Lessons from the past affect our perception of the present

In the journal Science this week (online May 3, 2012), UCSF researchers demonstrated that the brain activity is critical for memory formation and recall. Moreover, they showed that the brain patterns through which the rats see rapid replays of past experiences are fundamental to their ability to make decisions. Disturbing those particular brain patterns impaired the animals’ ability to learn rules based on memories of things that had happened in the past.

Seeking to understand how the recall of specific memories in the brain guides our thinking, neuroscientist Loren Frank, associate professor of physiology and a member of the Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience at UCSF, and his colleagues built a system for detecting the underlying patterns of neuronal activity in rats. They fitted the animals with electrodes and built a system that enabled them to detect a specific pattern, called a sharp-wave ripple, in the hippocampus. Whenever they detected a ripple, they would send a small amount of electricity into another set of electrodes that would immediately interrupt the ripple event, in effect turning off all memory replay activity without otherwise affecting the brain.

Checkout a related talk from Dr. Frank below.

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