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

January 20, 2017, University of Bristol
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

Neurons derived from super-obese people respond differently to appetite hormones

April 19, 2018
US scientists have successfully generated hypothalamic-like neurons from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) taken from the blood and skin cells of super-obese individuals and people with a normal body weight. The ...

Scientists identify connection between dopamine and behavior related to pain and fear

April 19, 2018
Scientists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have for the first time found direct causal links between the neurotransmitter dopamine and avoidance—behavior related to pain and fear.

Pathways to spatial recognition

April 19, 2018
When you are lost or disoriented, your brain uses cues from your surroundings—landmarks both near and far—to sort out where you are. The information gathered by your senses is transmitted by nerve cells, or neurons, to ...

Study shows creativity is state of mind that can be trained

April 19, 2018
As an undergraduate student at York University, Joel Lopata was studying film production and jazz performance when a discrepancy became apparent.

Just one concussion could raise Parkinson's risk

April 18, 2018
If you've ever had a mild concussion, your risk of developing Parkinson's disease goes up by 56 percent, a new study of more than 300,000 U.S. veterans suggests.

ALS treatment delays disease and extends life in rats

April 18, 2018
Investigators at Cedars-Sinai are exploring a new way to treat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) by transplanting specially engineered neural cells into the brain. Their new study shows the transplanted cells delayed disease ...

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.