Brain's connections that keep related memories distinct identified in new study

January 20, 2017
Brain’s connections which keep related memories distinct from each other, identified in new study
Credit: University of Bristol

Neuroscientists at the University of Bristol are a step closer to understanding how the connections in our brain which control our episodic memory work in sync to make some memories stronger than others. The findings, published in Nature Neuroscience, reveal a previously unsuspected division of memory function in the pathways between two areas of the brain, and suggest that certain subnetworks within the brain work separately, to enhance the distinctiveness of memories.

The team studied the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex—two regions of the brain critical to function—as damage in these areas can induce severe memory loss.

Both areas are connected by a complex network of direct and indirect pathways, and the challenge has been until now, how to identify the precise routes through which these brain regions interact in memory formation.

Researchers from Bristol's Schools of Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience and Clinical Sciences used a new novel pharmacogenetic technique to deactivate specific neural pathways from the hippocampus to the prefrontal cortex in rats. They then tested the rats' memory for objects presented at specific points in time, and in specific locations, to model function' in humans.

The team found that one pathway from the hippocampus controlled the 'temporal' aspects of the memory such as those which enable a subject to remember when they had encountered an object, while a separate pathway enabled subjects to remember an object's location.

They found that by deactivating specific neural pathways and preventing the hippocampus from talking to the , episodic memory function was significantly disrupted.

Professor Clea Warburton from Bristol's School of Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience said: "Episodic memory stores an individual's unique recollection of a specific event and is important for remembering significant events in our lives. This type of integrated memory is important in helping us to remember significant events in our lives, and works by linking different types of information.

"For example, even remembering routine things such as where we parked the car requires our to store and link different types of information. We must remember what kind of car we have, when, and where we parked it. Linking these different components of memory depends on clear communication between different which work together forming complex memory networks.

"These findings, reveal for the first time, an important aspect of critical to episodic memory and could help with developing new therapeutics to aid memory loss."

Explore further: Entorhinal cortex acts independently of the hippocampus in remembering movement, study finds

More information: Gareth R I Barker et al. Separate elements of episodic memory subserved by distinct hippocampal–prefrontal connections, Nature Neuroscience (2017). DOI: 10.1038/nn.4472

Related Stories

Entorhinal cortex acts independently of the hippocampus in remembering movement, study finds

January 12, 2017
Until now, the hippocampus was considered the most important brain region for forming and recalling memory, with other regions only contributing as subordinates. But a study published today in Science finds that a brain region ...

Have we met before? Scientists show why the brain has the answer

August 4, 2011
The research, led by Dr Clea Warburton and Dr Gareth Barker in the University's School of Physiology and Pharmacology and published in the Journal of Neuroscience, has investigated why we can recognise faces much better if ...

Too much activity in certain areas of the brain is bad for memory and attention

August 23, 2016
Neurons in the brain interact by sending each other chemical messages, so-called neurotransmitters. Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is the most common inhibitory neurotransmitter, which is important to restrain neural activity, ...

New clues about the aging brain's memory functions

June 29, 2016
A European study led by Umeå University Professor Lars Nyberg, has shown that the dopamine D2 receptor is linked to the long-term episodic memory, which function often reduces with age and due to dementia. This new insight ...

Who has the better memory—men or women?

November 9, 2016
In the battle of the sexes, women have long claimed that they can remember things better and longer than men can. A new study proves that middle-aged women outperform age-matched men on all memory measures, although memory ...

New research shows memory is a dynamic and interactive process

May 28, 2014
Research presented by Morris Moscovitch, from the Rotman Research Institute at the University of Toronto, shows that memory is more dynamic and changeable than previously thought. Dr. Moscovich's results reveal that important ...

Recommended for you

Schizophrenia originates early in pregnancy, 'mini-brain' research suggests

November 20, 2017
Symptoms of schizophrenia usually appear in adolescence or young adulthood, but new research reveals that the brain disease likely begins very early in development, toward the end of the first trimester of pregnancy. The ...

Now you like it, now you don't: Brain stimulation can change how much we enjoy and value music

November 20, 2017
Enjoyment of music is considered a subjective experience; what one person finds gratifying, another may find irritating. Music theorists have long emphasized that although musical taste is relative, our enjoyment of music, ...

Deletion of a stem cell factor promotes TBI recovery in mice

November 20, 2017
UT Southwestern molecular biologists today report the unexpected finding that selectively deleting a stem cell transcription factor in adult mice promotes recovery after traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Brain cell advance brings hope for Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

November 20, 2017
Scientists have developed a new system to study Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in the laboratory, paving the way for research to find treatments for the fatal brain disorder.

MRI uncovers brain abnormalities in people with depression and anxiety

November 20, 2017
Researchers using MRI have discovered a common pattern of structural abnormalities in the brains of people with depression and social anxiety, according to a study presented being next week at the annual meeting of the Radiological ...

Theory: Flexibility is at the heart of human intelligence

November 19, 2017
Centuries of study have yielded many theories about how the brain gives rise to human intelligence. Some neuroscientists think intelligence springs from a single region or neural network. Others argue that metabolism or the ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

LaPortaMA
not rated yet Mar 07, 2017
Keep the signal lines away from the power lines.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.