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False Memories of UFO Encounters: An fMRI Investigation


False Memories of UFO Encounters: An fMRI Investigation

Lambrinos, Angela (2011) False Memories of UFO Encounters: An fMRI Investigation. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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The idea of ‘false memories’ for traumatic events has powered numerous controversies. For this reason, the present study was designed as an attempt to resolve this debate with the use of neuroscience by alleviating two major limitations that have hindered progress in the field: namely, a more specific and restricted definition of what constitutes a false memory; and alleviating concerns surrounding the lack of ecological validity of simulated cases by testing individuals claiming to have been abducted by space aliens.
Our objective was to determine whether fMRI could distinguish between a false and a real memory and to identify the neural processes associated with these memories. Personality traits and/or cognitive abilities related to incidences of false memory were investigated, as well as, brain activation during 4 memory recall conditions: 1) self false memory; 2) self real memory; 3) other false memory; and 4) other real memory. A sample of 12 men and women who identified themselves as UFO abductees were used in the fMRI part of this experiment with their UFO abduction memory as the ‘self false memory’ condition. Results revealed higher scores on all cognitive and personality measures for the UFO group. We found evidence that the processing of real and false memories is correlated with different patterns of brain activity. In addition, main effects of self-referential processing and memory type (unusual content versus usual) were also tested. The results indicated that self-referential responding was mainly associated to prefrontal and limbic activations whereas the successful retrieval of unusual content was associated to multiple regions of the brain including but not limited to bilateral prefrontal and occipital activations, and right anterior cingulate. Significant interactions were also observed in four right hemispheric regions: the lateral globus pallidus; the superior frontal gyrus; the parietal supramarginal gyrus; and the limbic lobe with increased activation specifically linked to the condition “self false memory”. Our findings extended the line of false memory research to unusual false memories and revealed additional activations associated specifically to this type of memory.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Psychology
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Lambrinos, Angela
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Date:14 October 2011
Thesis Supervisor(s):Laurence, Jean-Roch
ID Code:36057
Deposited On:20 Jun 2012 19:46
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:36
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