Memory Shift

According to Scientific American, “The human brain consists of about one billion neurons [10+09]. Each neuron forms about 1,000 connections [10+03] to other neurons, amounting to more than a trillion connections [10+12].  If each neuron could only help store a single memory, running out of space would be a problem.  You might have only a few gigabytes of storage space, similar to the space in an iPod or a USB flash drive.

Yet neurons combine so that each one helps with many memories at a time, exponentially increasing the brain’s memory storage capacity to something closer to around 2.5 petabytes (or a million gigabytes).”

Even if there is plenty of room for our memories, they can still change on us.  They are much more malleable than they seem.  We knew that already; however, the information takes on far greater meaning when considering how key memory is to our current social justice system. The Innocence Project, reveals that “Eyewitness Misidentification Testimony was a factor in 75 percent of post-conviction DNA exoneration cases in the U.S.”  Faulty memories were the leading cause of these wrongful convictions.

A recent article in the  The New York Times discusses the pitfalls of witness testimony and the procedural changes that some Supreme Courts are beginning to put in place.  Scientists explain that “Rather than the centerpiece of prosecution, witness testimony should be viewed more like trace evidence…with the same fragility and vulnerability to contamination.”

To read the full article, click here.

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