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So in this scenario our character is just a regular man in his 30's. Multiverses exist, and our character exists in countless other universes, each variant of himself having different life experiences.

A powerful entity has merged these countless life experiences into our character's one mind, giving him composite memories and skills - so in one universe he learned martial arts, in another he learned advanced engineering, etc. The function of this is that he seems naturally talented - he can intuit how to solve most problems, MacGyver his way out of sticky situations, etc.

The thing is, he isn't aware of any of this - it's all muscle memory skill, with the actual retrievable memories being buried deep in his subconscious (probably so he doesn't go insane). He isn't a genius, he doesn't have eidetic memory or anything like that, he just has the equivalent of all the mastery of skills one would have built up over multiple lifetimes.

However, over time, he starts to have conflicting memories of his past, to the point where he can no longer tell which is the "real" one, so he goes to the hospital.

How would modern medical equipment detect a person with composite memories? What would the signs that something is abnormal look like?

Although this is clearly science fiction, I'd like to keep the medical science as realistic as possible. My best guesses are brain imaging technology to detect concussions, possibly an advanced MRI like an fNCI scan (functional Neurocognitive Imaging). The conflicting memories may be explained as proactive interference, or the interference of older memories with the retrieval of newer memories. The closest thing in a work of fiction I can think of is how in the film The Butterfly Effect, an MRI shows that the character's brain has signs of age-induced scarring of someone twice as old as he is. I also considered how Dissociative Identity Disorder could be detected, but it doesn't seem like it's very easily detected by things like MRI (and also, he doesn't have Dissociative Identity Disorder, he has his own memories buried in his subconscious). My only other thoughts of how it could be detected are a sort of lie detector test where all memories are equally valid/true, heightened neural activity, more neural connections than an average person, or a brain at its capacity (centuries of information) so it's overwriting old memories with new ones - but again, how would medical equipment detect any of these things?

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    $\begingroup$ Note to close-voters/reviewers: I believe that this is canonically answerable from our current knowledge of technology and brain function. John Dallman wrote it. Voting to leave open. (from review) $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 17, 2022 at 1:16
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    $\begingroup$ Modern technology? So current technology then, it wouldn't, you do realise we don't have mind reading devices yet right? reading the mind as he's 'remembering' stuff is the only plausible avenue to discover this, so as that's not something we can do it's impossible with 'modern medical equipment'. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Commented Jul 17, 2022 at 4:54
  • $\begingroup$ Is that you, prof. Leskinen? $\endgroup$
    – Uncle Dino
    Commented Jul 17, 2022 at 20:50
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    $\begingroup$ Note that lie-detector tests are not a viable option. They are so inaccurate that the guy who invented them said that they shouldn't be used (of course, that didn't stop law enforcement). All they really do is measure stuff like heart rate and blood pressure. People with training can easily fool even modern polygraphs. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 13:59
  • $\begingroup$ I get that we don't have mind-reading technology, what I'm wondering is basically the behavior of a brain packed with more information than it should have, and if there's any anomalous reading that would give off. $\endgroup$
    – Dakacha
    Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 20:58

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Modern medical equipment could not identify the specific situation. fNCI, fMRI and the like cannot "read memories" in any way. If you were generalising from stories where that was possible in the present day, I have to tell you that the authors were making stuff up for the sake of their story.

fMRI might notice that there was an unusual amount of activity when memory recollections were happening, but this would be interpreted at first as some interesting new kind of brain problem. This increased activity seems plausible because an unusually large number of memories would be found in response to any stimulus.

The likeliest way in the present day for this situation to be correctly identified would be for a psychologist or psychiatrist with an interest in history to realise that all the memories they learn about are suspiciously plausible. That would be very unusual in their experience, and might prompt a systematic investigation.

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  • $\begingroup$ Interesting, so an unusual amount of activity during memory recollection. I imagine the unusual amount of activity would be caused by just about any memory recollection imaginable having proactive interference, right? I would actually be okay with it being misinterpreted as a new kind of brain problem (possibly thought to be some sort of early-onset neurodegenerative disease). As you said, a psychologist/psychiatrist could delve into the specific memories further, possibly finding eerie coincidences, like knowing things only people in a specific historical circumstance would be aware of. $\endgroup$
    – Dakacha
    Commented Jul 17, 2022 at 0:32
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    $\begingroup$ I was basing the unusual amount of activity simply on there being many memories that would be likely to be found from any single "key." I would not try to base complex deductions on interference theory, or if you must, study it in some depth and learn how to explain the relevant ideas simply. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 17, 2022 at 0:55
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    $\begingroup$ I find it much more likely that such an anomaly would be filed away as some form of asymptomatic epilepsy, or schizophrenia, or even dissociative identity disorder, rather than "hey, he has memories of his past self!" $\endgroup$
    – vsz
    Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 19:02
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    $\begingroup$ @vsz: Oh, very likely - in the real world. We have to allow fiction to take its course. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 21:27
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By seeing brain areas not be active

fMRI and EEG is probably your best bet. Let's take martial arts as an example. Because it is both about the experience and skill, we know that both the temporal lobe as well as the motor cortex are changed. However, it seems unlikely that the brain can handle the amount of connections made if every single skill is added. It could lead to mingling of many concepts and skills. This is akin to a kid making a ton of connections in the brain during learning. The amount and wrong connections can lead to them mixing words for example, resulting in the personal child speak people find endearing.

Even if such things wouldn't happen it is unlikely that the brain can function. Transport of waste and nutrients would become impossible. Not to mention that the brain would get much heavier in neurons and connections, probably not fitting in the skull anymore.

It is safe to say that these skills and menories are somehow processed in the other dimensions. That gives us the option to not see the brain in action.

Our brain is good at mimicking things we see or hear. Fantasising moving your arm to grab a ball will activate the motor cortex for that exact moment. Seeing it happen on a screen can do the same. With fMRI or EEG we can check the activity in the relevant brain areas. When showing martial arts, something he hasn't learned himself, his own cortex will not respond. One somewhere else will. Memories are the same. Thinking of the own memories will activate some brain areas. Thinking of memories from alterative versions would not.

As it starts with the experiences of the person in question, like seeing martial arts happening, we can see strange artefacts. He is responding to the visual stimuli, but at a certain point things start to disappear as they are rerouted to the appropriate brain.

These are signs that something is very definitely off, but might not give rise to the right conclusions. That looks more like a plot related issue to me.

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    $\begingroup$ This is a very good answer--it keeps the handwavium contained within the "multiverse memory merging" while giving a clear way to detect something wrong with the brain. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 14:04
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    $\begingroup$ I think this is exactly the oposite of what should happen. Memories, skills etc. learned in another dimension, needs to be present in the current brain, for them to do anything and therefore EEG/fMRI should show signal for stimuli that person without these knowledge would not have $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 14:22
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    $\begingroup$ @user2173836 in what space? Our brains aren't infinitely capable. We need more connections and neurons to have more memories and skill. This then needs to be fed, maintained and have clear connections to other parts of the brain in a clear manner. There is no physical way to put that many expert level skills into a single skull. It needs to be processed somewhere else. $\endgroup$
    – Trioxidane
    Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 14:33
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    $\begingroup$ @Trioxidane i am sure that cranial space is not the bottleneck here. You have people that know 15 languages for example, and their heads don't get out of space, but they just get out of time, and there are people that studied many martial arts, or learn how to drive many vehicles etc. and the brain space was never a problem, and languages with martial arts with driving skills won't interfere because they are all processed elsewhere. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 14:54
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    $\begingroup$ @user2173836 according to the question there are 'countless' life experiences merged. I think it is safe to say that he knows a lot more than even I suggested. $\endgroup$
    – Trioxidane
    Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 15:30

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