Problematic research that ignored the hippocampus as the seat of emotional memories

If this 2015 human study from the San Diego Veterans Administration developed findings of any note, I didn’t see them.

Like other studies, this study ignored the hippocampus’ position as the seat of emotional memories. The experiments were designed to not contain any emotional content.

The researchers mainly wanted to fight a 60-year old battle on whether or not the hippocampus contributed to spatial processing. They ignored all the research on place cells, such as:

to name three of the hundreds of place cell studies available.

By ignoring these and other studies, the researchers declared:

“We have not found evidence that this is the case.”

The lead researcher continued with speculations that couldn’t be verified with the current experiments’ data:

“We think they can do these spatial tasks because these tasks can be managed within short-term memory functions, supported by the frontal lobe of the neocortex.

The spatial tasks that we can do with our neocortex using short-term memory must be performed by the hippocampus in rats.”

Basically, the rest of the scientific world must supply irrefutable evidence (which will be ignored) but the reader can just take the lead researcher’s words as fact for what’s going on inside human and rodent brains, although:

  • No fMRI scans were performed during the experiments,
  • No hard measurements were taken.

The findings were based on observations of six subjects:

  • With hippocampal lesions of unspecified duration,
  • Drawing pictures, and
  • Narrating what they imagined about a playground.

I wonder what the reviewers saw in this study that factually advanced science. Did the statement:

“These results support the traditional view that the human hippocampus is primarily important for memory.”

convey something new? Make a contribution to science?

Studies like this one are a waste of resources, in my opinion, that supposedly the Veterans Administration have in short supply. The design and data of such studies are not able to reach levels where they can provide evidence of causes and effects of anything within their scope. Which meant to me that there was some other agenda in play.

http://www.pnas.org/content/112/15/4767.full “Memory, scene construction, and the human hippocampus”

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