Elliot Hirshman P.I. NSF Program Abstract BCS 9983323 Grant Title: Using Midazolam to Explore Implicit Memory
Experimental and neuropsychological studies have demonstrated that subjects often display a form of memory in which they are affected by prior experiences, even though they have no conscious memory of these experiences. This form of memory is often referred to as implicit memory. Unfortunately, attempts to understand the nature of implicit memory have been stymied by methodological problems. These problems include: 1) difficulties in studying implicit memory in memory-impaired patients because of interpretive problems posed by the numerous correlated conditions afflicting memory-impaired patients (e.g., a history of alcohol abuse); and 2) difficulties in studying implicit memory in normal participants because of interpretive problems posed when conscious memory contaminates performance on implicit memory tests. The current project uses midazolam, a safe, short-acting amnesiac agent to study implicit memory. Midazolam renders participants amnesiac for a brief period (e.g., 5minutes), allowing us to explore the nature of implicit memory independently of contamination by conscious memory in normal participants. The proposed experiments use this technique to explore the capacity of implicit memory to represent meaningful information. Understanding how implicit memory represents meaningful information will help us understand the similarities and differences between the operating principles that govern conscious and implicit memory, as well as enrich our understanding of the factors that facilitate meaningful processing of information.