Researchers at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory report for the first time how animals' knowledge obtained through past experiences can subconsciously influence their behavior in new situations.
The work, which sheds light on how our past experiences inform our future choices, was reported on Dec. 22 in an advance online publication of Nature.
Previous work has shown that when a rat or mouse explores a new space, neurons in its hippocampus, the center of learning and memory, fire sequentially like gunpowder igniting a makeshift fuse. Individual neurons called place cells fire in a specific pattern that mirrors the animal's movement through space. By looking at the time-specific patterns and sequences recorded from the firing cells, researchers can tell which part of the maze the animal was running at the time.
In the current work, research scientist George Dragoi and Susumu Tonegawa, Picower Professor of Biology and Neuroscience and director of the RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics, found that some of the sequences of place cells in mice' brains that fired during a novel spatial experience such as running a new maze had already occurred while the animals rested before the experience.
"These findings explain at the neuronal circuit level the phenomenon through which prior knowledge influences our decisions when we encounter a new situation," Dragoi said. "This explains in part why different individuals form different representations and respond differently when faced with the same situation."
When a mouse pauses and rests while running a maze, it mentally replays its experience. Its neurons fire in the same pattern of activity that occurred while it was running. Unlike this version of mental replay, the phenomenon found by the MIT researchers is called preplay. It occurred before the animal even started the new maze.
"These results suggest that internal neuronal dynamics during resting organize cells within the hippocampus into time-based sequences that help encode a related experience occurring in the future," Tonegawa said.
"Previous work largely ignored internal neuronal activities representing prior knowledge that occurred before a new event, space or situation. Our work shows that an individual's access to prior knowledge can help predict a response to a new but similar experience," he said.
This work is supported by supported by the National Institutes of Health.
By Deborah Halber
Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery
20.01.2017 | GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH
Seeking structure with metagenome sequences
20.01.2017 | DOE/Joint Genome Institute
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences