temporal memory

Christopher T. Lovelace CL1779A at american.edu
Fri Sep 22 08:02:54 EST 1995

Sequencing of behavior is something typically associated with the frontal
lobes.  However, after a particular sequence of behaviors have been well
learned (say, playing a C major scale on a marimba), I'm inclined to think
that the frontal lobes have less to do with sequencing.  People with frontal
lobe damage can have trouble doing things like washing clothes.  They have
trouble with the necessary sequence of events: turn on water, put in soap,
put in clothes, wait, take out clothes, put into dryer, insert anti-static
sheet, turn on dryer, etc.  This could relate to drumming in that, if the
individual parts of a song are learned (intro, fill into first verse, verse
groove, fill to chorus, chorus groove, etc.) then it may be the frontal lobe
that helps put all those parts together, at least at first.  After extensive
repetition, the frontal lobes may have less involvement since the connections
between all those sections (memories) have been strengthened and one section
will automatically follow another (ever add a sax solo to a song you've played
a couple of hundred times?--it ain't easy :-)
I've often wondered how it is that I can remember how all those songs go on
the drums, but, unless I've played a song _a lot_, I still have to think
about what I'm doing.  Otherwise, I will find myself thinking about something
else for a second and then wonder what I'm supposed to play in the next part
of the song.  Context does play a big part in being able to remember a song.
For, as you pointed out, it can be difficult to play, say, just the third
bar of a four-bar groove without thinking of how the first 2 bars go.
Context plays an enormous part in most types of memory.  For example, if I
were to give you a list of 15 words to remember for 5 minutes, it would
probably be easier to remember a list that starts like: library, classroom,
professor, book, chalkboard, etc. because these words are in some way
related to each other (they can be put into a context).
This also relates to the idea that, when we store information as memories,
that info. isn't stored as whole, descrete chunks with all of the relevent
info. packaged together.  Instead, we seem to store bits and pieces that
are sort of semi-loosely connected.  When one "bit" emerges into
consciousness, the connected bits are sucked up into consciousness with it.
This can be demonstrated by looking at memory failure (i.e., "remembering"
that your best friend in high school had a green '69 Mustang, only to
find out that it was, in fact, a red '69 Mustang).
As to what neural mechanisms underly these properties, I'm not sure.  Perhaps
a type of Hebbian learning?   When I learn a song, I often listen to a
recording over and over.  This repetition leads to consolidation into long-
term memory (hippocampus).  The memory itself, I would imagine, is stored in
cortex, in a fairly distributed fashion.
Okay, that's enough of my yammering.  Perhaps someone with a little more
knowledge of the neural basis of this kind of memory (and behavioral
sequencing) will step in with more info.
Chris Lovelace         cl1779a at american.edu
In article <Pine.SUN.3.91.950920211301.14703B-100000 at aldebaran.oac.uci.edu>
Neal Prakash <eamg061 at aldebaran.oac.uci.edu> writes:
>driving a familiar route in my car today got me thinking about memory--i
>was wondering if anyone had thoughts/theories/experiments on the following:
>what kind of neural mechanisms might be responsible for remebering a
>sequence of events. for example, as a drummer, i learn lots of songs,
>when i actually play a song i know well, the act of playing one measure
>leads easily to the act of playing (remembering) the next measure.
>whereas if i were to try to recall one particular measure of music with
>no reference to the rest of the song it would be much more difficult.
>i imagine the same is for dancers--one step in practicing is to learn an
>part of a dance, but another step is learning how the individual steps
>flow together in real time.
>so it seems like as a network fires to initiate a complex sequence (one
>measur of music, or one part of a dance) this triggers another network to
>the next sequence and so forth.  this probably requires cues from other
>areas like the auditory cortex to anticipate what comes next in the
>music. so would this type of memory be primarily "stored" in the
>hippocampus, cerebellum, pma, basal ganglia, etc, or distributed across
>the whole cortex?
>any one care?
>-neal prakash

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