Monday, December 26, 2005

Memory traces

The question of where and how memories are stored in the brain is one of the most intriguing in neuroscience. Answers to this question are just starting to emerge, as reported here.

That research dealt with short-term memory in honeybees. It showed that the memory trace involves synchronized neural activity lasting for several minutes. The activity was in clusters of neurons known as glomeruli in the bee's antenna lobe. This area is considered to be the equivalent of the olfactory bulb in vertebrates (which handles the sense of smell).

Now there are additional results involving longer-term memory in fruit flies.

Memory follows dynamic pattern involving many cells in brain
Memory formation follows a dynamic pattern, allowing for retrieval from different areas of the brain, depending on when an organism needs to remember, said a researcher at Baylor College of Medicine.

That is what Dr. Ron L. Davis, professor of molecular and cellular biology at BCM, theorizes, based on his most recent report on the topic that finds a memory trace in Drosophila or fruit flies is formed in a pair of neurons called the dorsal pair medial neurons, but only 30 minutes after the fact and only through the mediation of a gene called, ironically, amnesiac.

The really interesting thing is that the trace of a specific memory does not appear to remain in one place, but instead seems to move around:
The finding belies the commonly held precept that a memory is formed in the same way that data are stored in a computer - always in the same place.

"It's not as if we are forming memories that are then being written to a "hard disk" area of the brain, and it's there and recalled from the same location at any time after learning," said Davis. "We now think that different areas of the brain have dominion over small intervals of time after training. One area might have dominion and then another."

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