Scientists first observed what it looks like in the brain’s key memory region when a mistake is made during a memory test.
The findings have implications for Alzheimer’s disease research and advances in memory storage and improvement, with a finding that also provides insight into the differences between physiological events in the brain during memory. correct versus defective memory.
The study was published today in the journal Nature Communication.
In correctly and incorrectly recalling spatial memory, the researchers were able to observe patterns of cellular activation in the brain that were similar, although the rate of activation differed.
We could see the memories activate. It’s like dominoes are falling. One cell activates, then the next one lights up. “
Laura Colgin, study lead author and associate professor, neuroscience, University of Texas at Austin
Colgin and his team used electrophysiological recordings of rats in and out of mazes to study signals in the brain as the rats tried to remember where a food reward was and find it.
When the rats remembered where the food reward was and located it, a specific pattern of brain cells activated with similar timing. These cells, called place cells, are associated with memories involving relationships and spatial locations and are found in the hippocampus, a section of the brain where animals, including humans, store most of their memories. It is also a region of the brain that undergoes degeneration in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and associated memory disorders.
“If we understand what happens when a memory is not properly retrieved, it can give us insight into what happens with memory disorders like Alzheimer’s disease,” Colgin said.
What the researchers saw in the rats when they got the wrong location surprised them. They expected to see cells set ablaze in disorder. What they saw was the same pattern seen when the rats found the location correctly, but the timing of cell activation was different.
“The activation started later and it was slower, but the same pattern kicked in,” Colgin said. “There may be less energy in the network to drive the cells, and perhaps that is why memory was unrelated to action.”
The study also found that in tests, when rats remembered the correct location, they accessed the location’s memory as they rested between tests, causing the cell pattern to activate. while they were waiting, as a person could practice a speech before delivering it.
In trials where rats made mistakes, they did not activate location memory before entering the maze.
One of the lab’s long-term goals is to help understand enough memory formation and recovery that one day, lost memories can be accessed even by people with memory impairment using of brain-computer interface technology.
“If we can understand how these large sets of neurons that represent memories are formed and what happens when those memories are properly retrieved, one day we may be able to decipher and store memories,” Colgin said.