Oct 27, 2015

Memory Reconsolidation by Joshua Sariñana

I am fascinated by the many ways the iPhone aids artists and even neuroscientists in their work. With permission from Joshua Sariñana (neuroscientist and photographer), I am reposting an article he recently published on his own site. When asked what role the iPhone played in this particular series, Joshua provided me with this answer: "The original images were captured on multiple cameras, including my iPhone. All of the images were post processed on my phone and then transfered to polaroid film using my iPhone and the Impossible Universal Lab."



In this series of images, I aim to connect past and present through the reconciliation of disparate identities I’ve formed between two vastly different cultures on opposite sides of the United States (more specifically, Los Angles, CA and Cambridge, MA). These images are of emotionally salient and important points in my life. Using the circular frame to telescope back in time I conflate distinct representations of who I am. Some images are of solitary figures while others are superimposed upon one another, newer images with older ones. I reflect upon how poignant and hybrid photographs represent the unstable nature of memory and how the brain assembles narrative.








 I utilize the neuropsychological process of memory reconsolidation to manipulate my memories. To induce memory reconsolidation I use established protocols from published neuroscience research articles. It has been shown that the brain regions activated by emotionally laden events can become re-activated when a powerful cue of that past event is presented. Cues can be anything, from the smell of a loved ones t-shirt, a picture of a childhood friend, or a melancholy song. When specific brain regions are re-activated (i.e., when memories are recalled) they also become unstable for a brief period of time, which creates an opportunity to alter the brain activity that represents that memory. New information or feelings can be inserted and integrated into our past experiences and potentially altered so much so that the original memory is simply no longer available.







 Each of my images are cues that have the potential to destabilizes my past and during this time I can change the story of my life. I transfer my images to Polaroid camera film to provide a novel view of my past. As I look at each image I bring to mind as many details as I can that relate to that image. During recall I attend to my breathing, heart rate, and whether I feel sad, happy or anxious. I resist approaching memories that invoke anxiety, but in attending to my physiological response I can reduce the sense of dread by changing the state of my body. In changing the association of the image to the feelings of anxiety a new association is formed and the memory altered. We are unconscious of the process of reconsolidation, but the memories and their associated emotions that form our personal narratives are in constant flux. It may be hard to imagine that our memories – those of special occasions and loving moments, or of deeply-felt pain and distress – might be inaccurate. But in order to connect our past with our present, it is necessary that our memories be susceptible to change.





For more about Joshua and his work, please see my interview with him here and a detailed tutorial by Joshua here.

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