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Network aims to advance memories for life

As computers become capable of storing a lifetime's worth of memories and researchers explore prosthetic memories for humans, scientists at the University of Southampton have set up a network to develop a better understanding of how memory works and how it might be augmented by technological developments.

The network, supported by the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Memories for Life project, includes around 30 UK academics from the fields of psychology, neuroscience, computer science, information science and sociology, who will come together over a two-year period, in the hope that cross-fertilisation of ideas across the disciplines can lead to a more effective use of human and computerised memory.

As Professor Nigel Shadbolt from the University's School of Electronics & Computer Science (ECS), one of the principal investigators, explains: 'People are-quite literally-their memories. Exploring opportunities for collaboration between scientists and engineers could have a real impact both on our understanding of human memory, and on associated technologies for memory management.'

Dr Kieron O'Hara, Senior Research Fellow in ECS and communications officer of the project, commented: 'There are many challenges ahead when it comes to memory. Humans are very good at linking memories about the same things; it is much harder for computers to do this. Some of the challenges which lie ahead could be in the development of prosthetic memories and the storing and retrieval of 70 years' worth of memories and all the aspects of trust and privacy that will this entail.'

According to Dr O'Hara, the network is seeking more psychologists, neurosciences and sociologists willing to share their knowledge of short-term and long-term memory and brain function so that it can be used to improve efficiency, recall and information management in an integrated way across various levels of human, personal, social and work domains.

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Posted by Joyce Lewis on 25 Jul 2005.