SocraticGadfly: Mice offer more partial refudiation of Elizabeth Loftus

July 09, 2018

Mice offer more partial refudiation of Elizabeth Loftus

Elizabeth Loftus, selectively focused memory psychologist.
That would be memory researcher Elizabeth Loftus, who makes good money to peddle a seemingly Freudian-based version of "false memory syndrome," and not always correctly or scientifically.

Research on lab rats has already indicated that memory can be more malleable than Loftus presents.

The latest research? It's on mice, not rats. And, it shows that mice can be made to recover seemingly forgotten memories. This, too, is important. And deserves several paragraphs extracted:
Having encountered patients who couldn’t remember their early years, Sigmund Freud first coined the term infantile amnesia in the late 19th century. Since then, scientists have tried to understand why humans, nonhuman primates, and rodents alike experience this phenomenon. Whether these lost memories were due to improper storage or inefficient recollection was unknown. 
 In this latest study, Paul Frankland, a psychologist at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, and his colleagues sought to establish which of these possibilities was operating in mice. … 
 Frankland and his colleagues were able to switch on these memory-encoding neurons at 15, 30, and 90 days after the initial foot shock. At every stage up to young adulthood, the mice recalled their infant memories and froze when put back in the box. 
 Frankland’s team has previously shown that one reason why infantile memories are lost is because the adult brain adds new neurons to the hippocampus that replace the old memory-encoding neurons. However, this study shows that young adult mice tend to retain traces of their earliest memories.   
 “The findings of later accessibility of early memories are reminiscent (no pun intended) of those we see with human children,” writes Patricia Bauer, a psychologist at Emory University who was not involved in this research, in an email to The Scientist. Older children who are given cues can be prompted to remember events from their infancy. Unlike mice, episodic memories in humans are “not only hippocampally dependent, but also are personally relevant.” Still, she says, “we must be cautious about generalizing the present findings” to humans.
First, the third paragraph.

Such memories are retrievable. Period. And, relevant to Loftus and her paid expert witness testimony in courts, these were fear-based memories.

Second, the fourth paragraph. To the degree Loftus was working with scientific information 20 years ago, the idea that humans regularly grew new neurons, let alone in specialized brain areas such as the hippocampus, was not broadly accepted. We have that as a different model of brain development now.

Third, the last paragraph. It appears this applies to adults.

And, on counseling. The difference between cue-provision and coaching can be a fine one at times. The likes of Loftus would probably like to obliterate it to uphold their stances.

Also, kind of sadly, Texas civil liberties and criminal justice blogger Grits for Breakfast thinks Loftus is the bee's knees.

Update, March 1, 2020: And, although Loftus is referenced in this Nautilus piece? Overall, it would seem to partially refute her. Pre-5-year-old memories may be scrambled or hidden, and thus not totally reliable. But, they're not totally lost, and not totally unreliable, either. It too involves research in part from Paul Frankland.

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