From the Cognitive Psychology Laboratory to the Operating Room: How Basic Research in Cognitive Psychology is Having Implications for Neurosurgery

I will describe a research program in human memory and its evolution into the clinical domain. Since the early 1990s, I have been pursuing a line of work directed at understanding the mechanisms underlying the creation of false memories. Much of this work has used what has been called the DRM (Deese-Roediger-McDermott) paradigm of inducing false memories, in which people encode related words (e.g., bed, rest, awake) and later misremember having heard a nonpresented, related word (e.g., sleep). The implications of this work for real-life false memories have been debated, and I will touch on this issue; the real-life implications of this work in other domains, however, is becoming increasingly compelling. That is, in collaboration with colleagues at Washington University (Jeff Ojemann, Steve Petersen, Jason Watson), I have been combining my theoretical understanding of the origins of this memory illusion with a knowledge of functional neuroimaging techniques and a rudimentary understanding of some of the problems neurosurgical colleagues face when planning cortical resections. The outcome is that a theoretical understanding of the DRM memory illusion is—in a fairly direct way—beginning to change the way neurosurgeons plan surgery.

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