Events / MindCORE Seminar: Sarah Robins

MindCORE Seminar: Sarah Robins

November 17, 2023
12:00 PM - 1:15 PM

We will also stream this seminar via Zoom.
For the link, please contact us:


Sarah Robins
Department of Philosophy
Purdue University


The Engram Renaissance


Memory traces have a long history. For Plato, they were birds in aviaries; for William James, they were furniture in the mind’s rooms. They’ve also been phonographic records, movie reels, computer files, etc. The persistent appeal to traces throughout the history of theorizing about memory reflects their importance, while the reliance on metaphor leaves our understanding of them vague at best. In neuroscience, the memory trace often goes by the term engram. The search for the engram has long been a guiding research project. Recent developments in the tools and techniques available for investigating the mechanisms of memory have led to proclamations that the engram has been found, and that we’re in the midst of an “engram renaissance” (Josselyn, Köhler, & Frankland 2017). This research is ongoing, as is debate about its scope and significance, but the renewed interest in the engram is clear. This attention highlights the impoverished status of the engram concept—a fate inherited from the memory trace’s long and murky past. The simple characterization of it as an enduring change to the brain that results from experience no longer keeps pace with engram research. Appeal back to the aviaries and movie reels of earlier views of memory traces offers little aid. In this talk, I sketch a way forward for the engram concept and our understanding of the memory trace’s role in theories of memory.


A pizza lunch will be served. Please bring your own beverage.