While scanning my lost list of articles that might become the topic of MindBlog posts, I re-encountered this description from Science Magazine of research on autobiographical memory which has subjects wear a small camera mounted on their chests. The work has expanded to involve patients with memory problems due to Alzheimer's or brain injuries. On viewing the camera's data six months later:
...many SenseCam users...report a sudden flood of memories of thoughts and sensations, ... "Proustian moments," when they review images taken by the device. SenseCam's images correspond to the nature of human memory--they're fragmentary, they're formed outside conscious control, they're visual in nature, they're from the subject's perspective. All these features are very like what we call episodic memory.A research team:
SenseCam records images passively, permitting a person to go about their day without interruption. The latest version is about the size and weight of a clunky mobile phone and appears to observe the world through two unmatched eyeballs. One is a passive infrared sensor, tuned to trigger the camera whenever another person passes by. The other is a wide-angle camera lens, set to capture most of the user's field of view. The device is also equipped with an ambient light sensor that triggers the camera when its user moves from one room to another, or goes in or out of doors. The camera can also be set to snap an image if the sensors haven't triggered a photo after an arbitrary number of seconds. A typical wearer might come home with 2000 to 3000 fragmentary, artless images at the end of a day.
...under the direction of neuropsychologist Georgina Brown, has followed five additional people with memory problems over a nearly 3-year period, exploring the difference between the memory boost provided by visual and written diary-keeping. Establishing a baseline of how fast these people lose their memories, the team asked each about an event every other day for 2 weeks after the event, and then again after 1 month and after 3 months. Then they asked the patients to keep a diary of a separate event and review it every other day during an initial 2-week assessment, but not during subsequent months. Finally, patients reviewed their SenseCam's images for 2 weeks following a third event.
The preliminary results suggest that SenseCam use strengthened these patients' memories more than diary-keeping did. A full analysis of the data is in preparation, says Brown, whose team plans to submit it to the journal Memory for a special issue devoted to SenseCam research.