News and Commentary Archive

Explore recent scientific discoveries and news as well as CLBB events, commentary, and press.

Mission

The speed of technology in neuroscience as it impacts ethical and just decisions in the legal system needs to be understood by lawyers, judges, public policy makers, and the general public. The Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior is an academic and professional resource for the education, research, and understanding of neuroscience and the law. Read more

Facebook is Re-Sculpting Our Memory

CLBB Scientific Faculty Member Dr. Daniel Schacter, an expert on the neuroscience of memory, is extensively quoted in this Quartz article examining how social media shapes our memories.

By Olivia Goldhill | Quartz | July 16, 2017

For much of history, the only way to chronicle life was to write about it. Now, many of us take selfies on our smartphones to share on Facebook, and create picturesque albums of our daily meals on Instagram. And as the mediums we use to recall and review the past change, so do our very memories. Continue reading »

Creative Cognition and Brain Network Dynamics

By Roger E. Beaty, Mathias Benedek, Paul J. Silvia, and Daniel L. Schacter | Trends in Cognitive Science | November 6, 2015

Abstract:

Creative thinking is central to the arts, sciences, and everyday life. How does the brain produce creative thought? A series of recently published papers has begun to provide insight into this question, reporting a strikingly similar pattern of brain activity and connectivity across a range of creative tasks and domains, from divergent thinking to poetry composition to musical improvisation. This research suggests that creative thought involves dynamic interactions of large-scale brain systems, with the most compelling finding being that the default and executive control networks, which can show an antagonistic relation, tend to cooperate during creative cognition and artistic performance. These findings have implications for understanding how brain networks interact to support complex cognitive processes, particularly those involving goal-directed, self-generated thought.

Read the full paper here.

Episodic Future Thinking in Generalized Anxiety Disorder

By Jade Q. Wu, Karl K. Szpunar, Sheina A. Godovich, Daniel L. Schacter, and Stefan G. Hofmann | Journal of Anxiety Disorders | December 2015

Abstract:

Research on future-oriented cognition in generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) has primarily focused on worry, while less is known about the role of episodic future thinking (EFT), an imagery-based cognitive process. To characterize EFT in this disorder, we used the experimental recombination procedure, in which 21 GAD and 19 healthy participants simulated positive, neutral and negative novel future events either once or repeatedly, and rated their phenomenological experience of EFT. Results showed that healthy controls spontaneously generated more detailed EFT over repeated simulations. Both groups found EFT easier to generate after repeated simulations, except when GAD participants simulated positive events. They also perceived higher plausibility of negative—not positive or neutral—future events than did controls. These results demonstrate a negativity bias in GAD individuals’ episodic future cognition, and suggest their relative deficit in generating vivid EFT. We discuss implications for the theory and treatment of GAD.

Read the full paper here.

Remembering the Past and Imagining the Future: Identifying and Enhancing the Contribution of Episodic Memory

By Daniel L. Schacter and Kevin P. Madore | Memory Studies | August 2015

Abstract:

Recent studies have shown that imagining or simulating future events relies on many of the same cognitive and neural processes as remembering past events. According to the constructive episodic simulation hypothesis (Schacter and Addis, 2007), such overlap indicates that both remembered past and imagined future events rely heavily on episodic memory: future simulations are built on retrieved details of specific past experiences that are recombined into novel events. An alternative possibility is that commonalities between remembering and imagining reflect the influence of more general, non-episodic factors such as narrative style or communicative goals that shape the expression of both memory and imagination. We consider recent studies that distinguish the contributions of episodic and non-episodic processes in remembering the past and imagining the future by using an episodic specificity induction – brief training in recollecting the details of a past experience – and also extend this approach to the domains of problem solving and creative thinking. We conclude by suggesting that the specificity induction may target a process of scene construction that contributes to episodic memory as well as to imagination, problem solving, and creative thinking.

Read the full paper here.

Creativity and Memory

By Kevin P. Madore, Donna Rose Addis, and Daniel L. Schacter | Psychological Science | July 23, 2015

Abstract:

People produce more episodic details when imagining future events and solving means-end problems after receiving an episodic-specificity induction—brief training in recollecting details of a recent event—than after receiving a control induction not focused on episodic retrieval. Here we show for the first time that an episodic-specificity induction also enhances divergent creative thinking. In Experiment 1, participants exhibited a selective boost on a divergent-thinking task (generating unusual uses of common objects) after a specificity induction compared with a control induction; by contrast, performance following the two inductions was similar on an object association task thought to involve little divergent thinking. In Experiment 2, we replicated the specificity-induction effect on divergent thinking using a different control induction, and also found that participants performed similarly on a convergent-thinking task following the two inductions. These experiments provide novel evidence that episodic memory is involved in divergent creative thinking.

Read the full article here.