In their study, reported this week in the journal Neuron, the UCSF researchers implanted electrodes directly on a region of the rat brain known as the hippocampus, which is already known to play a key role in the formation and recall of memory. This same region is active when animals are learning, and it is damaged in people who have Alzheimer's and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The study showed that when the rats paused before an upcoming choice, sometimes the hippocampus was more active and sometimes it was less active. When it was more active it did a better job of recalling memories of places the animal could go next, and the animal was more likely to go to the right place.
"We know that considering possibilities is important for decision-making, but we haven't really known how this happens in the brain," said neuroscientist Loren Frank, PhD, who led the research. Frank is an associate professor of physiology and a member of the UCSF Center for Integrative Neuroscience at UCSF.
The work builds upon several years of investigations in Frank's laboratory that have shown how activity in the hippocampus is a fundamental constituent of memory retrieval. Their recent work shows that this activity is not just about remembering the past – it is also important for thinking about the future. When the brain does a better job of thinking about future possibilities, it makes better decisions.
Next, the team wants to tease out why sometimes the hippocampus does not do a good job of playing out future options. Problems with memory and decision-making are central to age-related cognitive decline, and a deeper understanding of how this works could pave the way for interventions that make the brain work better.
The article, "Hippocampal SWR Activity Predicts Correct Decisions during the Initial Learning of an Alternation Task" is authored by Annabelle C. Singer, Margaret F. Carr, Mattias P. Karlsson, and Loren M. Frank. The work appears in the March 20, 2013 issue of the journal Neuron. After that date, the article can be accessed at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2013.01.027
In addition to Dr. Frank, the other authors on the study are former graduate students from UCSF who are now, affiliated with the McGovern Institute for Brain Research and MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, MA; Stanford University; and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Farms Research Campus in Ashburn, VA.
This work was supported by the John Merck Scholars Program and the U.S. National Institutes of Health via grant #RO1MH090188 and #F31093067.
UCSF is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care.
Jason Socrates Bardi | EurekAlert!
Researchers uncover protein-based “cancer signature”
05.12.2016 | Universität Basel
The Nagoya Protocol Creates Disadvantages for Many Countries when Applied to Microorganisms
05.12.2016 | Leibniz-Institut DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering
05.12.2016 | Materials Sciences
05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering