Trinity Week Symposium Explores the ’science of Memory’

Think you have a good memory? So did most people in the audience for the annual Trinity Week Academic Symposium, entitled the ‘Science of Memory’, in the Edmund Burke Theatre.

The event’s first speaker, Professor of Experimental Brain Research Shane O’Mara, asked the audience to recount what’s on a €20 note. A simple enough task, you might think, yet no one in attendance could recollect correctly.

The symposium examined memory from a variety of perspectives and Professor O’Mara initiated proceedings by examining exactly how memory works. In addition to the above example, he also had the audience scratching their heads as they tried to figure out the correct Apple logo from a selection displayed on screen.

Next to take the stage was Research Assistant Professor Dr Sabina Brennan with ‘Memory, Science and Social Impact’. Dr Brennan showed how we can translate the science of memory into practical materials to allay fears about memory loss, tackle stigma associated with dementia and promote brain health.

Professor of Neuropharmacology Michael Rowan was next up on the podium with a talk on ‘Antibodies for Alzheimer’s Disease’. He spoke about memory impairment in the context of Alzheimer’s and discussed the ability of certain antibodies, currently being researched, which may or may not slow the course of the disease.

After the break Research Assistant Professor Dr Marian Tsanov presented on episodic memory (memory of autobiographical events) and how it works. The good news is that we can train ourselves to ‘forget’ things that are uncomfortable to remember!

Then there was “a complete change of gear” in the words of Shane O’Mara – who also compered the event – from a micro analysis of memory to a macro one. Assistant Professor Dr Arun Bokde’s ‘Functional Anatomy of Memory’ shed light on changes that occur in the brain through normal ageing compared to Alzheimer’s.

Finally the symposium concluded with a talk on ‘Memory: Beyond the Brain’ by Associate Professor Dr Aine Kelly. She presented the hypothesis that exercise can lead to neurogenesis, the creation of new neurons. Using one experiment as an example, she showed the audience how just a single bout of exercise led to improved cognitive results.