Re: memetics and genetics

Scott Chase (
Tue, 28 Dec 1999 00:39:16 -0800

Date: Tue, 28 Dec 1999 00:39:16 -0800
From: "Scott Chase" <>
Subject: Re: memetics and genetics


On Tue, 28 Dec 1999 00:29:16 Raymond Recchia wrote: >>My adaption would be: >> >>Memes are the self-transmittable mechanism by which the >>synaptic connections in a brain are altered. >> >>Rob Geurtsen >> >> >>Joshua 'Glok' Sutubra wrote: >> >>> I propose this solution; >>> >>> Memes are the transmittable mechanism by which the >>> synaptic connections in a brain are altered. >>> >Rabies or mad cow disease would both be memes under these definitions > >Along similar lines is Aaron Lynch's definition: > > >MEME: (pronounced 'meem') 1. A self-spreading thought, idea, attitude, >belief, or other brain-stored item of learned culture. 2. (Technical usage) >A memory item, or portion of an organism's neurally-stored information, >whose occurrence depended critically on causation by prior occurrence of the >same memory item in one or more other organisms' nervous systems. >> >Slightly more specific, this definition avoids the problem suggested above. > > Could memory item be interchanged with engram (after Karl Lashley and Richard Semon) or mnemon (after J.Z. Young) or mneme (a general unit of memory, habit, or heredity after Semon)? Once you enter the court of learning and memory, there comes a historical set of terms and concepts. The alteration of synaptic connections itself veers into the theoretical territory outlined by Donald Hebb with his synaptic efficiency postulate.

Then come certain questions pertinent to the individual's personal store of memory units, such as how they were stamped in and how they are retrieved (engraphy and ecphory in Semon's terms). Are they reduplicated as put forward by Lashley for the memory trace? Are the memory units localized or diffuse? What is/are the molecular mechanism(s) for memory processing?

I see possible units for memory (engrams) and units for culture (memes). How the gap is bridged is hard to call. There could be a separate information storehouse for memories in the brain versus the storehouse of culture (including books, TV, movies, music, myths, symbols etc). Differential engagement of individuals with the cultural units should also be accounted for. Memes could be a subset within the memory store consisting only of mimetic or imitation derived memories.

Scott Chase

For reference see:

Martinez JL and Kesner RP (editors). 1998. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory. Academic Press. New York

Orbach J. 1998. The Neuropsychological Theories of Lashley and Hebb: Contemporary Perspectives Fifty Years After Hebb's _The Organization of Behavior_ / _Vanuxem_ Lectures and Selected Theoretical Papers of Lahley. University Press of America, Inc. New York

Schacter DL. 1982. Stranger Behind the Engram: Theories of Memory and the Psychology of Science. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers. Hillsdale New Jersey

Schacter DL. 1996. Searching for Memory: the Brain, the Mind, and the Past. Basic Books. New York

Semon R. 1921. The Mneme. The MacMillan Co. New York

Squire LR and Kandel ER. 1999. Memory: from Mind to Molecules. Scientific American Library. New York

Young JZ. 1965. The organization of a memory system. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London (163): 285-320

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