How does memory find its way from short-term memory to long-term memory?
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Researchers now have a pretty good idea of where memories are formed in the brain. Short-term memories are formed deep in the brain in the hippocampus and when the situation calls for it, are stored for the long term in the cortex: the outermost layer of the brain.
But what exactly happens between these two types of memory is somewhat of a mystery. It is also not easy to search. You have to measure several active brain regions in real time for weeks and that’s not easy.
So researchers from the US focused on mice in a new study. They have developed a technique that allows studying the behavior of neurons in and between the two regions of the brain of mice over an extended period of time.
This meant that the mice weren’t allowed to move much for weeks, so they were put on a makeshift exercise wheel while navigating through a virtual maze. Some turns in the maze gave a high reward, and others resulted in positive or negative feedback. After a month, the rats were still finding their way to the high reward effortlessly.
The idea was that, because of the high reward, this pathway was the most important for recording as long-term memory and that this process should be reflected in the data. In fact, they saw that a specific part of the thalamus, an important switching station in the brain, acts as a kind of arbiter in determining which memory should or should not go into long-term memory.
If this region was negatively affected, the mice had difficulty forming long-term memories. Are memories that were not normally registered now triggered? It is also known in humans that damage in this area has an effect on memory. Thanks to this research, we may know more about the mechanism, but by no means everything.
Read more about research here: Scientists have discovered a brain region that links short-term memory with long-term memory.
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