This method involves giving a rating (plus or minus, pleasure or fear) to each factor considered important in the process. This would involve prioritising the relevant, recalled information. Emotional factors can also be included, e.g. other peoples` views. 

 

 

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Sleep and tiredness effects on brain memory mechanism

 

SYSTEM SLEEP STATES TIRED CONDITION
Sensory input No visual input, but input of other senses. Dulled senses. Stress hormones release leads to change in sensory abilities (sleep deprivation). Blurred vision.
Emotional system Emotions only through dreaming. Irritated, lack of patience. Small degree of paranoia. Lack of motivation.
Attentional system Unfocused attention on sensory stimulus other than visual – shifts in attention and waking state induced by stimuli, e.g. smell of smoke.  Difficulty in focusing. Impaired sustained attention.
Brain memory system Believed helps brain memory process – recall, learning etc. - ´sleep on it` Difficulty in learning. Sleep-deprived people worse at remembering how to do newly learnt tasks. Disorganised speech. Poor performance on monotonous and uninteresting tasks. Impaired spatial working memory.

 

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Importance of language skills

AREA USES AND IMPORTANCE
To society Used as communication tool – ideas, thoughts, plans, warnings, expression of emotions, etc. Can communicate something that does not exist in real-time.
  Implication of appreciation of time shared with others – talk at present time, but can talk about past or future to listeners who have lived or will live in the same time.
  Implication of standing within a community – education, cultural ability reflected in the use of language or development.
  Used by society to judge cognitive ability and compare individuals.

Assessed in test for neuropsychology, e.g. Halstead-Reitan test includes measurement of verbal, non-verbal intelligence, language, tactile, manipulative skills, auditory sensitivity etc. Apparent normal results may hide damage since people extremely adaptive. Studies on language – Wada test and in vivo imaging.

  Basis of educational programmes and schooling.
To the individual Ability to think etc. within oneself - inner speech. Used to spur, motivate, encourage oneself. Used to represent things that not actually existing in real-time.
  Ability to express ideas, concepts, wishes, plans etc. to others
  Implication of level of education, interests, culture etc.
  Used to establish and maintain leadership. 
To research Useful for studying other non-language capabilities and used as the ´marker` or ´3rd` person.
  Useful for studying time-related phenomena like sequences.
  Useful for studying something that does not exist in real-time.

 

 

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Skills required for language

 

AREA

SKILLS

GENERAL

Concentration. Ability to focus. Speed of processing. Sequencing. 

LISTENING

 Requires auditory sensory pathway, from ear to brain.

 

Ability to detect different sounds (even small sounds), changes in pitch, tone.

 

Ability to detect pauses, emphasis, rhythm e.g. if question asked.

 

Ability to process incoming information – individual letters, words, sentences (individual vs strings). Understanding of meaning.

 

Ability to store incoming information – individual letters, words, sentences.

 

Ability to disregard dialect, accent, individual pronunciation.

SPEAKING

 Requires presence of relevant physiology, e.g. muscles, bones, throat, voice.

 

Presence of relevant physiology for coordination between brain and organs responsible and coordination within muscle groups.

 

Ability to mimic single or strings of sounds.

 

Ability to pause, change pitch, lay emphasis etc.

 

Ability to access memory – single sounds and strings of sounds.

 

Ability to stimulate change of stored sounds into spoken sounds.

READING

 Requires visual sensory pathway from eyes to brain.

 

Ability to recognise presence of shapes, patterns, gaps etc.

 

Ability to store visual information – strings – associated with or without meaning.

 

´Inner voice´.

 

Ability to relate incoming visual information to stored information.

WRITING

 Requires relevant muscle movements.

 

Visual sensory pathway from eyes to brain with coordinating muscle movements. Ability to subconsciously follow patterns e.g. left to right, automatic writing of letters.

 

`Inner voice´.

 

Ability to process what is required to be written.

 

Ability to access memory single sounds / strings of sounds.

 

Ability to access memory visual letters/ strings of letters.

 

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Language roles in PISCO

 

STAGE DETAILS OF LANGUAGE ROLE
PURPOSE Identifying location and goal can be done with (as aid), or without words (visual imagination or with people empathy). Involves ´running forward` of sNCA due to connectivity between them.
INPUT As in other simpler recall, language can be used as a cue or to add information. In cases of ´unreal` situations, may be required to inspire ´meaning` and pictures. Can keep or guide concentration to stimulus or information.
SOLUTIONS Can be used to ´inspire` options, or add to options cued from other sources. May keep concentration on task (inner speech).
CHOICE May help in decision-making based on logical assessment or may hinder if ´gut feeling` followed (`heart rules head`).
OPERATION Communication of the ´magic answer` may not need language, e.g. action performed, although speech may explain what and why the action is being taken. In other cases, action is the communication of the answer, e.g. school-type problems.

 

 

 

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