Sunday, July 28, 2013

Woman confuses rapist with TV shrink

A major problem with court testimony of traumatic events is false memory syndrome. As example is Jodi Arias, who supposedly blocked out deadly events under PTSD, and then recovered memories later. She sounded sincere and her shrinks backed her up, but the objective evidence said otherwise, and she was convicted of murder. (She still awaits a new jury for sentencing.)

Most people would say that a woman making a rape accusation is surely telling the truth, and correctly identifying her assailant. But such a woman can be sincerely quite mistaken, as the amusing story below proves.

A leading science journal, AAAS Science, reports on mouse memory research in the current issue:
So, in other words, there could be a false association of what you have in your mind rather than what is happening to you, so this is a way we believe that at least for some form of strong force memory observed in humans could be made. Because our study showed that the false memories and the genuine memories are based on very similar, almost identical, brain mechanisms. It is difficult for the false memory bearer to distinguish between them. What we hope our current and our future findings along these lines will further allot researchers and legal experts how unreliable memory can be.

I can give you one extraordinary example of a false memory. You know, there was a person apparently, I did not know him, but someone called Donald Thompson who is a psychiatrist and he had a TV show. A woman was watching this program, and all of a sudden a man broke in and raped her. After that terrible incident, she claimed it was this Donald Thompson who raped her even after she was told that Thompson was in the studio, but she was not convinced. Because in other words, she had real false memory of associating this guy Thompson with this terrible event of raping.

In other words, her brain network made, just like this mouse, artificially associated two things that are not related. She liked this program. She was thinking about this program, and therefore, when she was thinking about it, the rape occurred and these two things got associated. So there are conditions which influence the relative strengths of our false and genuine memory, and we do not know very much about what parameters will influence how whole memory formation versus whole genuine memory formation. So we can study this, because we have a mouse model now.
I am trying to imagine the policeman telling the woman that Thompson had an iron-clad alibi -- he was on live TV at the time -- and yet the woman persists with her allegation!

Think about that the next time you hear about some woman making some abuse accusation against a model citizen. She might be completely convinced of some story that is completely false.

I assume that men can have false memories also. I say women just because all the examples I know involve women. According to the above scientist, even a mouse can have a false memory. Maybe someday he will have a mouse model of the family court, and figure out why it is so dysfunctional.

Here is the MIT story about the research:
The phenomenon of false memory has been well-documented: In many court cases, defendants have been found guilty based on testimony from witnesses and victims who were sure of their recollections, but DNA evidence later overturned the conviction.

In a step toward understanding how these faulty memories arise, MIT neuroscientists have shown that they can plant false memories in the brains of mice. They also found that many of the neurological traces of these memories are identical in nature to those of authentic memories.

“Whether it’s a false or genuine memory, the brain’s neural mechanism underlying the recall of the memory is the same,” says Susumu Tonegawa, the Picower Professor of Biology and Neuroscience and senior author of a paper describing the findings in the July 25 edition of Science.

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