This is how your brain associates smells and music with memories

Most people recognize it: You smell freshly baked biscuits and your mind wanders in the afternoons at your grandmother’s house. Or you hear a song on the tape that reminds you of your first date. These types of relationships (between smell and location, or music and event) are also called associative memories. University of California researchers have now found that there are specific neurons in the memory center of our brain that make up these memories. In addition, they discovered how neurons of associative memory are controlled.

The structures responsible for the formation of associative memory are found in the medial temporal lobe, or the famous “memory center” of the brain. However, the exact cells involved, and how these cells are controlled, have been a mystery until now. Now, a study in mice has shown that storing new associations depends on the activation of so-called fan cells in the entorhinal cortex, the team wrote in the journal. temper nature. These cells are regulated by dopamine, a brain chemical known to be involved in the experience of pleasure or reward.

Professor Jos Prickaerts (University of Maastricht) Professor of Experimental Psychopharmacology: “It is a very interesting and interesting study that actually links two classic areas of memory research. On the one hand, memory is researched in the so-called cognitive map, the mental representation of a particular area in the environment, and from On the other hand research into associative learning Fan cells seem to play an important role in both processes It has now been shown clearly for the first time that the reward system is connected to the memory system The question remains what this means for associative memory in humans This is influenced by Alzheimer’s disease, but is this The mechanism is related to what was found in this article?’

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Professor of Neurobiology Eddie van der Zee (University of Groningen): “This is indeed a very elegant study that gives us a better understanding of how associations are anchored in long-term memory. A new odor association is only made when enough dopamine is released, and this requires a reward. A new scent without a reward is not stored in memory as a new association because the fan cells are not sufficiently activated. The question is what about negative smell associations. There may also be a type of fan cell for this, which is sufficiently activated only when the stimulus is simultaneously released from the amygdala (the amygdala nucleus). This area of ​​the brain is particularly implicated in fear. Maybe there are positive and negative cells for the fan?

These thoughts may also be relevant in patients with Parkinson’s disease, for example, where there is a lack of dopamine. Are they still able to form odor associations? Or does it produce too little dopamine at some point? The study was carried out technically well, using specialized equipment and applications: state-of-the-art. Relatively few labs can do this. It is a fascinating contribution to our knowledge of how odor associations are stored as an associative memory in the memory center. And perhaps more memory mechanisms run through this type of fan cell…

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