Members and attendees shown with speaker Dr. Foos after his lecture.
Members and attendees shown with speaker Dr. Foos after his lecture.

By Ghadeer Alaradi, Student Life Editor

The Neurology club hosted Brain Awareness Week, starting off their campaign with a Memory and Learning speech from Psychology Professor Clark Foos. The speech held in Kochoff C on Wednesday, March 18.

Dr. Foos spoke about the importance of learning involved within memory, and how emotion plays a key role in storing experiences within our brain.

“We use the term flash bulb to refer to a type of emotional memory that’s often studied,” he said. Flashbulb memories are memory for very vivid detail for emotional events.

Dr. Foos directed a question to the crowd asking, “What do you remember during the World Trade Center attack? Do you remember where you were?”

He then asked the audience to raise their hand if they do not remember where they were. He counted around three audience members who did not remember where they were.

The majority of the audience members remembered where they were, or what they were doing.

Dr. Foos directed another question to the audience, “Can anyone recall one car they passed coming here today?” One person said that they did not like minivans, and she remembered passing by one. “Often times we remember things because they produce an emotional response,” said Dr. Foos.

The higher you rate the emotionality of it, the more memory is significantly better, according to Dr. Foos.

A theory called Now Print! Introduced the idea that the brain has essentially a long-running video camera. “Your life is constantly running through this video camera, but most of the time you’re not hitting the record button, and you end up getting little glimpses of things that happen to be important.”

When we encounter something emotional, we hit print. “It’s like hitting print on your computer as soon as something big and important happens.”

One of the better theories says that we have two processes going on. One of them is pre-attentive, which means you will automatically pay more attention to emotional events outside of your conscious control.

The other process is post-stimulus elaboration, which is thinking about an emotional event after it occurs.

The way that psychologists largely do their research is showing participants negative, positive, and neutral images and records their memory. They can vary whether images or words are high or low in arousal (physiological response).

Dr. Foos did a mini demo by showing a series of emotional stimuli to the audience. He then displayed pieces of the images to the audience and asked them to make a mental note of which pieces were actually in the images to determine what got “printed.”

Dr. Foos said there might have been some details that were lost in the pieces of images shown. He explained that our attention seems to be drawn to the most emotional aspect of our event. The rest of the details are not as important.

He asked the audience, “Is the fear of snake learned or innate?” He showed an example of an experiment with rhesus monkeys. The monkeys were given a snake to play with, but their parents did not play with it.

After the baby was in one cage watching the mother’s reaction that backs away, the baby then backs away as well. “Almost anything that causes fear is a learned mechanism,” said Dr. Foos. Fear can be passed on socially by observing others.

Dr. Foos elaborated on the biological aspects of memory, such as the areas of the brain. The Hippocampus is our personal DVR where details are stored. The Amygdala is the center for emotions.

He explained that our memory of emotional events depend on the level of emotion and arousal.

“The area of the brain that becomes active when you experience physical brain is the anterior cingulate cortex,” said Dr. Foos.

This is also the same area of the brain that gets affected when we experience social pain. “Research shows that if individuals take Tylenol prior to being rejected, they don’t feel any pain. It’s not so bad,” said Dr. Foos. They are also more likely to get it out of their memory.

Dr. Foos concluded by applauding the Neurology club for their efforts. “I love how productive you have been and how widespread your events have been,” he said.

“Being able to analyze research data and interpret its correlation to daily life is a key skill for any student,” said Aisa Hyska, a member of the Neurology Club.

“UM-Dearborn offers great neurology and psychology research opportunities for undergraduates, and many of them reside within the natural sciences and psychology departments,” she said.

The Neurology Club will be hosting speakers from Backyard Brains, a company from Ann Arbor that enables everyone to be a neuroscientist, on March 26 in Kochoff A from 4:30-6:30 pm.

If interested in joining the Neurology club, please email: neuroclub.umd@gmail.com.