London: If you wake up in a hotel room and feel confused about your whereabouts, don’t blame your sleepy eyes, since it is your memory that’s at fault.
New research suggests that the bewildered feeling we get is caused by two memories competing for precedence.
The memory of home jostles with recollections of the hotel and the brain plays with both for a few seconds before settling on the correct one.
Norwegian scientists studied how memories are organised in the brain. To mimic the effect of waking in a strange room, they trained rats to recognise two boxes, each lit differently on the inside.
They then fooled the rats into thinking they had moved from one box to the other, simply by changing the lighting.
“It makes them believe they have been teleported,” the Daily Mail quoted Professor May-Britt Moser, of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, as saying.
Tracking the rats’ brain activity showed they activated one spatial memory when in one box and a different one when in the second box.
But when they were ‘teleported’, their brain flicked between the two conflicting recollections for several seconds before choosing the correct one.
“They always settled on the right memory in the end because they have resolved the conflict,” said co-researcher Professor Edvard Moser.