Ogi Ogas in Seed Magazine:

Screenhunter_4_16Boston University’s doctoral program in cognitive neuroscience prepares students for a career in brain modeling, robot design, or biomedical engineering—or for winning cash on the television quiz show Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?. Researchers in my department, Cognitive and Neural Systems (CNS), seek to understand the brain’s mechanisms, including three cognitive systems that happen to be essential for a profitable performance on Millionaire: learning, memory, and decision-making. This summer—the start of my final year in the CNS Ph.D. program—I decided to apply my graduate skills to a decidedly practical purpose and auditioned for a turn in the show’s perilous hot seat.

I went to New York, where I passed a multiple-choice audition test. Two weeks later, I received the call to appear on the syndicated version of Millionaire, hosted by the empathic and playful Meredith Vieira. To prepare, I focused first on memory techniques, the subject of my doctoral dissertation.

The first technique I drew upon was priming. The priming of a memory occurs because of the peculiar “connectionist” neural dynamics of our cortex, where memories are distributed across many regions and neurons. If we can recall any fragment of a pattern, our brains tend to automatically fill in the rest. For example, hearing an old Madonna song may launch a cascade of linked memories: your high school prom where it was the theme song, your poorly tailored prom outfit, your forgotten prom date, the stinging embarrassment when you threw up in the limo.

More here.