ScienceDaily (Feb. 23, 2009) — Working memory (also known as short term memory) is our ability to keep a small amount of information active in our mind. This is useful for information we need to know on-the-fly, such as a phone number or the few items we need to pick up from the grocery store. We hang on to the information for a brief period of time, just long enough to make a phone call or get through the checkout line, and then we forget it forever.
People voluntarily pick what information they store in short-term memory. Now, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), researchers can see just what information people are holding in memory based only on patterns of activity in the brain.
Psychologists from the University of Oregon and the University of California, San Diego, reported their findings in the February issue of Psychological Science. By analyzing blood-flow activity, they were able to identify the specific color or orientation of an object that was intentionally stored by the observer.
The implications, in both directions, are staggering.