This was shown in a study conducted by scientists from the Transfacultary Research Platform at the University of Basel. By measuring the motor excitability, conclusions can be drawn as to the general cortical excitability – as well as to cognitive performance.
Working memory allows the temporary storage of information such as memorizing a phone number for a short period of time. Studies in animals have shown that working memory processes among others depend on the excitability of neurons in the prefrontal cortex.
Moreover, there is evidence that motor neuronal excitability might be related to the neuronal excitability of other cortical regions. Researchers from the Psychiatric University Clinics (UPK Basel) and the Faculty of Psychology in Basel have now studied if the excitability of the motor cortex correlates with working memory performance– results were positive.
«The motor cortical excitability can be easily studied with transcranial magnetic stimulation», says Nathalie Schicktanz, doctoral student and first author of the study. During this procedure, electromagnetic impulses with increasing intensity are applied over the motor cortex. For subjects with high motor excitability already weak impulses are sufficient to trigger certain muscles – such as those of the hand – to show a visible twitch.
Conclusions for other cortical regions
In the present study, that included 188 healthy young subjects, the scientists were able to show that subjects with a high motor excitability had increased working memory performance as compared to subjects with a low excitability. «By measuring the excitability of the motor cortex, conclusions can be drawn as to the excitability of other cortical areas», says Schicktanz.
«The findings help us to understand the importance of neuronal excitability for cognitive processes in humans», adds Dr. Kyrill Schwegler, co-author of the study. The results might also have important clinical implications, as working memory deficits are a component of many neuropsychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. In a next step, the scientists plan to study the relation between neuronal excitability and memory on a molecular level.
The study is part of a project lead by Prof. Dominique de Quervain and Prof. Andreas Papassotiropoulos. The project uses transcranial magnetic stimulation to study the cognitive functions in humans. The goal is to identify the neurobiological and molecular mechanisms of human memory.Original citation
Prof. Dominique de Quervain, Faculty of Psychology, Cognitive Neuroscience, phone: +41 61 267 02 37, email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Olivia Poisson | Universität Basel
Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute
Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH
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...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy