Testing memory for a world record attempt
23 October 2012
Staff, students and visitors to the School of Biosciences participated in the nationwide record attempt for the world's largest memory game, organised by the Society of Biology to mark the end of the first ever Biology week (13th-19th October). Participants played a simple and fun memory game called the Deese-Roediger-McDermott (DRM) paradigm (try it here) which is the most common way to study false memories. They also heard from Dr Mariah Lelos from the Brain Repair Group, about some of the science behind memory and the benefits that can be gained from studying memory.
False memories occur when our brain lays down invented memories which seem completely real. Although studying false memories about events in our past is very hard, the DRM paradigm provides a very easy way of studying this phenomenon. Participants are read a list of related words and then asked "Did I say the following word…". On average 44% of adults develop a false memory in which they claim that the "lure word" was included in the original list. In fact this "lure" word was not included in the list, but rather all the other words in the list were related to this word. As well as being a bit of fun, data was collected from this event to feed into a study by Prof Bruce Hood (Bristol University), who talked about the game on BBC breakfast. Studying memory and the function of the brain has greatly improved our understanding of diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer's, as well as demonstrating the fragility of witness testimonies during court trials. The Society of Biology has also produced several learning resources allowing people to explore research relating to the function of the brain.
Biology is a very diverse subject, which Biology week aimed to celebrate. The Society of Biology chose the field of neuroscience, in particular the science of memory, to allow national participation in a fun event designed to give people the chance to learn about biology. The School of Biosciences offers a wide range of undergraduate courses and performs world class research across the entirety of biological topics. The event in the School of Biosciences was organised by Dr Karen Reed, and was kindly support by Sian Ashton and Cerys Terry from See Science and Mr Phil Bale a Cardiff Councillor, all of whom kindly acted as independent witnesses to validate our participation in the world record attempt.