Four experiments are reported which examined memory capacity and retrieval speed for pictures and for words. Single-trial learning tasks were employed throughout, with memory performance assessed by forced-choice recognition, recall measures or choice reaction-time tasks. The main experimental findings were: (I) memory capacity, as a function of the amount of material presented, follows a general power law with a characteristic exponent for each task; (2) pictorial material obeys this power law and shows an overall superiority to verbal material. The capacity of recognition memory for pictures is almost limitless, when measured under appropriate conditions; (3) when the recognition task is made harder by using more alternatives, memory capacity stays constant and the superiority of pictures is maintained; (4) picture memory also exceeds verbal memory in terms of verbal recall; comparable recognition/recall ratios are obtained for pictures, words and nonsense syllables; (5) verbal memory shows a higher retrieval speed than picture memory, as inferred from reaction-time measures. Both types of material obey a power law, when reaction-time is measured for various sizes of learning set, and both show very rapid rates of memory search.

From a consideration of the experimental results and other data it is concluded that the superiority of the pictorial mode in recognition and free recall learning tasks is well established and cannot be attributed to methodological artifact.

Medical Neuroscience

Medical Neuroscience explores the functional organization and neurophysiology of the human central nervous system, while providing a neurobiological framework for understanding human behavior. In this course, you will discover the organization of the neural systems in the brain and spinal cord that mediate sensation, motivate bodily action, and integrate sensorimotor signals with memory, emotion and related faculties of cognition. The overall goal of this course is to provide the foundation for understanding the impairments of sensation, action and cognition that accompany injury, disease or dysfunction in the central nervous system. The course will build upon knowledge acquired through prior studies of cell and molecular biology, general physiology and human anatomy, as we focus primarily on the central nervous system.

This online course is designed to include all of the core concepts in neurophysiology and clinical neuroanatomy that would be presented in most first-year neuroscience courses in schools of medicine. However, there are some topics (e.g., biological psychiatry) and several learning experiences (e.g., hands-on brain dissection) that we provide in the corresponding course offered in the Duke University School of Medicine on campus that we are not attempting to reproduce in Medical Neuroscience online. Nevertheless, our aim is to faithfully present in scope and rigor a medical school caliber course experience.

This course comprises six units of content organized into 12 weeks, with an additional week for a comprehensive final exam:
– Unit 1 Neuroanatomy (weeks 1-2). This unit covers the surface anatomy of the human brain, its internal structure, and the overall organization of sensory and motor systems in the brainstem and spinal cord.
– Unit 2 Neural signaling (weeks 3-4). This unit addresses the fundamental mechanisms of neuronal excitability, signal generation and propagation, synaptic transmission, post synaptic mechanisms of signal integration, and neural plasticity.
– Unit 3 Sensory systems (weeks 5-7). Here, you will learn the overall organization and function of the sensory systems that contribute to our sense of self relative to the world around us: somatic sensory systems, proprioception, vision, audition, and balance senses.
– Unit 4 Motor systems (weeks 8-9). In this unit, we will examine the organization and function of the brain and spinal mechanisms that govern bodily movement.
– Unit 5 Brain Development (week 10). Next, we turn our attention to the neurobiological mechanisms for building the nervous system in embryonic development and in early postnatal life; we will also consider how the brain changes across the lifespan.
– Unit 6 Cognition (weeks 11-12). The course concludes with a survey of the association systems of the cerebral hemispheres, with an emphasis on cortical networks that integrate perception, memory and emotion in organizing behavior and planning for the future; we will also consider brain systems for maintaining homeostasis and regulating brain state.

Illusions, delusions and the brain. A Ramachandran lecture on body image and mind body interactions.

This lecture by Prof. V.S. Ramachandran (University of California, San Diego) will focus on body image and mind body interactions.

This year’s prestigious University of Glasgow Gifford Lecture Series will feature three talks from V.S. Ramachandran, the Director of the Centre for Brain and Cognition and Distinguished Professor with the Psychology Department and Neurosciences Program at the University of California.

Founded in 1887 by the bequest of Lord Gifford, the annual Gifford Lecture Series was established to promote, advance and diffuse the study of Natural Theology in the widest sense of that term. The focus of this series will be ‘Body and Mind; Insights from Neuroscience.’

Ramachandran said: “Monday’s lecture will focus on body image and mind body interactions, while Wednesday’s lecture will deal with understanding higher brain functions through studies of synesthesia and other types of intersensory interactions, including discoveries of mirror neurons. I will also touch on the important deeper philosophical implications that surround these subject areas.”

Dr Susan Stuart, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Glasgow said: “It is our great pleasure that Vilayanur S. Ramachandran has agreed to present the 2012 Gifford lectures at the University of Glasgow. Ramachandran is one of the world’s leading neuroscientists; he has been responsible for groundbreaking work in the fields of behavioural neurology and psychophysics.

“His work on autism, visual processing, and synaesthesia is truly pioneering and during his career he has carried out marvellous work on understanding and treating phantom limb disorders as well as linking between temporal lobe epilepsy and hyper-religiosity, a field now known as ‘neurotheology’ or ‘spiritual neuroscience’.”

V.S. Ramachandran is Director of the Center for Brain and Cognition and Distinguished Professor with the Psychology Department and Neurosciences Program at the University of California, San Diego, and Adjunct Professor of Biology at the Salk Institute. Ramachandran initially trained as a doctor and subsequently obtained a Ph.D. from Trinity College at the University of Cambridge. Ramachandran’s early work was on visual perception but he is best known for his experiments in behavioral neurology which, despite their apparent simplicity, have had a profound impact on the way we think about the brain. He has been called “The Marco Polo of neuroscience” by Richard Dawkins and “The modern Paul Broca” by Eric Kandel.
In 2005 he was awarded the Henry Dale Medal and elected to an honorary life membership by the Royal Instituion of Great Britain, where he also gave a Friday evening discourse (joining the ranks of Michael Faraday, Thomas Huxley, Humphry Davy, and dozens of Nobel Laureates). His other honours and awards include fellowships from All Souls College, Oxford, and from Stanford University (Hilgard Visiting Professor); the Presidential Lecture Award from the American Academy of Neurology, two honorary doctorates, the annual Ramon Y Cajal award from the International Neuropsychiatry Society, and the Ariens-Kappers medal from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences. In 2003 he gave the annual BBC Reith lectures and was the first physician/psychologist to give the lectures since they were begun by Bertrand Russel in 1949. In 1995 he gave the Decade of the Brain lecture at the 25th annual (Silver Jubilee) meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. In 2010 he delivered the annual Jawaharlal Nehru memorial lecture in New Delhi, India. Most recently the President of India conferred on him the second highest civilian award and honorific title in India, the Padma Bhushan. And TIME magazine named him on their list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Ramachandran has published over 180 papers in scientific journals (including five invited review articles in the Scientific American). He is author of the acclaimed book “Phantoms in the Brain” that has been translated into nine languages and formed the basis for a two part series on Channel Four TV (UK) and a 1 hour PBS special in USA. NEWSWEEK magazine has named him a member of “The Century Club” — one of the “hundred most prominent people to watch in the next century.” He has been profiled in the New Yorker Magazine and appeared on the Charlie Rose Show. His new book, “The Tell Tale Brain” was on the New York Times best-seller list.

In addition, Ramachandran has an interest in history and archaeology (see his article on the Indus Valley Code).

Alan Alda’s Flame Challenge presents: “What Is Color?”

What is color? It seems like a simple question at first, but when you think about it, the reality of what we’re seeing is a pretty complex situation. Our human eyes sift through a small piece of the vast electromagnetic spectrum and translate it into every color of the rainbow. But there are other animals that see these same wavelengths in different ways, or even see colors beyond what we can perceive! And not all color is dependent on wavelengths of light: the brains of certain people, called synesthetes, work in ways that let them see colors tied to music, words, or other stimuli. Watch as host Alan Alda takes you on a surreal, scientific tour of the spectrum with the help of vision researcher Jay Neitz, along with neuroscientists David Eagleman, Kaitlyn Hova, and Bevil Conway.