Cognitive research into memory operations yielded little direct empirical evidence about the operations involved in memory.19 In this section I will describe how recent research that is directed towards identifying the brain structures involved when people perform various memory tasks can play a heuristic role in identifying the mental operations involved. This is not to suggest that brain research supplants the need for cognitive research that attempts to decompose memory operations. If we are to understand memory mechanisms, it is necessary to characterize the information processing operations that figure in them. The focus, accordingly, is on how information about which neural structures are involved in particular tasks can help with the project of identifying key mental operations (and, less often so far, also help settle issues about the nature of the
19 Computational models using such architectures as productions systems or semantic networks, offer detailed proposals regarding specific operations.Such models are often evaluated in terms of whether the overall behavior corresponds to the target system being modeled, rather than seeking evidence that people employ the same operations.
mental representations that the operations are presumed to act upon). I begin with the hippocampus and related structures that constitute the medial temporal lobe, which have been the focus of multiple lines of inquiry over the past half century.
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Have you ever been envious of people who seem to have no end of clever ideas, who are able to think quickly in any situation, or who seem to have flawless memories? Could it be that they're just born smarter or quicker than the rest of us? Or are there some secrets that they might know that we don't?