New Insights on How False Memories are Formed

Past research has suggested that memories are somewhat dynamic, rather than being set in stone. As a result, people can develop “memories” of events that never actually happened. A new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) used MRI brain scanning to pinpoint the region of the brain responsible for flexible memory processes that allow people to revise memories to include new (and sometimes false) information.
False memories can cause serious problems, such as mistaken eyewitness testimony during criminal trials. Harvard University researchers gave 35 volunteers a memory exercise that involved the possibility of introducing false memories, then asked them to recall certain memories while in an MRI scanner. They found false memories were associated with activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and hippocampus.
See these and other brain regions in the Koshland Science Museum’s online exhibit Life Lab, which explores brain anatomy and how memories are made.