The research on the analysis of brain activity to identify the properties of memory and the possibilities of manipulating it is a significant breakthrough in neurobiology. In their speech, Steve Ramirez and Xu Liu say that the hippocampus is a part of the brain that contains cells responsible for memories (TED, 2013). A cell, in turn, leaves a footprint whenever it is active through biological sensors. Running processes help find out that a specific cell has just been working. However, neither of the two suggested methods are suitable for activation. Pharmacological drugs are not suitable because they spread throughout the body and affect not only the hippocampus but other areas of the brain as well. In addition, this method takes time, which reduces the credibility of the study. Another proposed potential cell activation mechanism is electricity. However, this approach is also not relevant to this work since voltage is detrimental to normal cellular life. As a result, the researchers come to the conclusion that light can activate a cell, and they resort to optogenetics and choose a laser beam to apply it as a light switch.
The subject of the first attempt made by the researchers is a laboratory mouse, and they practice with its long-term memory by seeking to evoke fear memory. The central nervous system is responsible for the mouse’s behavior, in particular, its brain. After the experiment turned out to be successful, the researchers were shocked by their discovery and rushed to publish the results of their study. By experimenting with blue and red boxes, they were able to prove that false memories could be implanted through the aforementioned exposure to a laser beam and a concomitant association, for instance, through electric shock. Given the fear of individuals about the ethical aspects of such work, the decisions the researchers are talking about are likely to concern experiments with memory editing in humans, which is the ultimate goal.
Storing memories is a complex process that involves different parts of the brain and activates specific areas responsible for remembering the information received. One of these structures is the hippocampus that is duplicated in each hemisphere, and its two parts are connected by nerve fibers. This part of the brain has an important function: short-term memory is formed in it, and its transformation into long-term memory begins. Among the main functions of the hippocampus, one can mention mental processes associated with the consolidation of memory and the learning process, as well as the regulation of emotional states and orientation. This area of the brain is unique due to its ability to interpret information and transform it into accumulated memory. The hippocampus is involved in the formation of both episodic and autobiographical memories based on the experience gained. The brain needs a place to store all these data for many years. Therefore, the hippocampus transmits such temporary memories to other areas of the brain where they are stored in long-term memory.
Another structural element of the brain that is also associated with memory is the cerebellum. This part is located under the occipital lobes of the cerebral hemispheres and is the second-largest structure. In particular, this brain area is responsible for training both short-term and long-term memory. In addition to controlling the musculoskeletal system, the cerebellum is involved in the process of remembering new information and storing it temporarily. One of the unique functions of this brain element is the ability to learn routine motor movements and transform repetitive actions into memorization.
The aforementioned short-term and long-term memories are parts of the Atkinson-Shiffrin model and imply controlling the length of time that information is retained and stored. Short-term memory retains a different type of material than the direct print of sensory information. In this case, retrieved data are not a complete display of events that have occurred at the sensory level but their direct interpretation. As a rule, this type of memory is activated through the visual-auditory systems, and the last five-six units from the presented information are memorized. By making a conscious effort and repeating materials regularly, one can keep them in short-term memory for a long time. Long-term memory is a more complex system and, at the same time, more limited in its size. The amount of information contained is very large, and this may be challenging to find the necessary data timely. This memory has boundaries, but the amount of data that is stored in it allows a person to reproduce the experience gained throughout one’s life.
Jurors’ opinions are an essential and often fundamental aspect affecting adjudication. However, in relation to the testimony of witnesses, which are used as an evidence basis, there are controversial nuances that can prove the groundlessness of specific facts in the context of prosecution. The scenario in which the accused is a person charged with robbing a convenience store allows for utilizing a specific concept developed by Elizabeth Loftus. This theory is about false testimony, which is designed to prove and disprove particular statements that did not take place for certain reasons.
Loftus’ approach assumes the assessment of evidence not from the standpoint of its completeness but from the perspective of possibility. As a background, the researcher resorts to the analysis of the properties of human memory that often tends to offer not only real but also fictional information. Loftus’ works in this area prove that initially, a person perceives the world biasedly. Over time, in the presence of motivation and under the influence of certain external factors, memory traces can change or transform. Due to such distortions, seemingly real memories are born, which are the projection of something that never happened, and it is in forensic science that this effect is most noticeable. Under extreme pressure, witnesses or defendants can succumb to memory distortion. This gap confuses the investigation process and may serve as an accusation of perjury, which, in turn, is fraught with the groundless punishment of the accused. Examples from Loftus’ professional practice prove that a person can adapt memory to specific situations or associate it with certain events while having individual views and beliefs. As a result, distorted memories are perceived as real and truthful.
Given this concept and the context of the convenience store robbery, the jurors should be asked whether they are truly convinced of the testimony. For instance, a person who is in such a store at night is suspicious regardless of his or her intentions. In addition, witnesses’ personal experience can be an undesirable factor in influencing their opinion on the proposed situation. Similar appearance features, the approximate time of the crime, and other factors can provoke false beliefs about the guilt of the accused. At the same time, the witnesses themselves can be convinced of their correctness, while their positions may be formed not by real facts but by the idea of it. Therefore, even in case several people testify, this is not a reason to regard their testimony as an unconditional truth.
TED. (2013). Steve Ramirez and Xu Liu: A mouse. A laser beam. A manipulated memory [Video]. YouTube. Web.