Lecture series explores relation between memory and the future

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Professor Alison Preston speaks at the Hot Science-Cool Talks series last Friday. The topic of the night was memories, and how the brain creates, stores, and recalls them.

Photo Credit: Zachary Strain | Daily Texan Staff

Memories directly affect day-to-day actions and therefore help predict the futures, said Alison Preston, an assistant psychology and neurobiology professor.

Preston lectured during the Hot Science-Cool Talks series, “Building Memories for Tomorrow: How our Brain Affects Our Future” on Friday evening. The Hot Science-Cool Talks lecture series was started in November 1999 by the Jackson School of Geosciences and the College of Natural Sciences and has hosted 72 series in total.

“We are actively constructing experience and anticipating what might happen to us whether it’d be a few minutes or a few years from now,” Preston said. “Because of this active constructive process, what we store as memory is actually going beyond direct experience and may reflect things that never happen to us.”

A topic of importance was the function of an area of the brain called the hippocampus, which is essential for the ability to form and recall specific memories.

“Understanding how the hippocampus works can develop interventions that can prove function in clinical populations, enhance memory in aging or potentially help neuropsychiatric disorders,” Preston said.

Jay Banner, director of the Environmental Science Institute and co-founder of the lecture series, said Preston made her lecture easy for all members of the audience to understand.

“She talked about a complex topic in real plain language which was very effective,” Banner said.

A science fair, which featured different activities and information for educators and the public relating to topics discussed in Preston’s presentation, preceded the talk.

“The science done in the University gets disseminated to the K-12 community,” Banner said. “We wanted to have an interesting evening out for everybody and K-12 teachers in particular.”

Lauren Tien, an undeclared geosciences sophomore and lecture series volunteer, helped distribute CDs designed for educators which included past lectures, learning and teaching modules and basic science concepts for their students. She said people with no science background could still benefit from the lecture.

“She explained everything very well, especially for people with no prior psychology experience,” Tien said.

Printed on Monday September 26, 2011 as: Science lecture series opens with memory presentation