Endel Tulving definded episodic memory as the record of a person’s sensory, conceptual, temporal, spatial, emotional, and self-referential experiences associated with a personally witnessed event. The self-referential aspect, which Endel Tulving called ‘autonoetic consciousness’, hallmarks in his view defining features of episodic memory: self-involvement, subjective sense of time, and consciousness of encoding and retrieval. Consequentially, he denied young infants, unconscious humans, and animal species episodic memory. But encoding and remembering are neurocognitive processes that build up at any moment, transcending an unconscious state before entering consciousness. This begs the question what the encoded or retrieved information is the moment before entering consciousness, if not episodic memory? And what is this information, if not episodic memory, while being replayed during the unconsciousness of slow-wave sleep? In this talk, I summarize recent experimental evidence in wake humans forming memories from subliminal images (not visible to the conscious mind) and evidence in unconscious humans forming memories during slow-wave sleep. I finally propose a computational definition of episodic memory that no longer includes consciousness and the self/identity as defining features. Instead, I suggest that building blocks of episodic memory are the flexible associations formed at encoding between sensed aspects of an episode’s constituents (space, time, percepts, concepts, etc.). Identity or the self may or may not be constituents of an episodic memory. I suggest that an episodic memory may be formed with and without consciousness and that the formed memory may change its representational status from conscious to unconscious and vice versa during its lifetime. Computational definitions of episodic memory allow for comparative memory research in preverbal infants, nonverbal or aphasic humans, unconscious humans, humans lacking perceptual dimensions, and animal species.
Zoom link: https://ruhr-uni-bochum.zoom.us/j/69456334528?pwd=UjdWekRzTDdmV043T1U1UWpJcnhPQT09
Meeting ID: 694 5633 4528
On 28.01.22 at 2:00 PM
GA 04/187, Ruhr University Bochum