Memory Stimulation

Posted Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

Dear Blog Readers,

Today’s blog will be specific to material repeatedly stimulating a particular kind of movement and in turn allowing for a memory to be created and recalled. It will also be discussing how textures can stimulate memories. The discussion will be broken down into sections “Recognitive Movement”, “Cognitive Stimulation”, “Sensory Based Art” and “Recollective Memory” where they will be looked at more in depth.


Recognitive Movement

Memory can be triggered through both recognitive movement and tactile memory. Recognitive movement is the recall of a memory through a movement, where as tactile memory is the recall of memory through the touch of an object. For example recognitive movement is associated with a repetitive activity such as sowing or kneading dough, where as tactile memory is associated with the feel of objects, such as a tree bark texture can link to a memory of a tree swing.

Recognitive movement can influence the viewer to interact with a material in an instinctive active movement, both physically and visually. If a material stimulates recognitive movement it can encourage a number of different activities specific to the idea it creates. These physical activities can vary from plucking, squeezing, pinching, stroking, pushing, twisting or opening and closing a material.

Recognitive movement can also influence visual movements, from following a pattern of light and moving objects, to simply the flow of the design and material, like that of wood grain.

Specifically contoured shapes can gently guide the eye and the hand to experience things in a certain order. The eye will naturally follow certain patterns which in turn can entice the viewer to physically interact with a material. For example wooden velodromes have an organic flow that naturally draw the eye along its curve. Sometimes our eye can even attempt to counterbalance an image, just as with this initial design below.

Ceramics, Mosaics and Tiles

Patterned mosaics and tiles can gently lead the hand and eye in a particular direction and with glass mosaics, light ever changes the complexion.

Mosaics and tiles can give numerous physical reminders through tactile memory from bathroom suites to wall murals. Mosaics can be made from ceramic or glass tiles and can even include objects like seashells. Incorporating multiple materials into a mosaic can give multiple opportunities for a tactile memory to occur. Mosaics also have the benefit of being water resistant and hygienic which was a strong consideration when implementing a mosaic section into our “Prototype”.

We also made ceramic scrolls, designed in the shape of violin scrolls, which then became the ends of our tree branches. The natural curve encourages the viewer to trace the shape of the swirl with their finger.


Cogs can come from many mechanical devices like those from clocks or bicycles and are a good example of recognitive movement. Due to the mechanical nature of cogs the physical process of animation is very visible. Even before a set of cogs are activated  they are already visually interactive and recognisable. Using physically interactive cogs in our “Prototype” that could be powered manually was a consideration, with visibility to all the different sections of movement. We considered old church clocks that had narratives on the faces and also displayed the movements of the cogs.

We also considered that these cogs displaying a notion of time could be incorporated into the piece as a suggestion of time between day and night with sun and moon imagery.

Other gear based objects we reflected on were carousels, Ferris wheels and steam trains with wheels and pistons. After in depth research we found that it would consume time to make a functioning active moving piece that could potentially malfunction, but including static variations of cogs are very much in consideration due to there visual suggestions and therefore could provide a similar outcome.

Cognitive Stimulation

Cognitive Stimulation can occur through activities such as interactive puzzles. These cognitive challenges can be in many forms from abacuses to mazes to sliding picture puzzles. We considered implementing design features like these into our “Prototype” for cognitive stimulation. These design puzzles could rotate and be dual sided or the patient could correlate certain items with certain boxes. These interactive challenges could not only provide stimulation but also encourage focus from the patient.

Memory Trace

With stimulating cognitive puzzles that are familiar we can hope to link back to a trace memory which recalls certain ideas with particular activities. These links could be visual or physical that could instill reminders of the previous goal. For example moving elements in a certain way, like an interactive picture puzzle  or simply moving an abacus could stimulate recognitive movement and therefore a trace memory. Even moving objects into corresponding locations, like balls into a circular hole, could have the  same effect.

Sensory Based Art

We were excited to incorporate sensory based art that responded to touch into our “Prototype”.

Touch Light

In particular we were interested in touch lights, a product that is already in use to sooth patients. This controlled engagement in creative expression would be intriguing yet unpressurised and soothing for the patient.

At the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital there is a sculpture called “Anyone Who Has A Heart” made by Andrew Small and Steven Almond that upon interaction monitors and displays the timing of a person’s heart rate through pulsing light. This sensory based art is interactive through two metal plates. It also tells the time through varying colours and pulsations of light when it’s not being engaged with.

Projected Light

There are thought to be health benefits from light therapy and while this may be non-conclusive at the moment, there are many studies showing improvements in physical and cognitive ability through light therapy, such as combating seasonal affective disorder. We wished to see whether it was possible to implement the visual and aesthetic light aspect of such ideas into our “Prototype”.

We placed the lighting behind the vacuum forming. We used multi-coloured LEDs that are solar powered, this way the lights would become active once a hand was placed over the sensor. The concept was that the solar sensors would keep the interactive aspect powered through the incandescent lighting on the ward.

Recollective Memory

One reason for selecting the image of a tree for the main focus in our “Prototype” is it’s association with nature and the cycle of life. Just as a tree changes through the many seasons of it’s life, so do we. A trees rebirth and cycle of life is not perceived as a negative change and our own natural experiences of aging and change need not be either. It is for these reasons we considered a tree naturally relevant to our art work.

We thought that imagery of local welsh countryside might be more personal and prove to help recollective memory for patients at Llandough Hospital. It could be more personal for hospital staff, families and the community itself. We considered not only implementing the imagry but also sourcing local materials so that in effect we would be bringing the nearby and familiar countryside directly to the patients.