We use memory in various ways during the day, and most of the time we don’t even realize how much we rely on it, because it has so many different types. To this day, scientists still have a hard time explaining why long term and short term memories are stored and encoded in various areas of the brain and why there isn’t a singular spot for all the memory processes.
Several years of case studies on patients suffering from brain-related diseases and disorders have finally revealed some hints on the complexities linked to the memory process of the brain; however, the exact mechanism responsible for this phenomenon is still elusive, in spite of the advancements that cognitive psychology and neuroscience have made.
Researchers from UK in partnership with UCLA have recently discovered a key role in the formation of episodic memories that occur on a daily basis; certain neurons located in a specific area of the brain are expected to better the understanding we currently have on memory loss better and pave the way to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
Journal Neuron has published the study which involved 14 patients undergoing treatment at UCLA for their severe epilepsy. With the help of electrodes implanted in their brains, researchers were able to determine the source and focus of the seizure, which then determined whether or not they could be treated by surgical intervention.
Leading study author Dr. Itzhak Fried explained that his study was focused on reaching the core of the neural pathways responsible for the formation of many fundamental aspects of memory, such as making associations.
The impressive finding was that researchers were able to record the individual activity of each of the billion neurons of the human brain, which is a feat possible in very few labs across the globe.
During the experiment, the patients were shown roughly 100 pictures of animals, famous places and celebrities while they had electrodes connected to their brain, so the researchers could analyze how individual neurons became encoding when the images registered.
The first analysis uncovered precisely which neurons responded to a singular or multiple pictures. The second testing included composite and contextual and images, a sequence of pictures such as meeting a person in a specific location.
Being able to identify neurons responsible for different memories and the associations they are able to create is an important advancement that might help in developing innovative interfaces that can impact the brains of people suffering from memory impairment.
Image Source: SciTech Daily