When you try to remember a phone number, an ATM PIN or any events happened in the past, your brain processes a sequence of numbers, ideas or events. During these processes, your brain uses what is known as sequential memory and this memory is the reason why we interact, think and perceive things as a social animal.
At least for now, we know what sequential memory does to us, but the nature it works has never been put forward. Well, let’s not forget that our mind can be considered as computational systems and depending on the type of computations it carries out, a mathematical model can be built that is best suited for certain types of computations; and in this case, sequential memory.
So to best describe how sequential memory works, scientists have built mathematical models that mimic sequential memory. The new model described in the journal Chaos, from AIP Publishing, shows how the mind switches among different ways of thinking – particularly when thinking about a sequence of numbers, ideas or events, based on cognitive modes.
“In our life, all of our behaviors and our process of thinking is sequential in time,” said Mikhail Rabinovich, a physicist and neurocognitive scientist at the University of California, San Diego.
Our neural tissue can generate oscillatory activity in our central nervous system and this happens when you make a rational judgment such as thinking or perceiving. So according to researchers, thinking, perceiving, and any other neural activity incorporates various parts of the brain that work together in concert and when this happens, it happens in well-defined patterns so-called cognitive modes which are the basic states of neural activity.
To understand the model, the modes are thought of as competing figure skaters which the researchers describe in three ways: their background, their performance and their skating perspective whether purely emotional or aesthetic. The researchers constantly switch among these three perspectives to better understand the nature the skaters.
According to researchers, when the mind has sequential thoughts, the cognitive modes underlying neural activity switches among different modalities – a kind of sensory perception formed when the above three perspectives describe cognitive modes. The researchers describe this switching as binding process, because the mind “binds” each cognitive mode to a certain modality.
The model actually works and it has been proven robust and that it can withstand perturbations from the random disturbances in the brain. Researchers hope the new model may help scientists better understand a variety of metal or anxiety disorders that may involve sequential memory, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar, attention deficit disorder, schizophrenia and autism.