Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New findings on memory could enhance learning

27.02.2004


New research in monkeys may provide a clue about how the brain manages vast amounts of information and remembers what it needs. Researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center have identified brain cells that streamline and simplify sensory information – markedly reducing the brain’s workload.



The findings are reported in the on-line edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"When you need to remember people you’ve just met at a meeting, the brain probably doesn’t memorize each person’s facial features to help you identify them later," says Sam Deadwyler, Ph.D., a Wake Forest neuroscientist and study investigator. "Instead, it records vital information, such as their hairstyle, height, or age, all classifications that we are familiar with from meeting people in general. Our research suggests how the brain might do this, which could lead to ways to improve memory in humans."


The researchers found that when monkeys were taught to remember computer clip art pictures, their brains reduced the level of detail by sorting the pictures into categories for recall, such as images that contained "people," "buildings," "flowers," and "animals." The categorizing cells were found in the hippocampus, an area of the brain that processes sensory information into memory. It is essential for remembering all things including facts, places, or people, and is severely affected in Alzheimer’s disease.

"One of the intriguing questions is how information is processed by the hippocampus to retain and retrieve memories," said Robert Hampson, Ph.D., co-investigator. "The identification of these cells in monkeys provides evidence that information can be remembered more effectively by separating it into categories. It is likely that humans use a similar process."

The researchers measured individual cell activity in the hippocampus while the monkeys performed a video-game-like memory task. Each monkey was shown one clip art picture, and after a delay of one to 30 seconds, picked the original out of two to six different images to get a juice reward.

By recording cell activity during hundreds of these trials in which the pictures were all different, the researchers noticed that certain cells were more active when the pictures contained similar features, such as images of people – but not other objects. They found that different cells coded images that fit different categories.

"Unlike other cells in the brain that are devoted to recording simply an object’s shape, color or brightness, the category cells grouped images based on common features – a strategy to improve memory," said Terry Stanford, Ph.D., study investigator. "For example, the same cell responded to both tulips and daisies because they are both flowers."

The researchers found, however, that different monkeys classified the same pictures differently. For example, with a picture of a man in a blue coat, some monkeys placed the image in the "people" category, while others appeared to encode the image based on features that were not related to people such as "blue objects" or "types of coats."

While such categorization is a highly efficient memory process, it may also have a downside, said the researchers.

"The over generalization of a category could result in errors," said Deadwyler. "For example, when the trials included more than one picture with people in it, instead of different images, the monkeys often confused the image with a picture of other people." The researchers said that learning more about how the brain remembers could have far reaching benefits.

"If we can understand in advance how the brain works when decisions are made, we can predict when the brain will make a mistake, and correct it," said Tim Pons, Ph.D., an expert in monkey research and team member. "This finding about how large amounts of information are processed by the brain will help us to ultimately achieve that goal."

"This discovery by the Wake Forest team could be the solution to a big puzzle," said Mortimer Mishkin, Chief of the Section on Cognitive Neuroscience, National Institutes of Mental Health. "Recollection -- bringing back to mind a past event -- depends critically on the hippocampus, but we haven’t known how this works. The team’s new findings suggest that hippocampal ’category ’ neurons are some of the ones that help remind us of things we experienced before."


The research was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute of Mental Health and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Media Contacts: Karen Richardson, krchrdsn@wfubmc.edu, or Shannon Koontz, shkoontz@wfubmc.edu, at 336-716-4587.

Karen Richardson | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.wfubmc.edu/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Transport of molecular motors into cilia
28.03.2017 | Aarhus University

nachricht Asian dust providing key nutrients for California's giant sequoias
28.03.2017 | University of California - Riverside

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Transport of molecular motors into cilia

28.03.2017 | Life Sciences

A novel hybrid UAV that may change the way people operate drones

28.03.2017 | Information Technology

NASA spacecraft investigate clues in radiation belts

28.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>