Heard of Mental Time Travel? Yes, Only Humans Can Do!

There is one more reason to make merry this Christmas season, that is only we, humans, can recall personal experiences and also travel into the future with the power of our mind.

The model developed by three scientists Prof. Markus Werning, Prof. Sen Cheng from the German Ruhr University Bochum and Prof. Thomas Suddendorf (University of Queensland) presents forcibly that it is mental Time travel and episodic memory that scores in a new relationship.

The researchers assume that mental time travel has several components. "Component or memory trace from the episodic memory means "fairly accurate representations of personally experienced episodes, each track represents a very specific experience, so very specific," explains Prof. Sen Cheng.

Component two is the ability to construct mental scenarios with dynamic representations from past or situations that are not isolated, they can be included and reflected in larger contexts. For instance, when we move car keys, we go off in thought places and situations in which we might have left the key.

The past situation can be linked to other experiences and information but mentally, a scenario arises. The question of whether and, if so, how, the construction of mental scenarios with a special, "autonoetic" form of consciousness goes hand in hand, is particularly interesting from the research point of view and the open-ended discussion by the authors on the basis of several options helped them construct the model.

No clear evidence of anticipatory behavior in animals was found and to prove this, the researchers used apart with previously published experimental studies and adapted their results on their model.

"Some animals seem to have an episodic memory. But there is no evidence that they, as human beings, would be able to construct different scenarios for the future, to reflect and compare. We therefore do not believe that animals can make mental time travel, "says Prof. Sen Cheng. Citing the example of squirrels, he said they have the ability to create fodder stocks for the winter in the fall, but it cannot be interpreted as acting with foresight, but as an innate form of behavior. "The squirrel would also collect food, if it had been fed all his life in the winter," says Cheng.

As reserchers of interdisciplinary Mercator Research Group "Structure of Memory" at the Ruhr University Bochum, Prof. Cheng Sen and Prof. Markus Werning have in the past looked at the research of memory through their respective disciplinary boundaries. Joining with Prof. Thomas Suddendorf, who is one of the pioneers in the study of mental processes in animals, they are able to enrich the long-standing debate with a new theoretical model.

Their results are published in the journal "Neuroscience and Behavioral Reviews".


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